Welcome Merchant recently featured Anjilla Seddeqi, an Australian designer of Afghan heritage, whose designs shine a light on the elegance and beauty of Afghan culture.
Anjilla Seddeqi makes clothing for the sophisticated modern woman, designing pieces that long for a return to a grace-filled era of dressing.
Here Anjilla explains her passion, fashion inspirations and her drive to lift others – with the help of some sweet handmade dolls.
Elevating women through fashion
‘Fashion to me means being able to make women feel confident, I know that when I have confidence I feel like I can conquer the world. Yves Saint Laurent summed it up perfectly when he said ‘I have always believed that fashion was not only to make women more beautiful, but also to reassure them, give them confidence’
Anjilla Seddeqi’s designs seek to give the wearer the feeling of empowerment that comes with self-confidence. She discovered the power of clothing during her career as a lawyer, a career path she took to honour her parents who had fled from Afghanistan. Setting her sights on law she had hoped to pave the way for her three younger brothers and prove that her parents’ sacrifices did not go in vain. ‘I believe my career in law has influenced my interest in fashion somewhat. As a lawyer you have to be well dressed, it’s part and parcel of the work and helps instill confidence in your clients. Image plays an important role in the work we perform’ she says.
Transitioning into fashion came as she struggled to find the pieces that catered to her needs, and in designing for herself she saw that her clothing resonated with a large cross-section of women. In 2017 she started her fashion business and debuted her first collection at Dubai Modest Fashion Week, going on to showcase her collections at Fashions of Multicultural Australia (FOMA) and being featured in the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar.
Her visibility in the fashion world is vital not just for her, as she explains, ‘when Muslim women for example are given a platform and featured in the mainstream media it gives little girls hope to dream and to know that if they apply themselves, they too can make something of themselves and change their lives.’
Designing a new narrative
‘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, invasions and foreign interference that we have been subjected to. We are proud, cultured and hospitable people and that is what I want to shine upon in my designs.’
For Anjilla her clothing is a way to highlight the rich beauty and culture of Afghanistan. Growing up in Australia she would be inspired by the stories her mother would tell of Afghanistan. Of the clothes worn during special occasions like Eid and Afghan New Year, the vibrant, colourful dresses with intricate brocades and embroideries. These dresses made the occasions and celebrations even more special. ‘There’s so much tragedy and upheaval going on around us it’s very important for me to focus on beauty, joy and hope,’ she explains.
Her designs are a celebration of Afghan traditions, with a focus on rich fabrics – brocades, gold thread work and embroidered silk. She uses vibrant colours synonymous with Afghan celebrations and attire.
‘By focusing on our celebrations, traditions and cultural practices and designing for these occasions I hope to show how rich our culture is and how we are like the rest of the world, that we have hopes and dreams and want to live in harmony. I also believe it’s important for the wider Australian community to see that Afghans are accomplished and are making a positive contribution to society.’
Hope for Afghanistan
‘I knew very quickly that I had to turn my despair and heartache and channel it into something positive.’
Since the fall of Kabul last year Anjilla has been primarily focused on assisting the women and children of Afghanistan. With the help of her friend Shemi Alovic they are spearheading the Arezu Dolls of Hope for Afghanistan initiative to raise funds for UNHCR’s efforts in Afghanistan. Arezu means hope in Dari.
Arezu Dolls are handmade by Afghan women living as refugees in India from eco-friendly Indian cotton that otherwise would have been discarded as waste. They are created with love, hope and a wish for a brighter future for the women and children of Afghanistan. The dolls are dressed in traditional Afghan dress designed by Anjilla and are exclusive to their initiative.
100% of the purchase price will go towards that wish of a brighter future via the UNHCR.
Not only does the project help the Afghan women living as refugees in India, who are employed and paid to make the dolls, but it also helps the UNHCR continue its extremely important work in Afghanistan. It also helps the planet more generally, since the dolls are made from Indian cotton that would have otherwise ended up in landfill and would have contributed to the ever expanding problem of excessive fabric overconsumption and reckless disposal.
Each beautiful doll will come in a special box complete with bedding, and a personal card introducing her to you.
To order your doll please follow this link – https://py.pl/xy1Cs, for more information on how to order please visit @anjillaseddeqi or @arezudollsofhopeforafghanistan on Instagram.
You can find more fashions and refugee powered businesses supported by Welcome Merchant here.