Glancing down the runway from backstage at Australian Fashion Week, Australian-Afghan designer Mariam Seddiq could hardly believe what she was seeing.
Nazdana Bakhtiari, 24, fled Afghanistan with her mother just eight months ago, escaping a Taliban takeover.
“It was amazing. I was like, ‘how’s that going?'” the western Sydney-born designer said.
“At this time last year, she was there (in Afghanistan). She never thought she would do something like this.
“A woman can’t even walk out the front door right now.”
The pair first met when Ms Seddiq was looking for women skilled in traditional Afghan beadwork, known as mora doozi, to use in her clothing.
A local contact in Fairfield, Sydney’s west, put her in touch with Ms Bakhtiari, her mother Zakia and a friend, who had recently arrived in the country, after leaving Kabul airport for an evacuation flight military.
“I went to their apartment and saw their work and I knew I had to bring beadwork back into my designs, so they would have work, but in an artistic way,” she said.
It was during their collaboration that the idea that Ms. Bakhtiari could come out of the shadows to exhibit her work was born.
“When I dropped them off at home after hand sewing work, (Nazdana) mentioned that she might want to model for me, so she’s been training for three weeks,” Ms Seddiq said.
“It seemed like a dream to go further.”
Ms Seddiq sees her designs, a mix of couture dresses, suits and jewelry as a way to empower women.
“It’s not just because of this Afghanistan thing. A lot of women forget how strong they are and what they are capable of. So it’s really important to bring it out from all walks of life,” said she declared.
Her show at Australian Fashion Week in Sydney featured various models of varying ages, sizes, genders and ethnic backgrounds.
“It felt more like a real show than a really curated show of skinny models,” Ms Seddiq said.
The Bankstown Girls High School alum has achieved stardom, with her designs worn by Orange is New Black actor Diane Guerrero, as well as Australian music stars Iggy Azalea and Delta Goodrem.
Ms Seddiq said Australia had been slow to appreciate the work of its culturally diverse designers.
“I started in Los Angeles and got noticed in the States before I started getting attention at home.
“It’s time for Australia to embrace its brown people. And hopefully that will lead to more female breadwinners, more female bosses because it’s more than fashion.”
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