A Remarkable Modern Touch
A Young Afghan’s Search for Identity
Most stories written about Afghanistan are centered around the nation’s tragedies caused by the decades of war, terrorism, and conflict; and very rarely do we come across tales that reflect upon the country’s historic culture, unique traditions and the Afghans who are still holding on to their native values. This article is one of those unique and inspiring stories which shows us that beyond this cloud of darkness there are sparkles of hope striving to illuminate the true colors of this astonishing land to the world.
Throughout the past few decades, millions of Afghans have been forced to leave their homeland in order to seek refuge abroad due to insecure and life-threatening living conditions in Afghanistan; one of those refugees is a 14 years old boy named Naweed Elias Zazai who was taken to the Netherlands by his family in hopes of a safer and a better life, and this story covers his encouraging journey.
‘Zazai’ is one of the most famous surnames in Afghanistan related to Paktia province—which is where Naweed is from and used to live. Despite the province being one of the most insecure and threatened places in the country, it is also a very naturally gifted area in terms of beauty and natural resources while also maintaining some of the oldest cultural values of Afghanistan in their most authentic forms—especially the resident’s clothing and looks. Naweed who spent all of his childhood in Paktia, was quite astonished by the cultural differences between his birthplace and the west, particularly the way people dressed. It could not have been anymore different than what the people in Paktia wore, and deep down in his heart he missed it; all those vibrant colors, handmade designs that turned even the simplest pieces of cloth into a work of art and the embroidering of small jewels on women’s clothes (Lebaas Afghani) making every girl look like a princess and queen. It was then that Naweed made a promise to himself that he will help keep his homeland’s traditional fashion alive and show its beauty to the world when he grows up.
About 11 years later, Naweed now being 25 years old, is being interviewed on his immense success and exposure within the fashion industry as a unique designer who designs a mix of Afghan and western clothes. Having turned his dreams into reality, he has now conducted fashion shows in Amsterdam, Dubai, London and of course, the fashion capital of the world, Paris. His shows were attended by many people including top fashion influencers and bloggers from around the world who enjoyed Naweed’s work and were able to see and broadcast the fact that underneath the bloodstained veil covering Afghanistan lies passion, culture, history and beauty that could perhaps one day revive and become the new image of this country.
When Business DNA asked Naweed about the motive and inspiration behind his designs, he said: “the idea behind my first collection was to bring together Afghan and European cultures and showcase the beauty of diversity in a fashion show. Through my work, I want to reveal a different side of Afghanistan other than terrorism and conflicts, terrorism may have changed our country into a war zone but that is not who we are; our innocent Afghans inspire me to work harder and showcase our beautiful traditions through my designs.” Furthermore, Naweed was asked how he confronts his fears of taking such a huge challenge and daring to do something new, to which he responded “I have no fear, but it is obvious one will always face challenges towards reaching his goals. We have a proverb in Afghanistan which says ‘when one door closes, another door opens’ so I continue to keep my faith in God and the reason I am pursuing this challenge which is to help my fellow Afghans.”
“Human beings are all the same regardless of their faith and beliefs, and through my diversified designs I try to show that and spread the message of mutual acceptance and respect between Afghans and people from around the globe.”
These were the final words of Naweed during the interview about his wonderful journey as we look forward to seeing more of his designs in his upcoming fashion shows.