AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ILIUS AHMED, THE FOUNDER OF UNFORGETTABLE RUNWAY THAT COLLECTS VIDEO SHOWS OF FASHION SHOWS IN THE NINETIES ON INSTAGRAM. DISCOVER OUR INTERVIEW!
Tell us something about yourself and your artistic background.
Since the age of 7 years old fashion has been a fascination, a passion, a love. I recall watching an Yves Saint Laurent show on the television back in 1982 and I was amazed by the catwalk, the beautiful models but more so the colours of the collection, I recall the dresses in golds, purples and reds, which sowed the seed for me to pursue fashion at such a young age. At the age of 15 I studied fashion once a week at a local college (I lied about my age to get a place – you had to be 16) and after a few years I progressed to study a degree at Central Saint Martins on the Fashion Marketing & Management course in the mid 90’s. The years spent at St. Martins had given me the platform to explore my own creative process and ideas, the experience of studying there was second to none. I also studied a Master’s degree in Fashion Womenswear at Birmingham University and showed two of my own collections during London Fashion Week. Due to personal (non‑fashion related) circumstances I decided to pursue a different career path many years ago, however I am now seeking career opportunities to work within the fashion industry.
What is the creative process that led you to the creation of “Unforgettable_Runway”?
Early this year I decided to go through my fashion portfolio and previous work. I decided it’s time to start pursuing a fashion career and I am in fact missing the creativity immensely. I found the boxes of VHS tapes of all the shows the press offices had sent me over the years and whilst browsing at all the wonderful fashion accounts on Instagram I decided to post a few snippets of my archive on my personal account. It was just a few photo images, nothing more, but gradually people started to comment and so I decided to start my own fashion account in July. I had no motive or goals but to merely start thinking of it as a personal visual fashion project to share a few memories with others.
I spent considerable time going through my video and image archive collection and whilst watching the shows it dawned to me that all these images and memories are unforgettable, they all meant something to me whilst I was growing up and that is how the creation of the name ‘unforgettable_runway’ developed.
With the assistance from my little nephew Zain who helped me with video editing clips, I collated suitable images alongside the videos posted. I wanted the page to be like a visual collage of fashion video merged with print. None of the videos are lifted from other sites and I try and keep the account as original as possible but I also only post very short clips and not full shows. Currently the account showcases both couture and ready to wear videos together with images from the 90’s as well as fashion sketches and couture fabric samples.
The account itself has attracted a following from Mario Testino, Odile Gilbert, Amber Valetta and many more highly influential people in the fashion industry. It’s been an absolute pleasure to interact with all the followers of the page, and I thoroughly enjoy reading and responding to the comments posted, as well as sharing experiences and knowledge with all those who follow the account. There is so much more to post from my own existing archive, and I am still searching for shows from the early 90’s I am missing, so if anyone else has a similar archive, I’d be delighted to hear from them. Sadly, many of the tapes of the early 90’s shows from Chloe, Lagerfeld and Montana were destroyed during a house move many years ago.
What is the fashion for Ilius?
I am quite an understated dresser and often drawn to clothes with subtle design features, I have pieces from Saint Laurent, APC, AMI Paris, YMC. My style is a mix of high street and designer labels. I do not wear much colour and my wardrobe is mainly black, navy or at a push very subtle colours and I don’t wear much print either (do I sound dull), my style and fashion choices have though changed over the years, during the 90’s I would say I was more adventurous and I loved vintage clothes and I was much more experimental and creative in my look back then but that suited that moment and time, now my fashion choices are based on high quality timeless clothes, I believe you should simply feel confident and comfortable in what you wear.
How and why you started collecting all the material that you’re putting today on your profile?
From the age of 14 any spare funds I had went on buying Vogue magazine and I would spend my time after school sketching and drawing, flicking through the pages and looking at designers and models or watching Video Fashion, Fashion File or CCN Style. I would telephone the Vogue office in London to ask if they had the addresses for designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Gianni Versace, as of course we didn’t have e-mail or the internet back then. I would post my sketches to them asking for advice to how to become a fashion designer as I didn’t know who else to ask – fashion wasn’t taught at school.
Designers would kindly send me catalogues, press packs and show videos and my collection of material started and grew from there. I guess they were also touched that a 14 year old was so interested in fashion and it was their way of educating and encouraging me. I was also fortunate to be offered an internship at Gianni Versace, as I was told he loved my drawings and ideas, but unfortunately I was too young to accept the offer.
What are the key differences you have observed between Nineties and today’s fashion?
The differences in fashion from the 90’s to today is that fashion has now become so accessible and marketed towards more diverse and younger age groups. With the influence of social media and the internet designers are now showing more collections, more lines/collaborations, more trends and the turnaround of fashion is continuous to meet the needs of today’s consumer rather than just every 6 months as it was back in the 90’s. Fashion of course moves with the times but we have elements of the 90’s re‑appearing such as sportswear, grunge and street style, there is also more focus on hair, makeup and accessories today than ever before. Supermodels dominated/influenced fashion back in the 90’s and now it is the celebrity which I believe is more a marketing tool designers use to promote fashion and make profit.
There are also differences in fashion shows. Back then they were more intimate, it was predominantly a long catwalk with mountains of photographers’ eager to catch a ‘fashion moment’, there was more of a buzz, an energy at the shows, some presentations of today lack that vibe and seem a little too clinical and the sets/stages seems to overpower or distract from the clothes.
What do the Nineties represent for you?
During the 90’s I was for majority of the years a fashion student. I had left school in 1992, so for me this era was the initial creative/development and embracing adulthood phase in life, I had moved to London from Coventry (my hometown) to study at Central Saint Martins, and it was a completely different world, such a diverse mix of cultures and fashion. The 90’s music and club scene was in full swing, the 90’s were certainly exciting and fun times for me. I do look back and wish I had made the most of the opportunities. I wouldn’t have done anything different back then but just appreciated it more.
Why do you think about some moments in fashion are so unforgattable?
Unforgettable moments happen by chance, different elements can make a moment in fashion fix in time, be it a Supermodel, a dress, a whole collection. Sometimes it takes just that one outfit or that one face to make things take a huge leap forward. Who could forget Linda in the canary yellow John Galliano dress from the Pin Up Studio 1995 show or Christy, Linda, Naomi and Cindy walking to the tune of ‘Freedom’ at the Versace 1991 show which catapulted the supermodel obsession. There were so many unforgettable moments in fashion during the 90’s, it certainly was an era where fashion had become a creative melting pot of beauty and creativity, it was more organic and the timing just happened to be right.
What was the first fashion show you attended?
The first show I saw/attended was the Givenchy Haute Couture Fall 1996 show in Paris. I had been sent an invitation from the press office (I had a really good relationship with them when I was a fashion student and they kindly invited me to the show). I remember the show like it was yesterday, walking into the Paris stadium to be confronted by a forest setting, I had a second row seat amongst all the couture clients and recall sitting there nervously with a £15 Kodak camera in my hand hoping to capture some of the moments, no using iPhones or iPads to record images for posterity back in those days!
I watched in amazement as the supermodels walked past in the most beautiful couture posing elegantly for the cameras. I had never seen couture before, the experience felt so surreal. I couldn’t believe I was actually there and tried to take as many photos as I could but the sheer excitement of seeing all this beauty meant that I was so taken aback I watched far more than I photographed.
All the fashion editors, the supermodels and John Galliano were merely people I had only seen in the pages of Vogue or on television, I never expected to meet any of them but I did. The supermodels were all so beautiful, I met Linda, Naomi, Amber, Yasmeen, Kate and many more who were so lovely to me backstage and I spent a good time speaking to John about the collection, we were chatting for so long that it was only the two of us left backstage! John was really humble, shy and sweet. It really was a dream come true to be at the show and to meet John.
What is the fashion show that you would like to attend today?
Since childhood I have loved Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel and Gianni Versace. Their shows have always been the ones with high energy, the top supermodels, and collections with so many creative ideas as well as beautiful styling and great music. If there was one show I would love to attend today it would be Chanel Couture. Will I get the chance to attend – I keep my fingers crossed.
If you ask what show I would have loved to have attended back in the 90’s then it would be the Chanel Couture Spring Summer 1992 show or the Gianni Versace Fall 1992. I will remember forever collecting the show images from magazines and newspapers. I am fortunate to have the show tapes which still bring back great memories of the 90’s era.
Do you believe any fashion show today may be defined as truly “unforgettable”?
Of course, but ask me in 10 years’ time and see what I remember then of the shows of today and also see what shows I post on “unforgettable runway”. It will certainly be interesting to see for sure.
The designer who will never go out of fashion.
Yves Saint Laurent will never go out of fashion even though he is sadly not with us. Even to this day he still inspires designers, photographers and stylists, and he certainly created many unforgettable moments in fashion history, from the black tuxedo “Le Smoking” in 1966 or the 1965 Mondrian collection, he sourced inspiration from around the world including Asia, Africa and Russia. His collections were pure elegance and he certainly knew how to dress women.
What will be the future of “Unforgettable runway”?
Dior, Chanel, Saint Laurent will always be unforgettable be it today or tomorrow as they are such established historic houses and the label moves with the time so will always have a presence, however designers such as Iris Van Herpen, Olivier Rousteing, Thom Browne, John Galliano at Maison Margiela, Rick Owens and Undercover I believe will be the unforgettable runways of tomorrow.
Photos courtesy of the artist