It all started 20 years ago. My mother had just come back from Italy with a suitcase full of designer shoes. I watched her for hours unpack her suitcases and carefully arranging her shoes in her closet, explaining specifically why she had bought so many pairs and how she is planning to match them with different outfits. My eyes sparkled. I fell in love with the different colors, fabrics, textures, and heels and could not wait to be old enough to buy my own pairs of designer shoes. Little did I know that experience of watching my mother unwrapping designer shoes was going to influence not only my passion for fashion forever but the many choices I have made in my life.

For most people, fashion is a trend that is followed blindly. They love a Louis Vuitton bag or Gucci shoes, or a BCBG dress because a celebrity is wearing it, because they watched it on the runway, because magazines say it’s cool to be wearing it or because everyone else is just following the trend. I love fashion of the creativity behind it, the textures of the fabric that was chosen, the color of the thread for the stitching, and the ingenious mix of different colors and patterns to come up with something unique.

My affair with fashion can be described as an everlasting “coup de foudre.” It is therapeutic, it makes me feel better about myself and it allows me to express myself through clothing and accessories. This interpretation was met by many of my closest friends and family members with skepticism. They often believed that any excuse was good enough for me to go shopping but is not only about the shopping.

I am an international relations and diplomacy major, a domain that is quite far from fashion design. I initially picked the major because I naively believed I could save the world. While many of my classmates shared the same hopes and dreams, I was one of the few who wanted to do so wearing Christian Louboutin, Chanel, Gucci and Prada. Yes, I admit I do sound shallow but fashion did push me to my specialization in IR.

Dressed in a perfect outfit for my first day in college: Burberry cashmere coat, leather Prada shoes and a matching Gucci bag, I was a lost 18 year old little girl that knew nothing of that was going in the world but that sure could dress and color coordinate her outfits. Two years into college and still quite undecided about my major, I started thinking of how clothing could be so liberating, how it helped women express themselves differently and how it reflected different personalities. Then, I began to think of the way women used to dress before and how women’s clothing was revolutionized and what meant for women and women’s rights.

I must admit that one of my biggest inspirations was my grandmother whose dress code was completely different than mine. I therefore decided that for my masters, I would focus on women’s rights. I picked Morocco as my case study because I am from Morocco and it is a country that is very near and dear to my heart. Although fashion was not incorporated in my MA thesis, many of the research I made got me thinking more and more about the correlation between fashion and women’s rights and women’s freedom of expression.

Therefore, my designs are a humble attempt to combine two of my passions: women’s rights and fashion, how women’s rights affect fashion and how fashion can be a major force in attaining women’s rights. In a way, designing is my attempt to liberate myself through fashion. In the words of Coco Chanel “fashion is not something that exists in dressed only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” It is a concoction of our experiences, our feelings, our personality, our culture, and our creativity, and how far we are willing to push our imagination and our limits, how bold we can be in expressing our inner selves through clothing. That is my true definition of fashion ant what my designs mean to me.

 

Kenza Idrissi

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