At 27 years old, Sunderland-born Syed Ahmed has made a name for himself in the fashion industry with an Instagram following of more than 63,000. He has worked with brands such as Calvin Klein, Dior beauty and ASOS and appeared in November’s Italian edition of Vogue. In an exclusive interview with Fashion North, he tells how he’s now gone back to the University of Sunderland to study fashion design with the end goal of starting his own brand.
Ahmed has began his fashion journey straight off the back of his GCSEs: “It started right around when I left school…At the time, Tumblr was a thing and I grew quite a large following on there and made a lot of friends through it as well. The things I was blogging about was around the fashion industry so I made a lot of connections in the industry. This gave me a stepping stone. When I got to about 19 or 20, I decided to move to London and I knew that’s where I needed to be.”
In London, Syed quickly began working with big names and brands such as FarFetch, which allowed him to amass an online presence and following. “I started helping these clothing brands create their social presence.” Following this, he worked as a menswear buyer, attending multiple fashion weeks and networking with some of the elite in the industry.
“I feel like I’m bragging,” he complains before name-dropping that he knows industry giants like Olivier Rousteing, the creative director of Balmain. But it was his friend, a creative director at Vogue, Alec Maxwell, that landed him a feature in Vogue Italia. “He started this community online called Kloss, it’s kind of like a networking thing,” and it was through this community that Vogue Italia reached out to Syed and asked to feature him in the magazine. “It was very experimental. It was not conforming to what society expects. It was a bit uncomfortable for me at first,” but he has successfully adapted this genderless attitude into his own work, utilizing typically feminine pieces like crop-tops in his everyday wardrobe and on his social media.
He is currently working with Pandora on their new line, which stresses inclusivity. “Mental health is a huge thing for me on my social media, I talk about it as much as I can,” and it was following a campaign he worked on with Calvin Klein that he found the confidence to really open up about his opinions. “I started being more confident talking about being gay and being more inclusive of everyone.”
His social media is clearly a positive and open space, promoting diversity and sexuality. He noticed a lack of conversation by other influencers around such issues and realised that this silence came from a worry that addressing body positivity or inequality would lead to losing support. “The people that stick with you, will stick with you and the people who don’t and drop off, they’re people who probably never should have followed you anyway.” Sadly, as his content has grown more open and honest, Syed noticed he lost followers and support but this hasn’t dampened his desire to promote and create a dialogue around such issues.
This loss of support also came from some of his family, who he now no longer speaks to. “The culture I was bought up in was very anti-gay so I was literally disowned by my community.” This ostracisation is now one of his main motivations, he said.
“I thought, you know what? I’m gonna prove you wrong and show you I can be someone, it doesn’t matter if I’m gay.” This ambition also gave birth to his social media handle, Supreme to Society. “I was so angry at the world and I thought: I’m gonna call myself Supreme to Society but to my society.” Far from stirring pity, the story of his background only makes him even more likeable.
As for friends, he said: “I’ve cancelled all my old friends. You need to create a circle around yourself of people who are doing well. I don’t class people as friends, I class them as loved ones and I class everyone else as associates. That sounds horrible but its business.”
He even admits that, when first breaking into the industry and coming out as part of the LGBTQ+ community, his mental health was really bad: “I was at my lowest ever and when I came through and came to the other side, something just clicked and I was tunnel vision. I messaged so many of my old friends and just said ‘I know this is random as hell but I don’t want to be your friend anymore. I’m not kidding.”
This raw ambition is clear and Syed’s last piece of advice is :“You can do anything you want and once you start believing that, you will.”