For His Next Act, Mo Al Turki Returns Home
“I’m all fashioned out right now,” says Mohammed Al Turki, somewhere in the depths of Milan Fashion Week.
As much hedonistic fun as there is to be had, making it through the gauntlet of fashion week takes equal parts style, grit and stamina. Luckily Al Turki, the man about town Saudi film producer, has all three cylinders firing.
Since making his name as a producer that could uniquely bridge cinema from the Middle East to the West – working across films like 2012’s Arbitrage – Al Turki has pivoted to a new, more determined phase of his career. It’s one that brings him back to his roots in Saudi Arabia, a place he left to find opportunity.
Coat, $620, Acne Studios at Matches Fashion. Zip-sweater, trousers and trainers, prices on request, Valentino
“They [Saudi] have been investing a lot in the people and in culture and in the arts. I never thought the day would come that I’d be working on what I love and having my country passionate about it.”
Al Turki has become a key catalyst in the rapid expansion of Saudi’s film and arts culture, advocating for infrastructure and mentorship programs.
“We’re talking about the bigger picture in the next few years: Investing in having a whole film scene in Saudi, from film festivals to studios to a media city. The aim is to have a full-on film society culture in Saudi.”
Jacket, price on request, Prada. Blazer, price on request, Dunhill. Sweatshirt, $425, Loewe at Mr Porter
When AMC opened the country’s first cinema last year, Al Turki was there for the premiere of Black Panther.
“If you told me that would happen ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it at all. It was very surreal,” says Al Turki. “I couldn’t believe that I was in Riyadh – which is known to be the most conservative city in Saudi – watching a movie like Black Panther with executives from Hollywood.”
That night, there were things that Al Turki couldn’t take for granted.
Zip-sweater, $1800, Gucci at Mr Porter. Trousers, $860, Gucci at Matches Fashion
“There was no segregation. Men and women sat together – it was like any cinema in the world. It was a great moment.”
Outside of the country, Saudi filmmakers are flourishing. Since her feature debut Wadjda, Haifaa Al Mansour has directed Elle Fanning and Maisie Williams in Mary Shelley, and last month released the Netflix Original, Nappily Ever After.
Mahmoud Sabbagh also scored a Netflix distribution deal with Barakah Meets Barakah, a love story about a civil servant who falls for a vlogger. Earlier this year, Saudi actress Ahd Kamel starred in TV miniseries Collateral alongside Carey Mulligan.
“You are seeing things heading the right way,” says Al Turki. “You’re seeing talent coming out of the region, and spreading abroad. Things are changing.”
Jacket, shirt, trousers, prices on request, Salvatore Ferragamo
Style is changing, too. In menswear’s over-the-top era, men the world over are pushing their wardrobes into a bolder direction. As we speak, Al Turki is getting ready for the next show on his fashion week schedule, Versace. And, for the second time in a week, he’s preparing to go a little out of his sartorial comfort zone.
“My style is quite classic. I like the old-school designs: clean-cut suits, proper Italian leather shoes,” he says.
One thing he learned from his GQ shoot? The power of a few calculated style moves – like a Givenchy vest over a clean-cut suit. “I’m enjoying exploring,” says Al Turki.
Shirt, $955, Calvin Klein at Matches Fashion. Trousers, $455, Balenciaga at Mr Porter.
And sure, with change comes risk – but in Saudi cinema as in style, the results speak for themselves.
From our October 2018 issue.