After Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban recently, Afghani people both within and out of the country continue to feel astray. While some have managed to escape and witness everything from a distance, the effects of it continue to linger. Meanwhile, two Afghani fashion designers, Anjilla Sedddeqi and Hosna Kohestani, have decided to honor their country through their work. As their homeland remains distressed, their love towards it only grows stronger.
Seddeqi was only seven years-old when her family left Afghanistan and went to Australia. However, her loyalty to her heritage and home never faded. She went to law school and studied international law, joining the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to work with asylum seekers, and worked for many years as a human rights lawyer. Her path towards fashion designing served as a way to channel her love towards Afghanistan through designs inspired by her culture.
I have heard incredible stories about Afghanistan. I yearn to go back one day with my two children. I am very passionate about refugees, given my background and experience, and it was my dream as a little girl to practice refugee law so that I could help them. My designs are informed by my Afghan heritage and culture. I mainly work with rich fabrics like brocades with gold threadwork and embroidered silk fabrics, as well as vibrant colors, as this is synonymous with Afghan celebrations and attire.Seddeqi tells The National.
“For far too long the narrative in the West has been that Afghanistan is perpetually at war and in conflict. But Afghanistan and its people are more than that and we are not defined by the relentless violence. We are a proud, cultured, and hospitable people and that is what I want to shine upon in my designs,” Sedeqqi said. The fashion designer highlights that the Afghan culture is essential to her work, hoping to shift the narrative in the West towards her homeland. One way she has been working towards this is by incorporating Afghan designs in her pieces for women who seek fresher and unique designs.
In the light of current events, Seddeqi is worried about the future of Afghanistan, particularly the women. She said, “I think Afghans have a really good grasp of what the Taliban are about after experiencing firsthand the terror they unleashed on the population when they gained power in 1996. Most Afghan women are too terrified to leave their homes. Ultimately, the women and children in Afghanistan will pay the highest price. As an Afghan woman living in the diaspora, it is my duty and calling to raise awareness about the plight of my sisters in Afghanistan. I simply cannot rest in this position of privilege knowing how much they are suffering.”
She adds, “It has been very difficult to get in touch with them since the Taliban has gained power. I will continue to explore different contacts and avenues to get in touch with them. My hope is that I can continue to work with them and support them during these dark times.”
Hosna Kohestani has her own shop in Dubai, and her designs are known for their colorful vibes, with a bit of Afghan traditional cuts and rich gold embroidery, all of which are inspired by Afghan culture.
Moreover, Sedeqqi’s words resonated with Kohestani. “It’s definitely a hard time for all of us Afghans. It will definitely impact me as an Afghan designer, but right now I am more concerned about my country. It provides me with a sense of connection to my roots. There’s a lot to learn from our traditional Afghan dresses, [they are] a masterclass on mixing colors, patterns and textures.”