“Made in Afghanistan” Was Once a Symbol of Hope. Fear Now.


Haseeb Rahimi, 30-year-old Afghan entrepreneur and his younger sister, a designer, Rahiba Rahimi had big plans for 2021.

Five years would be the year fashion brands adopted Laman internationally. They have already organized a podium event at the American embassy in Kabul, equipping the contestants for “.Afghan Star” (a local version of “American Idol”) and held a fashion show in Milan in 2019. Bringing his designs to Oslo (where Mr Rahimi is in business school and plans to open a showroom) would point to Dubai and beyond. They took the stage in their dreams of creating Afghanistan’s first modern luxury brand – a brand that would combine the country’s aesthetic heritage with contemporary styles, reshaping their country’s image in the global imagination using the language of fashion.

The brothers developed a network of 500 artisans, 50 of whom were at headquarters in Kabul, all led by a woman. They wanted the “made in Afghanistan” label to be sewn on every piece they sold, giving it a new meaning both inside and outside the country.

But on August 15, that day Taliban march on KabulThey told their staff they were closing.

“Everything was wiped out,” said Rahimi, who came by phone from Norway, referring to the company’s equipment, inventory and investment. (Ms. Rahimi and her family fled to Turkey in the early summer and was experiencing “severe depression.”) “This is what happens when you dare to hope in a hopeless place.”

Instead of “style,” “money,” or “trend,” “hope” might seem like a strange word to associate with fashion. It’s almost as bizarre as writing about fashion in the context of a war-ravaged and suffering country.

Yet it pops up again and again in times of trauma. In Afghanistan, fashion with low entry barriers is not a symbol of self-indulgent laziness as a lever of progress. This is a path to financial self-sufficiency, especially for women who have been excluded from the formal academic and professional ladder. Participation in the global conversation and reframing a cultural narrative.

And there, its essential role as the expression of the self and the antidote to terror is revealed. The urge to create beauty even in the worst of times is a universal human urge – an expression of belief in what is possible.

As Rahimi Hanım said in an interview New Humanitarian Aid In a news bulletin published in 2017, “Fashion, in a way, helps our women come out of their shells and say to society, ‘I am here’. See me. Hear me.'”

For example, in Ukraine in 2014, Fashion week held in Kiev Russian forces appeared on the border. In Israel and Gaza, where graduate fashion shows continued during the bombings in the same year.

And so in Afghanistan in the last 10 years, NGOs and private entrepreneurs have turned to fashion as a way. This is partly because it is a job many women can do at home while taking care of their families and traditional roles (even in areas already controlled by the Taliban).

And partly as the center of the Silk Road, with the textile and embroidery art associated with the legitimate history and heritage of the country, and later “Paris of Central Asia” – A nickname bestowed on Afghanistan during the stable period from 1930 to 1970, the “afghan jacket” became a staple of Western fashion. (Indeed, in 1969 Vogue did a fashion shoot titled “”.Afghan Adventure”)

“Craft has always played a critical role in defining communities and cultures, as well as for economic opportunities,” said Rebecca van Bergen, founder of Nest, a nonprofit focused on building a global crafts economy. Nest has been operating in Afghanistan since 2015 and works with a network of 6,700 artisans in the country, 89 percent of whom are women.

“Many artisan businesses in Afghanistan started and flourished after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, showing how women’s empowerment is directly linked to both economic development and cultural preservation,” Ms van Bergen said.

For example, in 2016, Simone Cipriani, founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, a program of the International Trade Commission, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, launched a program focusing on local saffron production in Afghanistan. and silk and run according to International Labor Organization principles. Sixty percent of the 3,500 workforce is women.

This fall, in November, a major Italian luxury brand – Mr. Cipriani didn’t say which but admitted it belonged to a large French group – was supposed to herald the start of the next phase – to sell 2,000 silks. Shawls created in Afghanistan with the support of Italian textile manufacturer Ratti (whose customers include Louis Vuitton). It was a deal he hoped would legitimize Afghan craft at the highest levels of the world stage and create a new generation of industry in the country, opening a pipeline for future trade.

In 2019, the EFI initiative connected Jeanne de Kroon, a Dutch designer who started a line called Zazi Vintage, to a workshop in Afghanistan; this is the country’s flamboyant textiles, Ms. de Kroon.

That same year, the United States international development organization USAID helped set up an exhibition at the Salone dei Tessuti in Milan to showcase the country’s luxury crafts (the products were created in part by a network of 15,000 women). It featured a fashion show for four brands, including Laman, all founded by women and all dedicated to various iterations of the same mission: empowering their female base and rebuilding their country.

And that was just before two Afghan sisters Hila and Wana Limar, who immigrated to Germany with their families as a young child, began making plans for a jewelry brand. Sevar. It was designed to sell gold and lapis designs created and sourced in Afghanistan, and was built on a program to teach commerce (and business and marketing skills) to young women leaving secondary school. The first collection was scheduled to launch this fall, and first-class young women applied and were selected to begin their apprenticeship when Kabul fell.

Now, like Laman, all these initiatives were put on hold, the stories they represented were whispered in fear, the women who worked with them were too scared to continue.

EFI removed every web page linking to its work in Afghanistan and Declaration: “Until the situation is clear, we have decided not to publish any personally identifiable information regarding our work in Afghanistan. Thanks for your understanding.” USAID pages on their show in Milan went similarly.

“Many of our artisans have disabled their IG accounts and asked not to be named anywhere for fear of their safety and the safety of the artisans they employ,” said Ms van Bergen of Nest. “While women’s rights are now at issue at best, there are also the effects of economic and cultural fluctuations, as tradesmen businesses feel obliged to close their social media accounts and websites. Frightfully.”

According to Ms. de Kroon from Zazi, the government told the country to go back to work. But while male employees return to their workshops, most women stay away for fear of revenge if they show up. Hila Limar said she received texts every day pleading for help and contacted the German government to get names on eviction lists. “She was definitely aware that I could be one of those girls,” she said. It is our responsibility to support those who have no chance to leave.” And now who can’t.

“Someone asked me if there was hope,” said Mr Cipriani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative. “I don’t know the answer. But there is a possibility of hope.”


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *