With his now trademark mustache and widely experimental clothes, most people peg Mohanad Kojak as just another fashion designer who attempts to stir up controversy to gain fame. Kojak, however, is anything but an ordinary man trying to grab attention.Indeed, as eniGma’s Mahmoud Al Badry found out, he’s a true one of a kind personality with a tailor-made plan to dominate the fashion industry.
In most of the world, stereotypes about fashion designers usually paint them as an inherently feminine group that is too bound by an uncommonly disciplined lifestyle. These views, while incorrect by almost any measure, remain ever-present in countries that lack a well-established fashion industry. And let’s face it; despite the tangible progress being made by some truly ingenious fashion designers in the country, Egypt still unfortunately belongs to that category. Fashion designers in the country, especially male ones, are routinely the subject of ridicule by many of the general population. To put it more succinctly, the struggle is very real for male designers in this country.
One man who’s had to endure such vitriol in his admittedly fast climb up the industry’s ladder is Mohanad Kojak. To his credit, though, the passionate youngster doesn’t seem to mind the adversity one bit; in fact, he seems to relish it. After all, his entire personality seems to be just built on that. Kojak is brash, stubborn, and more importantly, completely unfazed by other people’s opinion of him. Looking back at his beginning in the business certainly helps explain his somewhat enigmatic and controversial present.
Growing up, Kojak always had a passion for fashion. During his formative years, he couldn’t think of any other business that suited his personality more. That thought soon manifested itself during his adolescence. In high school, at a time where most kids were busy thinking about their latest crush or how to convince their parents to buy them a new phone, Kojak was thinking about his dream to become a well-established fashion designer.
He made his breakthrough in the industry through doing some admittedly amateurish fashion shoots at the tender age of 15. Kojak concisely remembers, “I started fashion photography because I believed that I had a talent.” He wasn’t wrong. Little by little, he found himself more engrossed by the business and its lifestyle. Of particular appeal to him was the complete creative freedom that the industry presented. Ever the nonconformist, he quickly realized that he had found the one industry where he could uncompromisingly be his honest self, with a highly rewarding potential to boot.
By the time university rolled around, Kojak had started doing fashion photography on a far more professional level. His work in a PR consultancy that had jewelry giant Azza Fahmy as one of its clients further nourished his blossoming career. “The work that I did at the time truly helped me market my designs and allowed me to stay in touch with the fashion community,” Kojak reflected. By the end of his freshman year, he had launched his first collection. Despite majoring in applied arts with a concentration in product design, he didn’t really care much for school. Little by little, the lure of his design work started pulling him away from his degree.
After a trouble-ridden three years, Kojak took a gap year to focus on his burgeoning brand. He later switched to another university before having to drop out again due to his helplessly hectic and unpredictable lifestyle. By all indications, however, he’s more than happy to make that sacrifice. To him, there’s no formula or rulebook on how to succeed. In fact, attempting to adhere to society’s expectations and values goes against everything that he stands for. “I am a very stubborn person. I don’t really listen to what people have to say. I don’t want to fit in any category or classification. I don’t feel like I have to look comfortable for everyone; I only have to feel comfortable for the people around me or the people whom I choose to keep around me. Not everyone has to see me as a nice person. I am not working in a nursery and I am not working with kids. My advice to everyone is to simply try to accept me or move on with their lives,” he appealingly affirmed.
Predictably, Kojak’s unpredictable personality has manifested itself in his designs. He’s not content with thinking outside the box. For him, the box doesn’t even exist. His continuous strive to innovate has led him to completely forgo many design principles along his way, without hindering his success one bit. For instance, his usage of upholstery fabric to design a dress for Nahed El Sebaey, while naturally frowned upon at first, has now become a main request for many of his clients. Put simply, his disdain for normalcy may have robbed him of several aspects in his personal life, but has only elevated his professional one.
Unlike most people, Kojak doesn’t fear the unknown; he revels in it. It’s one of his main sources for inspiration. He continuously tries to come up with unprecedented products due to his unquenchable desire to experiment, understanding that some projects will work, while others won’t. He knows better than most that we lose all the games that we don’t play. That mentality in of itself has allowed him to win more than most. “My message has become a lot clearer. I try to expose people to things or situations that they haven’t seen before, in turn provoking them to challenge their knowledge base. People definitely appear to have appreciated that,” he explained. It thus comes as no great surprise that Kojak nowadays is one of Egypt’s biggest up and coming fashion designers. His client list has grown to a point where he now has the luxury of being heavily selective in his choice of clientele.
Through it all, he’s quick to admit that none of this would’ve been possible without the people that he keeps around. As you would expect given his obtrusive honesty, Kojak is in no way a social butterfly. He surrounds himself with a very small circle of people that he can trust when the chips are down. In essence, similar to his work, friendship to him is more about quality than quantity.
His mom has been one of the biggest influences on his life through her continuously unconditional support throughout the years. Her positivity certainly came in handy during the numerous struggles that he’s had to endure in his climb up the fashion ladder. For proof, again one only needs to look at the beginning of Kojak’s fashion foray. “When I first started doing design photography, I was always shooting my mom,” he recalled. “We have an unbreakable connection. She is very flexible and has a very interesting face that really allows us to create crazy stuff together.” What’s more, given that she’s not only veiled, but also doesn’t possess a standard model figure, if you will, Kojak’s mom presented the perfect illustration that his designs don’t necessarily have a set target audience. After all, there really is no standard measure for anything in his eyes, especially so for beauty; it’s really all about finding it in any shape or form.
He really isn’t overly concerned about his brand going forward. He understands that he’s carved out a path for the future that only has one driver and one engine, himself and his willpower. “I’m working really hard to make sure that my message of remaining true to one’s self reaches a bigger audience,” he asserted. “The more I achieve, the bigger my dreams will become. It’s sort of like an endless loop.”
His limitless ambition hasn’t waned since he first got into the industry. Kojak knows that he won’t be able to influence the world to change its opinion about societal norms, and that’s really okay in his eyes. What he wants to achieve, more than anything, is to expand his scope in an effort to influence more people into being themselves, without giving a damn about societal expectations. Fashion design is really Kojak’s way of channeling his anger at a world that doesn’t understand into a method of self-expression whose reach knows no bounds. In his mind, it’s not the cloth that you’re born in that matters; it’s how you tailor it.