Iraq fashion house fights war fears by embroidering heritage
War may be looming over Iraq, but hardships seem only to be hardening the determination of one woman seeking to preserve her country’s rich heritage, stitched and embroidered on luxurious costumes.
Feryal al-Kilidar, an elegantly-dressed woman, smiles with pride as she runs her finely-manicured fingernails over sumptuous fabrics in her vast office at the Dar al-Azia, or fashion house.
The house, a gigantic Baghdad landmark built with small Iraqi-style “tabuq” bricks, is the production place and home of handmade costumes inspired by the nations that rose and fell on the land of Iraq over the past 5,000 years.
The costumes reveal ancient original designs, cuts and embroideries emanating from the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Hatra Arabic civilizations, as well as the Islamic era.
It takes more than eight months of excruciating physical effort for a single garment to be made in a busy beehive of dressmakers bending over large tables, drawing, cutting and sewing with hardened fingers.
The collections of dazzling garments are not for sale, but are made only to pay respect to and show off Iraq’s rich heritage through exhibitions at home and around the world.
“Iraq is the cradle of civilizations. There is no other country in the world that witnessed five different great civilizations, and we are trying to portray this gift through fashion,” said Kilidar.
“Threatening us with wars and sanctions is only a provocation that makes us even more determined to continue our mission to protect our rich cultural heritage,” said the fair-haired woman. “We have a feeling that our country is being attacked to its core. They are trying to besiege us, even through our culture and civilization,” she said, adding that it made the Iraqi people “even more resilient.
The garments present a whirlwind of fabrics, mixing the most expensive imported silk and organza with local textiles made under the embargo, some even from palm trees.
Kilidar, originally an outsider to the world of fashion with a university degree in political and economic sciences, reads history books and goes to the museums to find concepts which are later drawn up by a team of designers.
Animal skin garments and cuneiform characters portray the life of the early Sumerian era, Akkadian clothes prove that living European designers did not really invent the mini-skirt, Babylonian-style tunics give evidence of the origins of pleats and the different Assyrian embroideries reveal that social status matters when it comes to style.
The clothes also tell the stories of valiant Arab battles dating back to the 13th century with embroidered gems, offer words of wisdom in Islamic calligraphy and reproduce the designs of the domes of some of the region’s most beautiful mosques. —AFP