Everyone’s favourite Instagram mood board / now Creative Agency, “Two Arab Minds” Founder & CEO Sofiane El Bekri takes us through his journey with the platform. Growing up in the north of France, in Lille, El Bekri always had the motto: “think big, be big” in mind.
El Bekri built “Two Arab Minds”, an inspiring social media platform that skyrocketed in under a year. Hungry for a career full of creativity and to further his page’s success, El Bekri added a string to his bow and launched a progressive Creative Agency that focuses on collaborating with this generation’s evolving thinkers, to create honest and meaningful art.
Here is what Sofiane has to say about what to expect.
Digital Platform turned Fashion label turned Creative Agency. What initially inspired you to create this platform?
At 21, I wanted to create a dream world. Knowing I couldn’t do that literally, I created a digital world that could transport me. I would post pictures that inspired me, connected to me or just appealed to me aesthetically. I guess it made other people feel that way too because the platform started to grow. The platform now is a way for me to connect my fellow creatives and my creativity into one collective space.
The page is fueled with themes of love, strength, beauty and power. I am interested to know if these are themes that motivate your work and personal life.
100 per cent. You can probably read through the pictures I post that I am all about love and romanticism. Beauty in a general form is the thing that motivates me, not just the materialistic aspect, but the beauty of life. So if I can inspire people to look at a picture I posted of a romantic setting, for example, and text their partner to go out, them acting on it means I have done my job. I really think spreading love inspires people to move differently through their life and art – which is really my goal, I want to inspire people to act on their emotions.
This idea of inspiration is replicated on your page. Your Instagram features icons like Denzel Washington, Pharell Williams, Tupac and Jay-Z. These people have built their success on pure individualism – reflecting their personal life experiences into their work. Is this something you relate to and hope to do?
Yeah definitely. I grew up with them. I didn’t discover them on Instagram or online. I grew up with my mom listening to Brandy and Destiny’s child. My dad was a big Denzel fan. He wore Timberlands and would dye his hair blonde. I used to watch MTV all day. So I really grew up with them and learnt from their honesty. My cousin was into music so he put me on rap since my early days – which is how I learnt English. It is all about the American dream – they have this way to think bigger, to romanticise everything and anything. When an American enters the room in Paris you can feel the energy from the way they move and act. They really gave me this ambition to touch the world through art, to think and move bigger.
The Two Arab Minds Instagram seems to explore the beauty and the darkness in life. What inspired this aesthetic? What is it about soft darkness?
My whole life, I had to do more with less. So I thought, how can I use my struggle and make it beautiful? The struggle I have experienced in my life has inspired me a lot. I am grateful for what I have gone through – I am blessed I didn’t make it in football, I am blessed I had all these injuries, I am blessed I had to experience what hard work means – because I believe god has a plan for me, and being some rich football player wasn’t what I was meant to do. Spending money on bullshit was not my path – my struggles made me reconsider my way of living. These struggles created bigger goals and limitless dreams.
It is clear your way of working is very organic. You embrace this trial-and-error mindset. Having personally experience losing control, how has that impacted the way you work? What is your approach when it comes to creating?
I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing, but I love being in control of everything. When I decided I wanted to make hoodies and T-shirts, I linked up with a graphic designer in Paris who was following the account. We worked in his room for a week, designing. I was telling him my ideas and he was putting them on the computer. Now being CEO of an agency, I have learnt you can’t control everything. You can have input, but you can’t do everything. I think that’s what makes a good creative director. You may not have all the skills and techniques, but you have the ideas to lead all the technicians. Knowing who to connect together is what creates good work and is what makes a good director.
You have said that “Two Arab Minds is built by a team of inclusive and evolving thinkers” – who are these evolving young minds?
These are the people that follow me. The people that I connect to. People that inspire me. That is exactly what Two Arab Minds is about. It’s a platform that allows young hustlers to express their creativity. I myself have no diploma, no credentials – that’s, not what’s important to me – what’s important is understanding my vision and wanting to work and make something important.
It’s refreshing to see you working with creatives that follow you. Collaboration is a concept strongly visible on your page. Where did this love for collaboration come from?
The love came from the way I grew up. I feel really blessed for my childhood, it really defined who I am today. I grew up in a poor neighbourhood. My mom wanted me to have access to the best education, so she put me in a private school. She didn’t have a lot of money but she was paying for it. I would go to school with rich kids wearing Ralph Loren and Tommy Hilfiger, who grew up in castles and would come home to the hood at night where people wore Nike and Sergio Tacchini. That experience is really what defined my creative vision – the combination of the streets and the glamour, the ugly and the beautiful. So when I first stepped into Paris, I built relationships straightway, because I grew up in every environment and knew how to adapt and connect easily.
Two Arab Minds is a platform that is bringing opportunity and light to a sometimes challenging industry. How has that journey been so far? Has there been a memorable interaction since you started that keeps you motivated?
Yes actually. Last Paris Fashion Week, I threw an event. We ended up in a bar after. I remember a bunch of people stopped me that night and told me that they have been following me for years, thanking me for what I do. That is what inspires me. And it’s always a shock. I never expected Two Arab Minds to turn into what it has. I did it to share my creativity. So when people recognize themselves in it, I feel very grateful and fulfilled. As I said, I do this to inspire people. Even if it’s just one guy at a bar, that’s enough for me.
It is beautiful to see your vision and creativity being acknowledged so early on. You have said there is no limit to your creativity – so I will ask: what imprint do you want your work to leave?
The goal is to really touch all people and all cultures. I wanna be the bridge between cultures and industries – I wanna be a link for young creatives. I wanna give them the tools. I mean I see it all the time, people say they want to inspire people, but when asked how they have nothing to say. I don’t want to bullshit people, or hide opportunities, I don’t want to keep success for myself. This platform is not about me and promoting myself – it is really about inspiring people. The goal is to create meaningful work. It is all about meaning.