Zarif Design is All About Empowering Afghan Artisans

Zarif Design is All About Empowering Afghan Artisans

Images courtesy of Fatimah Hossaini/Zarif Design

“Trend, for me, is absolutely the folks behind the craftsmanship.”

Identified for its vibrant colors, detailed embroidery and beautiful silk material, the standard Afghan chapan, a protracted coat worn by many males in central Asia, is Afghan-American designer Zolaykha Sherzad’s bestseller. Sherzad, primarily based in New York, based Zarif Design in 2005. She works instantly with native Afghan artisans in Kabul, designing items for each men and women that merge Afghan apparel with a up to date trendy twist. Her work is applauded by many together with French designer agnès b., efficiency artist Marina Abramović, and acclaimed New York Occasions bestselling creator Dr. Deepak Chopra (right here’s an image of him sporting the signature waistcoat).

For Sherzad, Zarif Design is extra than simply vogue — it’s vogue with a function. It’s a deep-rooted need to assist her fellow Afghans economically whereas creating items that embrace genuine Afghan craftsmanship. However in August, after 16 years of effort, investments and sacrifices evaporated in a matter of hours because the Taliban got here again into energy.

Images courtesy of Fatimah Hossaini/Zarif Design

In the course of the first Taliban regime, which started in 1996, girls nearly disappeared from the general public eye. They have been banned from working and weren’t allowed to journey with out a male guardian. The violation of those guidelines resulted in extreme punishment.

That each one modified for the higher when the Taliban have been overthrown in 2001, inspiring Sherzad to assist Afghan artisans apply their expertise in an business that might enable them to develop and reap the benefits of financial prosperity that had been beforehand inaccessible (in truth, a number of the feminine employees in her Kabul workshop are the first breadwinners for his or her households). However 20 years later, within the aftermath of the Taliban’s resurgence, Sherzad’s primary concern is her group again in Afghanistan.


Zarif Design’s Kabul workshop. Images by Oriane Zerah

“The primary month all the things was simply the other way up. Emotionally too,” Sherzad says. “No one knew what was going to occur…all the things simply stopped… I fear about how lengthy I may help these folks get by this difficult time, and hope that issues will quickly change.”

Previous to August 2021, the group consisted of 52 weavers, tailors and embroiderers. Inside months that group fell aside as some members fled the nation and others at the moment are too afraid to work. Manufacturing has considerably slowed down and Sherzad is not capable of export items from Kabul. To maintain spirits alive regardless of the state of affairs, Sherzad assigned a few of her group members to focus their efforts as a substitute on intricate embroidery, which usually takes longer to create.“I needed to provide them one thing that they’d take pleasure in in the course of the day, from tailoring to embroidery,” Sherzad says. “In order that once they see these items they really feel a way of accomplishment.”


Zarif Design’s Kabul workshop. Images by Oriane Zerah

Sherzad sources all of her materials from Afghanistan, together with the impeccably detailed handmade embroidery. She additionally employs and trains Afghan men and women to observe “sluggish manufacturing” within the type of hand-crafted work and detailing. Gradual manufacturing, also called sluggish vogue, is the strategy of manufacturing clothes that takes into consideration all facets of the provision chain. It means spending extra time on the design course of to make sure that every garment is of high-quality. It’s the other of what we think about quick vogue, through which the clothes high quality is affordable, mass-produced and the surroundings and workers are exploited. As an alternative, at Zarif Design, tailors, seamstresses, embroiderers and weavers are given a spot to coach and grasp their expertise to protect cultural designs.

“What I really like is that we’re all interconnected, nobody is doing something alone,” Sherzad says. “The aim of this undertaking was not simply the jacket itself. It’s how the jacket comes collectively.”

Along with the model’s signature jackets, Zarif Design additionally produces modest and gender inclusive unisex items. “It’s extra in regards to the character of who you’re, so subsequently gender is just not one thing that pushes my design,” Sherzad explains, “It’s the materials, the stream, the main points, the shapes, and the sense of freedom.”


Waistcoat. Images by Cresta Kruger

Take for instance the signature waistcoat. Though the waistcoat is listed individually for each women and men, the design is nearly equivalent. The straight strains, silk trim element and hand-made buttons (reproduction of vintage cash) give off an adrogynous really feel. In reality, a few of her vogue inspiration comes from Japanese-based designer Yohji Yamamoto who, much like Sherzad, creates timeless androgynous items. “I don’t observe the seasons, I don’t consider in that,” says Sherzad, who truly lived in Japan for little over a yr. “Yamamoto is a designer that I actually respect for a way a lot he has been capable of carry the essence of the tradition, the custom and connecting the occasions.”

Sherzad is doing precisely that — carrying the essence of the Afghan tradition and custom in a timeless method. The one in all a form signature jackets, historically worn by males, are recreated in a contemporary manner for ladies whereas nonetheless staying true to conventional design. The jackets are available in crimson, navy, and in multi-colours and are all handwoven. “It’s all related to the previous,” Sherzad says, “I used to be utilizing a few of these conventional materials and reducing them in a sure manner and it grew to become very trendy, so there was this juxtaposition between previous and current.”

In New York, Sherzad is presently establishing pop-up retailers to assist promote a number of the clothes. For additional publicity, The Chopra Basis, led by Dr. Deepak Chopra, set-up a GoFundMe web page to donate cash to ship emergency reduction to artisans and their households in Afghanistan. The web page has already raised 1 / 4 of its $100,000 purpose.

Whereas the way forward for Zarif Design is unclear, Sherzad continues to make use of her platform to make sure that the model continues to encourage, and empower Afghan communities.

“Trend, for me, is absolutely the folks behind the craftsmanship,” Sherzad says. “It’s the artisans that actually matter essentially the most.”

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