We are currently at a very undefined period in the history of fashion design. The primary concern is that innovation within the industry has become rather dormant, and has subsequently entered into a state of repetition and duplicity in the products that have been created. World known brands are recycling the past – but the results are not particularly revolutionary in nature. Change can only come about in fashion design when it is coupled with a social agenda and meaningful purpose.
Feminism is, and has always been a movement that has been a catalyst of change and development throughout the world. The particular evolution of feminism and its respective correlation to fashion has gained massive momentum since the power-suits of Marlene Dietrich in the early 20th century. Marlene had not only raised the lantern for others to see, but she was a primary protagonist of what a woman is, and how all people must come to respect and appreciate the phenomenon. The intensity communicated by women today exceeds any form and style of clothing, it is no longer about fabric, color or shape.
Feminism as represented in fashion has evolved to a point where it is defined by the woman herself. For example the gaze of Greta Garbo emanates throughout history – what she was wearing is practically inconsequential. The female protagonist in the world of fashion, regardless of whether she adorns torn denim shorts, boots and blazer – or alternatively – a haute couture gown, communicates intensity with poise and panache.
As the Dean of the College of Design at the American University in the Emirates, I have been pushing the fashion agenda of WAAR and its correlation to strong and empowered women across the region and the world at large. The WAAR concept suggests We Are All Refugees regardless of social, economic or political status. Whether a person has left their home for financial, social, political or other reasons – this detachment of place and culture contributes to the refugee crisis today. What better way to showcase this contemporary condition than designing a ladies clutch – the premise being it is the ultimate holder of necessities, the bare minimum carrier device – and drawing awareness to the refugee crisis.
Recently, WAAR* has started to gain momentum in the Arab region and the UAE community. Leading women have robustly carried WAAR* clutches such as Saudi feminist, Hanna Basrawi (@itsalwayshana), and journalist and TV presenter, Leen Abou Shaar (@leen.aboushaar), as well as actress and TV presenter, Zena Louay (@Zena_Louay). Their strong and robust sense of style have pushed WAAR* beyond its original boundary to metaphorically communicate with the global community not only about the refugee crisis, but also about self-expression, feminism and fashion.