If we were playing a game of word association based around Afghanistan, two words would likely come to mind: one beginning with a t and the other with a p. But besides poppies and the Taliban I submit to you today up and coming designer SOMYLONDON. The pre-show nerves have been dispelled after a successfully executed showing of her collection during London Fashion week for Fashion Show Live. So she is in high spirits when we sit down to chat on a balmy September afternoon at the Oval’s Duchy Suite. ” I couldn’t be happier ” she says beaming. ” It went exactly how I hoped!
For Somy this collection is not just about clothes. (For most designers it rarely is.) This is personal. Somy’s craft is inextricably intertwined with the social upheaval of her homeland and specifically her fellow countrywomen. Each of her ten models walked the runway bearing a bouquet-adorned binder – a metaphor she explains, for the hopes and aspirations of Afghan women to become business leaders and entrepreneurs. The symbolism of this is especially poignant as the nation and notably the women of Afghanistan once again find themselves plunged into a tyrannical system of marginalisation. A collection that was already personal is now imbued with a fresh coat of heartbreak. A London Metropolitan fashion design graduate, when did Somy realise that she wanted to be a designer? ” To be honest ,” she admits ” I always wanted to be a designer as I always thought it’s a glamorous world. But when I started reading about fashion and the history of fashion, the idea that I could send messages through my designs – that’s when I knew this is what I want to do .” “ I don’t want to just create garments. I want to create stories. I want to bring value to women’s lives. I want them to wear my outfits and feel like they can do anything that they want. My outfits are going to give them that confidence – that extra confidence, because they are strong . . ..” So where does a woman with such a high and noble remit get her inspiration? From 1940’s post-war Britain as it turns out.
” When I came to London I read about fashion history after World War II and that has inspired me so much – that women were allowed to go back to work. I could relate to that .” “ After World War II when women started going to work they started wearing men’s blazers so the inspiration started from there. So, I basically combine the masculinity of pinstripe blazers and make it a garment for women that flatters their figures and makes them feel strong .” ” When I went back to Afghanistan I saw women going to university and working and doing another course on the side because it was taken away from us in the past. Our parents went through it. We didn’t want to go through it .”
And when it comes to expressing her goals Somy is unequivocal; ” Definitely to set up a fashion house and be the Afghan designer who’s ‘out there’ and hopefully I can help my people through my art .”
” We, as Afghan women, have been made to feel powerless for many years ” she explains. “ This is why the collection is so important to me because I’m telling the story of Afghan women who worked hard to thrive, to achieve something, to become entrepreneurs, businesswomen but everything has been taken away from them in one night .” She pauses – the cruel and recent reality of this crushing blow a fresh and tender wound. ” But . . . ” she continues, wiping away tears. ” But she is not giving up. She is still fighting . . .” And this is the story she wants to tell with this very personal collection. It’s a story of a new generation of Afghan women fighting to create and reclaim their own futures. It is the story of Afghan women, herself included, not giving up.