Meet Tamila Kochkarova Behind ‘No Boys Allowed’
Interview by Global Art Daily’s Editorial Board
Published on September 4, 2020
We had the pleasure to talk about sneaker culture and photography with Tamila Kochkarova, founder of the new Dubai-based streetwear and sneaker platform No Boys Allowed. Tamila is originally from Uzbekistan and grew up in the UAE. In 2018, she photographed many of the region’s models, influencers, and artists for her Girls exhibition, premiering at Selectshop Frame, Dubai Design District. Last year, she also made headlines for her nostalgia-themed wedding. Guests were asked to follow a “formal-wear + strictly sneakers” dress code, a bold request in a land of hyper-feminine high heels.
During a lecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Virgil Abloh asked whether streetwear was a new movement of contemporary art. Considering the massive cross-overs between high fashion, sneaker culture, and the art world, it’s impossible to deny the importance of streetwear in shaping new taste for contemporary art.
In the midst of this movement, Tamila is a pioneer. As a woman in a male-dominated industry and an Uzbek community leader in the Dubai, she represents a new wave of gender and geographic inclusion of streetwear and sneaker culture. We were curious to know about her intents with No Boys Allowed, and what her favorite sneaker is at the moment.
Global Art Daily: Tamila, you are a trend-setter, art director, and sneaker collector who is redefining Dubai's 'cool girl' aesthetic. Could you tell us a little more about yourself?
Tamila Kochkarova: I’m a portrait photographer and a very passionate sneaker collector. I’ve put out a book and a couple of exhibitions dedicated to women, so it only made sense for me to start a platform for female sneakerheads in the Arab World. I felt lost without a community of girls that were into sneakers and streetwear, so I decided to try and build one.
I felt lost without a community of girls that were into sneakers and streetwear, so I decided to try and build one.
GAD: At Global Art Daily, we value multicultural identity. Can you tell us more about your Uzbek background and how you identify Dubai as a fertile ground for cross-cultural dialogues?
T.K.: I’ve lived in the UAE for 16 years which is why I barely remember anything about my culture. Whatever I do remember, I learned from my mother. Growing up here has been a blessing though; learning and understanding everyone’s cultures, everyone’s stories. It’s just a mix of so many different cultures blended into one at this point. Growing up in the fashion and art scene in the UAE, you realize how fresh and new it all is to this country. It makes you believe that anyone can be the first to do it. That’s why giving it a shot ends up being not as scary as you would otherwise think.
Growing up in the fashion and art scene in the UAE, you realize how fresh and new it all is to this country. It makes you believe that anyone can be the first to do it.
GAD: Your personal Instagram lets us in your sneaker collection, and we want to know more. When did you start collecting sneakers?
T.K.: When I was about 13 years old, I turned into a tomboy and started hanging out with skateboarders. It seemed impossible for me not to own a pair of sneakers by that point, so I begged my mom to get me a pair, which were just a plain, bulky, black pair of DCs that I was obsessed with. Throughout my life though, I could barely afford any exclusive pairs. That’s why I only started properly collection after I met my husband who’s as passionate about all this as me. If you ask me what’s my favorite pair at the moment, I’ll probably say my black Stüssy x Nikes. I’m in love with the design, the comfort, how easy it is to just slip into them. It was love at first sight.
It was love at first sight.
GAD: You are the creator behind No Boys Allowed (NBA), a sneaker and streetwear platform dedicated to women in the Arab world. Could you tell us about how you started this project, and what's coming up?
T.K.: I’ve been feeling lost without having a community of female sneakerheads I could be a part of. I was friends with a couple of other girls, but I always believed there were more out there. So I thought of how great it would be to build something for girls based in this region as well as the ones that are from this region but based elsewhere. So far, we’ve been curating editorials for every sneaker drop, recording interviews with fellow female sneakerheads, and keeping girls up to date with the latest drops. We can’t wait to show you everything we’ve been working on!
GAD: What are your views on modest fashion and sneaker culture? We read in one of your Q&As that you like seeing girls in Dubai wearing sneakers with their abayas.
T.K.: I think both go hand in hand in this region. Especially in the past couple of years, it turned into a trend amongst the girls here to wear their abayas and even match them with the sneakers they’re wearing. I’m honestly obsessed. Comfort over everything.
GAD: Do you think the trend towards gender-neutral clothing is breaking away the traditional classification of "menswear" and "womenswear", and developing new collaborations between brands and product categories?
T.K.: I’m loving how more gender-fluid every brand has become. It doesn’t really matter anymore whether a certain piece is for men or women, as long as you can pull it off. The Supreme x Pat McGraf lipsticks and Nike x Ben & Jerry's collaborations have been so exciting and fresh and kept us on our toes during this extremely dull year.
GAD: As we think to shop consciously and ethically, we wanted to get your thoughts about streetwear popularity and sustainability. Do you think second-hand resell sites like StockX and Depop can help to slow down excessive production and consumption?
T.K.: Definitely, I mean I’m being really hopeful they do. That’s why I’m so glad I have friends starting their online thrift shops. They have the nicest pieces, and all of it is very sustainable and local. These are some of my favorites: @reebornvintage, @bywesaved and @dintage.
GAD: We’re also very curious about your photography. In 2018, you organized an exhibition of your photographs titled Girls at Selectshop Frame, D3. Which women inspire you the most in Dubai's creative scene?
T.K.: I’m inspired by one of my closest friends DJ Liutik. I love coming together and creating things with her. Hafsa Lodi, an incredible writer who recently published a book about Modest Fashion, is another big muse of mine. And then, definitely my mom. Everything, every project I’ve ever done, was inspired by and dedicated to her.
Another big muse of mine is my mom. Everything, every project I’ve ever done, was inspired by and dedicated to her.
Models: DJ Liutik @djliutik, Ashley Al Busmait @themirageedit, Sonya @s.o.n.y.a.official, Rihab @riinubi, Julz @masjetyjulz, Farah Habboush @touchoffarah
Follow Tamila Kochkarova at @kochkarovatamila
Follow No Boys Allowed at @noboysallowed.ae
All images are courtesy of Tamila Kochkarova.