Sometimes impressions are more important than facts…and for that reason alone I often times prefer to write a piece about someone without taking much input from the subject. Let them see themselves through my eyes. They may not like it, they may not agree but it’s priceless to be given that lens. Aseel Qawasmeh this is my gift to you.
I had seen her brand on Instagram (of course) a young Jordanian modest fashion label with interesting photography. Time went by and other than a whisper here or there, there was little about Aseel the brand. That in itself was an opportunity, I had a blank canvas to scribble my thoughts on.
I caught my first glimpse of Aseel’s collection for Dezain at the event itself. As the models marched onto the platform a symphony of colors, cuts and fabrics serenaded me. You know the term, ‘lets make some noise’…Well it’s actually literal. When elements work well together there is a synergy of sorts and they are able to create a higher frequency, a language which you can read or hear. Aseel’s ‘noise’ was bold and boisterous, in fact very much like the designer herself. As Aseel took time out of her presentation to explain the thought process behind her collection I couldn’t help but think to myself “I wish Aseel Qawasmeh could represent the modest yet modern Arab woman internationally.” She is eloquent both in speech and appearance. She speaks her truth clearly…You can’t misinterpret what she represents, it is crystal clear to her and therefore to us.
Aseel is a ready-to-wear brand who by the looks of things has been in the market for about three collections now. Like I said, I don’t want to ask her much…
Her first collection on Instagram Spring 2017 has been photographed in New York and shows her depth of conviction to modesty. The model is veiled.. Yes, before Carine Roitefeld heralded modesty and catapulted Halima Aden to stardom, Aseel was photographing a veiled woman on the streets of NYC.
This modern vision of the modest Arab woman resonates in her collections. Classic tailored cuts are spruced up with unique motifs and modern twists. As I sift through her collections I can tell that when Aseel delves into something she gets into it elbow deep. Aseel’s collection for Dezain came to her after a fashion mentoring opportunity at Zaatari camp with UNHCR.
Seeing the plight of displaced Syrians first hand, practically tasting their anguish has affected Aseel profoundly. In an effort to translate these feelings Aseel took to her fashion label, giving this often voiceless nation a means of expression. If you are searching for dark shades and sombre references you aren’t going to find them. Instead Aseel’s collection is a study on the resilience, culture and validity of the nation’s women. The bright shades taken from a popular Syrian towel fabric (terry cloth) serves as a celebration of these women’s tenacity, their need and will to survive under brutal circumstances. Aseel takes it further still with handwritten notes from a Syrian lady, her words serve as the lining to a sophisticated white jacket. Just like the women themselves, the jacket conceal the hurt and anguish, the words are carefully tucked away in the lining.
As I rummage through the collection rack, I find handmade pleated skirts and dresses in traditional Syrian Saya fabric. These brush the fancifully-cut ruffles and metallic materials of her more evening pieces.
Tucked in between is a plain white t-shirt emblazoned with a serial number and barcode, a bitter sweet reminder of what refugees around the world experience. Bitter because it is as if their nationalism is reduced to a number. Sweet because it is documentation of what they have endured, it cannot be discounted nor disregarded…
As the torch light shines brightly on fast fashion, highlighting its many unsustainable flaws we are on the search for fashion with a deeper meaning, common ground and story. It is my belief that in order to grow in the world of fashion, designers must be empowered with strong tailoring skills, emboldened with courage and tenacity and impassioned with a story worth sharing.