The system is wrong: Usman Yousafzada

Osman Yousefzada said The System Is Wrong

Although he is a designer, Usman Yusufzada does not like the word fashion. “I tell her to get dressed,” he explained during a call from his home in north London.

For Yousufzada, who wore Beyoncé and sold to Barnes, the word fashion has become synonymous with who’s cool and what’s next. These days, he’s more interested in looking beneath the industry’s shiny surface and finding the hidden stories of its lesser-known workers, such as South Asian garment workers.

“What fashion does is really rob people of their artistic autonomy,” he said. “If you look at the podium, a lot of embroideries are made in South Asia – India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. They do not need to be identified. But if it’s in a lab coat in an atelier in Paris. , [They] are at the forefront and part of the loud conversation.”

In recent years, Yusufzada has turned to art, focusing more on concepts of migration and identity. He is acutely aware of how non-Western cultures can be excluded from the fashion narrative. And so when he wrote his first book, The Go-Between, out Jan. 27, he turned to himself to highlight his South Asian heritage.

Yousafzai’s upbringing is an anomaly in an industry where privilege and the right connections often help launch a career.

He was born to Afghan-Pakistani immigrants and grew up in a very conservative, working-class Muslim family in inner-city Birmingham. Her new book offers a glimpse into the hidden world hidden in the city’s red-light district she experienced as a child in the 80s and 90s: a deeply religious community where cultural traditions prevail and self-expression is largely forbidden.

“This book allows me to say who I am and where I come from. There’s basically no excuse, it’s really fair,” Yusufzada said. “It’s not about fashion. It has nothing to do with fashion. The book is really about shedding light on a hidden community.

Through a series of vignette-style stories, young Usman recalls how his sisters were expelled from school as teenagers. How an illiterate community as a whole relied on a single scribe to read letters. How one-dimensional their ideas of masculinity are.

“This is a kid who will take it all in, big-eyed,” he said. “There’s a bit of domestic violence, somebody buys me jelly – kids just doing it, trying to mess around. In a way, it’s a video camera to grow up and find your safe haven.”

Yousafzai learned to sew clothes by watching his stepmother work. In his late teens, he moved to London to study at SOAS, Central St. Martin’s and Cambridge before starting a career in the fashion industry.

In 2007, he founded his own record label, Usman. And in the decades that followed, celebrities like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift wore her designs, and high-end retailers like Browns, Galleries Lafayette, and Barnes stocked her. Clothing.

“Code-switching”, as they call it, has become second nature to designers everywhere – from their working-class religious home in Birmingham to the glamour of London’s fashion industry – which has left them feeling the pressure. Yes, he struggled with his identity. Sometimes they suppress their South Asian heritage to fit in. In the beginning, when they first entered the fashion system, the “second pin” was considered an obstacle to commercial success.

“I had to agree. I was told, ‘Forget your nationality, you are a very good tailor, Usman, just pay attention to your tailoring,'” Yusufzada said.

I was told, “Forget your racial aspect; You are a great tailor, Usman, just pay attention to your tailoring.

It was difficult to create a new fashion label. After ten years in the business, Yusufzada sought to take his label to the next level by selling a controlling stake and attracting foreign investment to help grow his business. But his partner, Luxite, a consortium of private equity investors, was not a good fit, he said. Meanwhile, the wholesale trade, Yusufzada’s main sales channel, was rapidly declining, putting pressure on a whole generation of London designers.

“The wholesale cycle is not very forgiving, the system is broken one way or another,” he said. “There were very few designers I started with – not many [now].”

In 2019, she distanced herself from her investor and reduced her business to small collections only twice a year. (He still works with several retailers, including Self ridges and Harvey Nichols, and last year partnered with Tencel to create a biodegradable luxury collection.)

This gives him more time to focus on his art. In 2018, he held his first solo exhibition at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, which sponsored the exhibition alongside Selfridges and Eco-Edge, exploring themes between cultural migration and immigration, as well as sustainability and fast fashion. What

“The show that we did was a mixture of two political points that he wanted to make, as well as very personal observations, especially about his family. And in that respect, it goes very well with the book.” This was stated by the director of Icon Gallery, Jonathan Watkins. “There are big issues that have been obscured by very personal experiences, and that makes it even more exciting. It makes you feel like it’s not some abstract theory.

From Usman Yousafzada’s Har Khwaab Bade Thee Source: Courtesy of Steel Usman Yousafzada’s Every Dream Was Big. (Fortunately)

The following year, Yousafzada traveled to Bangladesh to film a film about garment workers called Her Bigger Dreams, which will be exhibited at the White Chapel Gallery in London in spring 2020. It’s been a year since COVID-19 and the Black Lives Meter movement began. Accounting for industry records on race, workers’ rights and the environment.

Last year he also exhibited his art at the Lahore Binale in Pakistan, Mendeswood in Brussels and the Dhaka Art Summit in Dhaka, and is preparing for his next exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Sydney.

For Yousufzada, fashion needs to change, starting with a more productive and planned outdated business model. “Everything should have a sense of meaning. It shouldn’t have a sense of seasonality, it should be about that: the real meaning of these clothes is something, they have power,” he said. “It’s not a question of bowing down [to the industry]. It’s a worthy thing, and that’s where it should end. It doesn’t take that much production.”

Their advice to switchers? “At the end of the day, the power lies in your own faith and your own story,” he said. There is also strength in numbers. “The person with you does not necessarily have to be your opponent. If you open the door, your practice will become stronger, your collaboration will become stronger. And I think that’s what matters.”

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