Inès Aktouf is the founder and creative director of Social Unseen, she is also a PR in a luxury agency and a freelance stylist.
Ines was born and raised in Algeria until she was 18 years old, where she moved to Paris to study fashion at Istituto Marangoni Paris – after her graduation, she moved to Dubai where she is now working as a jewelry PR and managing her platform at the same time.
As a business partner and very close friend, I might know her quite well. She is a very passionate and ambitious person who never ceases to amaze people who cross her way. She started sharing her passion on Instagram a few years ago, and her 40K followers probably chose her for the authenticity and positivity that she radiates.
SU: How did you have the idea to create Social Unseen?
IA: I worked for several PR agencies where I used to be in a constant contact with both local and international magazines, I also interned at Vogue Arabia few months ago, and my professional experiences made me realize that my region which is North Africa was lacking exposure, even if we are mentioned, I don’t think it’s enough highlighted. We do have a beautiful culture, we also highly contribute to the fashion industry. I wanted to blur the lines between us as North Africans, Arabs, Berbers and the rest of the world, I wanted to put a light on hidden talents and a culture that deserves to be internationally known, this is why Social Unseen is very contemporary and in English – It’s meant to be read and understood by the world.
SU: How do you think it will make a difference among the platforms we see nowadays?
IA: I believe that Social Unseen has a different perspective in approaching topics, we try our best with the Editorial team to research inspiring topics that are both entertaining and informative. Also, our meet-up section is 100% dedicated to interviews, which I believe is one of greatest values – We put forward both of the human and professional side of the creatives we feature, and that is very important I think. It’s a real immersion in their perceptions, and we are hopefully going to have video interviews soon for those who are lazy to read!
SU: How was the change from Paris to Dubai?
IA: Haha. The most asked question is definitely this one! I mean, I try to adapt as much as I can! It’s very different from Paris! In the beginning it was quite hard for me because my life has completely changed, I went from a student life to professional life, from single to married, and from Paris to Dubai – It’ was a real social change! The fact that I wasn’t working was hard for me because I usually have a lot of energy and I don’t like to sit home, when I don’t have productive days or challenging ones it affects me, so yes I have to admit that I missed Paris a lot in the beginning. But now I’m glad to live in a city where I feel welcomed, where I know that professionally I can grow faster than in Europe, so yes, I guess it’s important to be grateful and work on yourself when you’re exposed to a drastic change in your life.
SU: Dubai is usually considered as a superficial city; How are you dealing with that?
IA: I wouldn’t consider Dubai being superficial, I really think it’s a Cliché! It doesn’t have the same history as Europe or Algeria in fact.. and you can feel it, everything is new, clean and perfect – But sometimes you miss that authenticity of just grabbing a Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks and then walk in the street and sit in a park or explore the city as we do in Europe..Yes, I really miss that.
In fact, it might look like a simple thing but for me it’s priceless, and that’s the city life that I miss. But to be honest, if you’re targeting people when you say superficial, I think it’s a complete different crowd here, very cosmopolitan at the same time you have predominant nationalities like Lebanese, British, Syrians, Indians, Iraqis.. You just need a bit of time to find your social group, or you can build it! Up to you.
I believe that Social Unseen has a different perspective in approaching topics, we try our best with the Editorial team to research inspiring topics that are both entertaining and informative.
SU: What is your favorite and worse trend of 2020?
IA: My favorite trend is definitely the minimal/monochromatic – I love how some designers knew how to build sophistication and boldness out of simplicity. I think this trend is timeless and can be worn forever. A full denim look, a long trench coat or an oversized suit will never be considered old fashion. I don’t really believe in worse trends, I think if you know how to wear an item, you’ll rock it anyway – But wait a sec, I think sexy neon tops are the worse trend haha.
SU: What do you think of the impact of the fashion industry on the planet?
IA: I think it’s major and terrible. We don’t realize how bad it is actually. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil, and that is not normal. And this is due to a fast cycle of production followed by a faster cycle of consummation. Fast fashion brands are the no.1 cause of the situation but we also have to blame ourselves, we are also responsible, because we buy unconsciously.
SU: How would you make it better?
IA: Simple, we need to buy less, learn how to enjoy our shirt that we wore once for an Instagram picture, go for secondhand stores, avoid buying fast fashion every week and instead, invest on a designer piece that lasts longer.
Avoid buying fast fashion every week and instead, invest on a designer piece that lasts longer.
SU: You were working at Vogue lately; can you describe the experience?
IA: Yes, I did an internship there, I was helping both of the fashion and events team, it was a lot of work especially during shoots where I was assisting the styling team . Regarding the commercial team, I was helping in the organization of the events, sometimes I would help in the production of the shoot as well. Globally, the experience was very interesting but there were few things that I wasn’t expecting from such a big name. The magazine doesn’t pay its interns and doesn’t even give them a contract, so legally speaking, it was very disappointing and the company culture was really bad. The industry needs to become more human and less superficial, I mean, it’s all about fun, art and some beautiful creative work at the end of the day.
SU: According to you, what are the 3 fashion faux pas?
IA: A full branded outfit, over-revealing, being able to see underwear when it’s not needed.
SU: You spoke once about lashes extensions experience, can you tell us more about it?
IA: Very bad. I lost my real eyelashes after the extensions fell.. And to be honest with you, I don’t think I will do it ever again..It took me time to get back my natural volume and I even tried Revitalash, which I believe is very chemical because it caused me huge dark circles, so I stopped it after three days and started to use castor oil and they became normal now.
SU: What is your current shampoo?
IA: I use two shampoos a week, Olaplex and the hair scrub (which replaces the shampoo) from Kerastase.
The industry needs to become more human and less superficial, I mean, it’s all about fun, art and some beautiful creative work at the end of the day.
SU: What do you think about fashion and beauty influencers in the Arab world?
IA: I think there is a great potential and it’s full of positive vibes but it’s lacking creativity and dedication. I realized that in most of the time, the purpose is not to communicate about the product itself and create the content around it, it’s usually self-centered so we forget the global utility. However, there are many new influencers who deserve to be called creatives because they focus on creating real content and Social Unseen is investigating to highlight them!
SU: Would you go back to Paris one day?
IA: It all depends on the circumstances. My husband and I work in Dubai for now and we are not planning to move anytime soon, but you never know what you destiny is right!
SU: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
IA: Haha this kind of question you would get in job interview! I mean, I do have goals and a vision to achieve. But it would be in a shorter term, it two to three years for example, I would love to see Social Unseen become a recognized platform in the region, we work everyday for it and believe in it. But regarding me as a person, I would want to evolve as a PR in the industry and build up my social life in the region, all step by step. No rush!
Images: Social Unseen
Interview by: Narimene Chaib