Sometimes you get sent collections where the motives behind the work are so emotive and personal, you don't even know where to begin.
One such collection is that of Middlesex University graduate Sophia Aiudi, who studied for BA in Fashion Design. Her collection is entitled "Prostitution Behind the Vail".
Sophia is half Iranian and wanted to build a collection which explored the relationship between powerful Iranian women and the veil. The veil, or niqab, is clearly a matter of great controversy and was really brought to the fore recently in Europe with France banning it. I can't go into much detail about the subject because I am not Muslim and will never have to experience the decision making process of to veil or not to veil. However, I am interested in this subject and how Muslim women feel. I thought it was a choice women made, in the West, rather than a part of Islam requirements. An article written by Misbah Nomani for Arab News explains, in relation to the uncovering of women's faces for security reason post 7&9/11:
"Veil is considered controversial even in the Muslim community as there are two opinions among the Muslim scholars regarding the covering of face. However, niqab and other such customs, that represent tribal and cultural values, are gaining popularity among the new generation in the wake of rising extremism in the Muslim states.
Those, who advocate female submissiveness and seek to restrict women’s freedom, rave and rant about veil as if it’s one of the basic tenets of Islam. But liberal societies cannot be manipulated in this way especially when covering of face could be a cause of a security threat. It is undeniable that a person’s identity cannot be verified with a covered face. Also, when women willingly uncover their faces for passports and other official documents, why is there reluctance to reveal it publicly if it is warranted for safety reasons? This will also help Muslims integrate well into their host countries."
As I said, it's a topic I simply can't discuss at great length because it's not something I could ever relate to. But when I read Sophia's explanation of her research, my belief that it was a simple choice, down to the woman herself, was suddenly questioned. It did not occur to me the husbands may be forcing women to wear the veils. I admit, I found the subject itself quite heavy and it did make me think more about it.
"This project was very important to me and I am half Iranian myself, and through out the research I became very emotionally attached to these issues. This is an A/W 2011 collection called 'Prostitution Behind the Vail', my muse was strong empowered Iranian women, linking with my research which was based on men wanting to hide their women's sexuality but behind the scenes exploits her for her sexuality. I used this concept as the bases of my design ideas. I wanted the women to be covered in dark fabric, but in contrast the fabric is of a sexual manner in which I used plasticised lace that was slightly see-through for one of the dresses.
Furthermore, I wanted my collection to rebel against the exploration and contradiction of the men in my research. Therefore I decided to use the essence of the female’s sexuality, her genitals, as the inspiration of my draping, shapes and details within the garments."
Suffice it to say the work, and even her moodboards, are powerful when taken in context. She has not shied away from controversy and I applaud her whole heartedly for that. Yet she has treated her collection subtly and with consideration. It could easily have been very aggressive and confrontational, yet it's not.
Sophia went to say, "A big achievement for myself was completing an internship for Alexander McQueen. I worked full time for 3 months on the women’s wear pre-collection and Autumn/ Winter 2011 collection. It was an invaluable experience and I was fortunate to have worked on Lee’s final collection. I experience how a large organization operates and I worked along side the designers and pattern cutters. I was involved in doing research, experimentations on fabrics for details and trimming of the garments and helping the pattern cutters and seamstresses with the making of toiles and final garments.
Whilst at McQueen a trimming I design went into mass production on 5 different shirts, I had to manage a team and make 20 meters of the trimming for the shirts that would be in the Autumn/ Winter 2011 show room." Quite an achievement already.
Sophia plans to start her own label, and is moving to New York for an internship and dreams of completing her studies at St Martins.
And I don't doubt for a second she will succeed.