‘Nothing is left to chance.’ By Karim Sadli, Joe McKenna and Farid Chenoune


‘Nothing is
left to chance.’

The story – and back story – of an encounter between tailored clothing, long-lost elegance, and young French men of North African descent.

Photographs by Karim Sadli
Styling by Joe McKenna
Words by Farid Chenoune


Certain fashion shoots come loaded with an unexpected and sometimes clandestine back story, a sort of prehistory.
Karim Sadli’s photographs, presented over the preceding pages, for example, discreetly tell the story of an encounter, between intricately tailored clothing and young French men of North African descent from the Parisian region. Crudely put, teenagers brought up on streetwear. But that back story itself is based upon another story, one that came to Sadli when he watched a documentary about the demonstration of around 30,000 Algerians in central Paris in 1961. It took place at the height of the anti-colonial war in their homeland and by the time the march was over, somewhere between 30 and 100 Algerians – to this day no one knows exactly how many – had been killed by the French authorities, and many of their bodies dumped into the Seine. ‘My grandfather was there,’ says Sadli. In photographs of the events, many of those Algerians, who often lived in shanty towns just outside Paris, are seen dressed up in their Sunday best, however worn and tattered it might have been. These smart clothes and suits become visual markers of a dignity that they had always been denied by the French state. ‘I found their story so touching,’ says Sadli. ‘That’s where the idea for the shoot came from.’

Read the complete story in System No. 13 on how Karim Sadli and Joe McKenna carefully style their way through to manifest a community’s memory. Click to buy.