Afghan Women’s Fight for Freedom | Ghan Fashion 

Lida Mangal is a former refugee who migrated to Australia from Afghanistan in 2005 in hopes of starting a new life. There she gained a scholarship from Sydney University leading her to complete her master’s degree. She then decided to remain in Australia and worked in numerous organisations in different capacities. Lida now working as a full-time settlement worker while simultaneously handling her small business Ghan Fashion is inspiring. “Being a full-time mum, while working and managing Ghan Fashion isn’t easy. I’m pursuing my hobby and passion for a cause”.    

Lida Mangal owner of Ghan Fashion

Ghan Fashion  

Lida started her garment and jewellery business to showcase Afghanistan’s culture, heritage and fashion which has been forcefully silenced in her home country. Afghan culture and fashion are important as they allow those unfamiliar with the culture to learn and recognise the unique aspects presented through their colourful garments. The range of colourful clothing items worn by Afghan women to celebrate a special occasion, or a casual family gathering is important. All women want to be fashionable, chic, and beautiful hence the existence of Ghan Fashion. “I will be the voice for those women who aren’t able to work or express themselves”. The presence of Ghan Fashion provides an opportunity to learn about Afghanistan’s culture and the message of peace, beauty and resilience of Afghan women and Afghanistan. Lida has employed women who remain in Afghanistan risking their lives to continue working in the garment industry and gain some sort of financial independence. She created Ghan Fashion to give back to Afghan women with 10% of her sales going directly to them. Lida views herself as an inspiration to Afghan women and women in general, showcasing the possibility of one day running a business or a passion project. A woman who is independent and can express herself and her passion without any amount of fear. “When I promote my traditional products the positive energy that I receive fuels me to keep going”. This is what Lida wants other women to feel and view her journey as an example of something attainable.

Importance of Sustainability  

Sustainability has become a goal for numerous companies big or small with rising discussions around climate change and a need for immediate action. Apart from presenting Afghan culture and a range of handmade garments, Lida ensured her products were sustainable. She wanted to create something fashionable and unique with recyclable products that catered to all women. She studied the history of recycled fashion, and the impacts on the environment, heritage, and beauty. “Everything is handmade which is great for the environment, it saves time, money and energy”. To create sustainable garments Lida explains the use of handmade patches which are used on the sleeves, chest area and pants. These patches are centuries old, but the quality can be mistaken for new fabric. The use of these embroidered patches combined with other colourful fabrics to create traditional dresses, pants, tops, or jackets is commendable. It is an ongoing process with this skill being passed down through generations. It is impressive how previous generations who passed on this skill used their knowledge without the help of any traditional classes. The exact calculations were done solely based on trial and error which showcases obvious talent. “Whenever I see traditional Afghan clothing it reminds me of my mum, grandmother, great grandmother, the rich history behind clothing passed down generations”. The history behind the vintage embroidered patch presents a country once established now affected by war.

Educating Customers  

Lida ensures she educates her customers about the history and process of creating her garments and embroidery. She lets her customers know that the embroidery is recycled to create new garments. These embroidery patches are in nomadic shops which her business partner purchases then dry cleans and gets them pressed. Once Lida receives these embroidery patches, she doesn’t wash them but once again presses them to be used on new garments. It is also important to recognise there are 32 provinces in Afghanistan and each of them has its unique styles and embroideries. Each of the patches has different symbols that showcase the area they are made in. Many of the symbols and colours used in garments are associated with happier moments such as weddings or engagement parties. The colour green is typically seen on a bride for a traditional marriage symbolising rebirth, nature, and beauty while hoping for a fruitful life and happy marriage. Apart from the colour green, a lot of garments in Afghanistan have a range of vibrant colours that can be worn for any occasion. These colours can often be seen worn on Eid, New Year’s, or other more modern events. Letting her customers know the history behind her products allows for a more intimate insight into her brand.

Future collaborations   

Lida sees herself working with other brands to continue expanding her message of sustainability and empowering women. “I believe one brand can have an immense impact on another brand”. Ghan Fashion has more vintage designs with a modern touch, and she believes reaching out to similar brands could help spread a more positive message. Lida has seen how far Afghan fashion can go with celebrities such as Adele wearing designs from Afghanistan. She wants everyone to feel welcome to wear her garments no matter their background.

Issues Afghan women are facing that need to be changed and talked about 

The growing unrest in Lida’s home country Afghanistan where the terrorist group known as Taliban has taken control and suppressed basic human rights. The things we take for granted as citizens have been viewed as a problem in Afghanistan. “The first thing they tried to stop was the freedom of speech through fashion, beauty, and education. These factors are important to us as human beings and they have been taken away from Afghan women and Afghanistan”. Lida mentions her heritage, culture, and fashion as important aspects of her identity and without them, she would lose her sense of belonging. Apart from fashion and being able to express themselves through textiles, freedom is the most important aspect. “Freedom of education, speech, singing, theatre, being able to express yourself without fear is crucial”. Most recently the Taliban shut down all beauty-related shops which has impacted the livelihoods of many citizens. On top of that, there aren’t any schemes or government assistance for those who have been impacted by the Taliban’s decision to shut down businesses. “We need to stand with Afghan women because if we don’t and we leave one young girl uneducated, generations will be affected”. There have been cases where younger generations who have lost the opportunity to be educated turn to war and in turn become brainwashed. Mental health issues are common among Afghan women who often commit suicide due to being deprived of their identity and unable to work.

Ghan Fashion can provide you with the perfect outfit for any occasion leaving you feeling beautiful and radiant. You would also be helping women who remain in Afghanistan get an income to survive with 10% of sales going directly to them.

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