When we dream of enchanted tales of the Arabian Nights, bewitched by James Bond’s Octopussy, or Indiana Jones’ Temple of Doom, we’re whisked away to a fantasy world beyond our time. It’s a world of ethereal transcendence, magic spells of the Genie and the lamp, and camel rides to the Arabian cave of wonders. The Silk Road holds tales as old as time, historic legends reflecting the Orient.
Today, many of us associate war and global religious conflicts when it comes to the matter of the Middle East. We disregard the friendship and unity nations developed with the Arabian Peninsula long ago. This was a time when traveling to distant lands for geographical exploration defined our preconceptions of the indigenous, admiring diverse beliefs and native traditions, the soul of the explorer.
Many refugees of the golden age, who have seen Kabul in all its grandeur are heartbroken with what’s left of the city: death and destruction. Kabul’s social refinement and posh fashion shows no longer exist.
Kabul, Afghanistan during the 1950’s and 60’s was a province of political stability and social advancement all through the East. Mohammad Qayoumi, California State University president, raised in Afghanistan during the 50’s, voiced the country’s “period of calm and prosperity, even optimism. Western, before the Soviet invasion.”
Now radical Islam has imposed its customary control unto the people of Afghanistan, erasing its free-spirit and liberating past of miniskirts, beehive hairdos, and groovy fashion. Although Islam was and has always been the respected doctrine of Afghanistan, the rabid adversity was never there. The hope of Afghanistan is their regress back to what they once were, as Qayoumi believes. There is a chance for Afghanistan to gain all it has lost.
The Silk Road has returned to Laman, a Pashto word meaning “skirt.” Born in 2015, Laman Fashion House is restoring Kabul as a fashion hub with Afghan’s youth creating suits and dresses with modern textiles, cuts and most importantly, traditional Afghani heritage and embroidery, which differs from region to region. It’s a fashion venture to a world of rich heritage in embroidery, color, and design. Laman isn’t ready to produce ordinary designs either, but Rahiba Rahimi, co-founder of Laman, said she wanted designs with a higher level of sophistication and needlework.
Rahimi works with the modern culture of women’s customs of working from home, offering a steady income while maintaining customary family discipline. Laman’s designs are meant for upper-class Afghan men and women, tailored attire for business or wedding purposes. The designs, often created by seamstresses from home, can cost up to $200 for a single hand-embroidered dress. Rahimi said she wanted to branch out the scope for young, creative minds in Kabul, where opportunity is a possibility for designers and art students.
BBC covered Laman’s first fashion show, where the brand and its seamstresses received death threats from models not wearing headscarves, a dejection to Rahimi and freedom of self-expression. Laman stands strong, contributing traditional clothing and accessories, rich in heritage for the exclusive taste of the well-read aristocrats of Kabul.
To see Kabul before the Taliban invasion, click here.
Feature Image via Laman Fashion House, Kabul