Finding fashion through cultural restraints: an interview with student, Afifah Ahamd

Afifah has her back to the scorching sun as she lounges in a wicker chair on the terrace of Conde Nast College. She is poised, waiting for my questions with anticipation and an air of easy confidence. Dressed in a pale pink off the shoulder cotton shirt and a pair of white jeans, she oozes a sense of what I can only describe as practiced finesse.


The interview begins. I start off with an open-ended question to lead the subject into a state of relaxation. Style is the topic of conversation and Afifah chats about her own personal, “elegant chic” look. “Conservative” is a word that plays a central role in her description. A “sensual, feminine” feel is the desire of the subject. Afifah then goes on to mention the importance of sex appeal for women, interlacing this observation with countless references to her contradictory wish to have a modest, conservative wardrobe. I have to admit at this point she has lost me.


Pressing on I search for a question to decode Afifah’s mixed messages. By now she has revealed she is from the Indian sub continent and I decide to explore this side of her. I pose my question and sit back, listening as the light emerges at the end of the tunnel.


“I feel there’s two types of trends; one lets culture flow in a little bit, melting fashion in to one thing and then there’s the other type where I feel they don’t identify with it. I’m speaking for myself in this case. My culture is always a little bit of a taboo. What I’m wearing today; I’m showing a little bit of shoulder and bare arms, is considered quite rude.”


Fashion is an interesting venture for women of Afifah’s cultural heritage. Restrictions and beliefs corner off so many styling options. In this modernistic world where anything goes, holding onto principles and practices is important. That is why she reinvents the wheel. She is an innovator in my eyes and I am suddenly craving more of her wisdom as words continue to tumble from her mouth.


“I have to find different outfits and wear them in a different way. For example I don’t wear dresses; bare legs are not an option for me so I always have to think of how I can wear the dress in a way that suits my beliefs. Instead I make it work with trousers or leggings. Really revealing dresses would be combined with a shirt. You develop your own style I guess. That’s how I mix it up.”


The interview is finished. We chat away off the record and she continues to share with me her style, her way.

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