By Nisha Momin’21 and Sofia Yepes’21
This past spring, during another mundane day in quarantine, we were left longing for the days of study abroad in Cape Town and Madrid–full of great food, great art, and great fashion. Nostalgic for these experiences, we hopped on a call, and together, we started a podcast that would allow us to discover all the world’s creativity without stepping foot outside. We called this podcast My Brother’s Friend, which represents how random mutual relationships are the primary way people discover new brands, music, restaurants, and artists.
The original aim of My Brother’s Friend was to show how culture infiltrates fashion, and how different brands reflect their community. Our first guest, Loyiso Ndlondo from Cape Town, explained that their resourceful youth rely on thrifting and re-purposing to express themselves. Our second guest, Rafhael Castro from Brazil, talked about how his brand ZYPER combines colors of the 90s tech boom with the playfulness of Brazilian beaches. Our third guest, Mariia Melnykk from Ukraine, gave us insight into the emerging post-Soviet Union fashion industry.
As our network continued to grow, our conversations evolved. We became more comfortable speaking about the intersectionality of politics and art, and how fashion can be a tool for social justice. Meera Albaba, a Palestinian fashion designer, uses her work as a designer and entrepreneur to reclaim the artistic liberty of Palestinians living under siege in Gaza. Anwar Bougroug, owner of the fashion label, Bougroug, is paving the way for Moroccan youth to transcend traditional gender norms.
Not only do Anwar and Meera use their work to depict progressive images and styles artistically, but their impact is crucial to their communities as well. For example, Anwar designs his clothing to be genderless, drawing attention to the taboo concept of gender in the MENA region. His brand further evokes change in the community by relying on the work of Moroccan artisans, restoring quality craftsmanship to an industry that notoriously capitalizes on cheap labor and environmental destruction. In our interview, Anwar explains how these artisans are an integral part of the design process. He says, “I’ve learned that the artisans are also designers. They are creative people, and you can’t just see them as manufacturers. They help me improve the product by working with the fabrics and details.” To produce ethically or unethically is out of the question for Anwar. He makes an active choice to preserve the environment, pay fair wages, and produce art in a sustainable way. Bougroug is just one example of how an artist can use their craft to evoke cultural and economic change.
For Meera, fashion is more than the clothes we wear on our backs. Fashion is a form of art, and art is a fundamental right that Palestinians have had to forgo while living under siege. They are living with limited resources and mobility and experience bouts of extreme violence daily. Meera explained that art is the last thing that anyone can think about when living under these conditions. The Palestinian youth are being deprived of concerts, museums, and other forms of creative consumption that many of us take for granted. By proving her resilience, dedication, and passion for creating clothing through her brand, MEERA ADNAN, she is reclaiming her artistic narrative and her right to creative expression. With all odds stacked against her and her success as an entrepreneur, the existence of Meera’s company is a form of protest in and of itself. Maintaining her brand has not been easy, as her production facilities are in Jordan, and amidst the pandemic, she’s faced even tighter restrictions. Nevertheless, she has persevered.
We share with you the account of Anwar and Meera so that together we can may look at fashion as a form of art, and as a form of art with a vast reach politically, culturally, and economically. If you are interested in hearing Anwar and Meera’s story firsthand, check out My Brother’s Friend, available on all major streaming platforms.
Meera’s Brand: https://meeraadnan.com/
Anwar’s Brand: https://www.bougroug.com/
My Brother’s Friend: https://anchor.fm/mybrothersfriend
Our instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mybrothersfriend/