If we were going purely by today’s capricious barometer for measuring “influence” aka social media numbers, creative director Mooks Hanifiah (@mookshanifiah) might not be the first name in the local fashion scene to come to mind.
But you’ll probably have come across his considerable body of work without even realising it – the ad man has worked on the campaigns for some of the world’s biggest luxury labels, including Prada, Louis Vuitton and Calvin Klein. Trained in graphic design and typography in London, Hanifiah’s first post-school gig in the early ’00s was as a junior designer assisting Prada’s long-time art director, David James.
Fast forward to today and the London-based Hanifiah is currently a creative director at luxury ad firm Wednesday Agency Group, which counts global powerhouses such as H&M and Net-a-Porter among its clientele.
Here, we speak to the man on what inspires his work:
What is the Mooks Hanifiah aesthetic?
“I’m big on a sense of energy. Everything I do has to have this. Energy can take many forms: wit, humour, movement, emotions, a personality, character, a recognisable voice, saying something and meaning it. I like to mean what I say, and say what I mean. The transfer of energy is important to me. This to me is what excellent communication is all about, and this is the only way things effectively translate into sales. All this has to start from having something genuine to say.”
What inspires your work?
“It is important to be relevant. This can only come from being aware of what is happening right now around you: on the streets, on the radio, in art and design, on Instagram, on Facebook, the things people are saying, I am inspired by these things; I take them in and spit them out again, turning them into something inspiring, unfamiliar, exciting and hopefully aspirational.”
What are some of your most memorable projects?
Working with my idol, (supermodel) Christy Turlington. I had a long-standing Swedish fashion client called Lindex (a casual wear label). I came up with an idea called SuperRoleModel: models who are supermodels and role models at the same time. I had Christy, Liya Kebede and Toni Garrn for this campaign.
I broke the ice with her by telling her that as a young boy, my mom caught me dressing up as a woman in a strange outfit. I was emulating Christy in one of the most iconic fashion images shot by Herb Ritts. She was wearing a black Versace gown with a high slit at the back and she was holding this large fabric blowing in the wind. My version of this dress was a black blanket and the large fabric was a large bath sheet that I kept flicking in front of an upright fan to create the billowy shape. My mom came out of her bedroom and saw me in this awkward position in front of the upright fan and all she could say was, “Don’t tell your Dad.” Christy cracked up into tears hearing this. She was so easy and effortless. We had some shared interests too. She is now a dear friend.”
What was your role in the Prada ad campaign?
“I worked on Prada as a junior designer at David James Associates. I assisted David in supporting the conceptualisation of the campaign idea for both the Spring/Summer 2004 campaigns for Prada and Louis Vuitton. This meant conceptualising the idea through visual research, working on the shoot to ensure the assets were created to suit the various media, and later on, ensuring that the delivery of all images fit all forms of media.”
How would you say the creative scene in London differs from Singapore’s?
“A few years ago, the East always aspired to the Western sensibility: cleaner, a more
sombre/limited/controlled colour palette, a sense of coldness and calm, and an overall look and feel that was innately foreign. Over the years, people have learnt to embrace their own authenticity: bright/bold colours, clashing/mixing, loudness and an overall warmth. Today, the best way to move forward is to be relevant to your audience, be an exciting sounding board to the current zeitgeist and to entertain your audience in the most genuine and authentic way. Know who you are before you inspire others.”
What advice would you have for those just starting out in the fashion/advertising industries?
“Research, research, research. Go back as far as you can to learn why things are what they are today. Everything had to go through a journey for it to be truly loved and respected.I have interns who want to call themselves art directors just because they love how Gigi Hadid looked for an editorial, but have no idea or are not interested in why she was made to look like that, where that image came from in the first place. Go make a coffee, sweetheart. Be aware of and respect what is happening now, the current zeitgeist. Don’t just acknowledge it; challenge it; re-shape it; re-package it; make it more exciting.”
All images courtesy of Mooks Hanifiah unless stated otherwise