There’s a reason why Zolaykha Sherzad’s story is at the front and center of Business DNA’s first fashion special: she understands the potential of Afghanistan’s fashion industry and is bringing it to the world stage. As our cover story states, the Afghan fashion industry is “Back in Vogue”, having recently been spotlighted in the world’s most prominent fashion magazine – Vogue – thanks to Zolaykha’s entrepreneurship; and it doesn’t stop there.
Business DNA’s highly-anticipated launch events are popular for their vibe, optimism, and sense of pride in Afghanistan’s economy. Business DNA’s Fashion Fair – a grand event at Kabul Serena Hotel on December 15th, 2019 – was attended by the country’s 300+ top designers and their boutiques, progressive government leaders, aspiring CEOs, enthusiastic entrepreneurs, keen donor organizations and rising fashion influencers. Media coverage was extensive throughout the event – including reporting by ToloNews, Voice of America, Radio Liberty (Radio Azadi), 8am, Zawia Media, and countless others. The guests were at the center of the publicity where they each had their moment of becoming a cover symbol at the entrance of Hotel Serena’s grand ballroom to truly bring the fashion vibe to reality.
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Our story is beyond war and the current conflict. We are about the [Afghan] people, the culture and history, the textiles, the arts, and the craftsmanship.Zolaykha Sherzad, Founder of Zarif Design
With over 7 billion dollars in annual imports, Afghanistan can greatly benefit from a “buy local” mentality where domestic producers can grow. Kicking off the Fashion Fair, Business DNA’s Editor-in-Chief, Murtaza Edries, posed a question to the guests of the event, asking how many of them wore clothing made by Afghan designers. In response, over half of the ballroom proudly raised their hands. The response signifies the potential of Afghanistan’s fashion industry – and the boundless opportunity to expand outward across the world. With Zarif Design, Hasina Design, Laman and Hassina Ghani Designs being showcased at the Italy Luxury Show earlier this year, the buzz is inescapable.
The creation process of Business DNA’s fashion edition was truly a work of art, in every literal sense of the word. With talented photographers, such as Farzana Wahidy, Fatimah Hossaini and Edris Salehi bringing the unique richness of Afghan fashion to life, the handmade techniques and local elements of the fashion brands are infectious through the imagery and the stories of the inspiring individuals in the growing fashion industry. Each designer has expressed their own interpretation of their heritage, complemented with a distinct vision about the Afghan culture and the molding process of creating fascinating art through fashion. In providing our readers with the best up and coming content – these factors came into place to bring our highly anticipated fashion edition to Afghanistan.
A panel discussion on the Afghan fashion industry included leading figures in the sector such as industry expert, Tania Aria, Founder of Veezha, a newly-launched jewelry brand focusing on authentic luxury handmade pieces; Shakib Noori, CEO of M-Paisa, who has over 10 years of experience in the industry; and Rangina Hamidi, CEO of Kandahar Treasure, who is also the co-author of “Embroidering within Boundaries: Afghan Women Creating a Future”. Rangina has been a trailblazer in honing and promoting the skills of Afghan women from the south of the country, especially Kandahar – and impressed the responsibility of the fashion industry to support talented women in the sector. The potential of the fashion industry was at the foundation of each panelists’ comments, with a specific focus on the need to find a “niche market” that works to Afghanistan’s strengths, being realistic of the current capacity of the Afghan market, yet optimistic and driven to continue to break into the world stage and support the growth of the industry from all angles. The panel concluded with a Q&A, in the presence of a group of rising models, and the collective applause of the guests to appreciate the art, hard work, and talents of the country’s embroiders, tailors, fashion designers, jewelry makers, and the wider industry stakeholders.
To highlight the sentiments of the panelists and recognize the visions of select fashion designers, the Goldozi video – played following the panel discussion – perfectly captured the hopes and aspirations of the designers while showcasing their drive for helping the fashion industry grow.
Business DNA is all about its audience, thus the surprise launch of its fashion special cover. Puzzle pieces were hidden underneath the seats of the guests, each of whom looked to find parts of the cover and get to appear on stage to bring the cover to life; one piece at a time. The lucky participants included Ms. Maryam Sama, current parliament member; Zohra Yousuf, Media and Public Relations Advisor to the First Lady of Afghanistan; former mayor of Kabul, Abdullah Habibzai; Sameer Rasa, Spokesperson to the Minister of Commerce of Industries; and Ms. Susan Slombak, Senior Technical Advisor of the Goldozi project, to name a few.
For the final surprise of the night, banners were brought in to showcase gorgeous statement pieces of Afghan jewelry. The name of the brand? Veezha Jewelry, launched by founder Tania Aria, who also presented a launch video introducing the intricate and all-consuming process of creating a top-tier jewelry brand ready to take on the global market.
The enthusiastic guests visited Veezha’s jewelry collections in person, alongside countless other boutiques, who had their creations lined around Hotel Serena’s grand ballroom as part of the Fashion Fair’s exhibition. Visitors of the boutique booths included Kamala Sidiqi, former Minister of Commerce and Industries; Nargis Nehan, Minister of Mines and Petroleum; Nahid Sarabi, Deputy Minister of Policy at the Ministry of Finance; and parliament member Naheed Farid. Representatives of countless businesses paid visits to the fashion exhibition, purchased products, and placed orders for the new year in 2020.
Business DNA’s launch events are one of Afghanistan’s popular business networking opportunities where the who’s who of the business world mingle. For many guests of the Fashion Fair, the event was a priceless opportunity to network, experience Afghan products in person and surround themselves with inspiring people leading the growing fashion industry.
The event was concluded with an invitation to the Fashion Exhibition – Day Two, located in Nastaran Hall of Kabul Serena. Open to the public, the event allowed for visitors to see items in person, engage with designers and their boutiques and purchase beautiful pieces. One visitor of the exhibition shared their testimonial with us on Facebook, stating: “It makes me proud to see an event like this, where we can purchase our own clothing made in our own country. I am happy I got this opportunity.”
For our readers who are in Afghanistan and wish to own this special edition, copies can be purchased at all major distribution centers across Kabul. For our readers abroad, our interactive E-Magazine is available for subscription here. For this fashion edition, we are providing you all free access here. Our hope is that you will view products of the featured fashion companies, place an order, or just give them your feedback. Wholesale orders of the print edition can be requested through email. If you’d like to see videos, photos and special moments from the event, check out our social media handles on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Feel free to get a membership for your organization, advertise your company, sponsor in event, or say hi if you like our work.