In 2006, I designed a collection of dresses and tops inspired by the tribal embroideries of Afghanistan. Ten years later, the designs still look fresh and wearable. This black and white patchwork embroidery dress is one of my favorite dresses I designed. It’s one of a kind and when I wore it to an event at the National Gallery yesterday, I was stopped by at least three women who asked me where they could buy it. When I was designing clothes then, it was before the era of Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook (I feel like a dinosaur). It was harder to find a market for such specialized looks to make the collections financially sustainable. If I had designed this collection today, it definitely would have a wider reach because of social media. Even though I am working in the beauty industry now, I always consider myself a designer and plan on designing one of a kind pieces in parallel to my work (I’ve got some ideas- stay tuned)!
December 30th, 2015 – We went to NYC for a few days and just got back last night. The weather wasn’t that cold but it was gloomy and rainy which can be expected this time of the year. I love going to NYC every few months – it gives me a boost of energy and inspiration my soul needs!
This is a day in my life from wearing PJ’s in the morning while taking care of three kids to training hair stylists at my salon FLOW Blow Dry & Beauty Bar! It’s a behind-the-scenes look at running a salon – it isn’t always glam!
November 30th – 2015 – Here’s my first official VLOG (video blog) of many more to come! I filmed this one quickly today while the boys were taking a nap. Hope it’s not boring! Don’t know why it cut out the way it did at the end, though- sorry!! To get more “Beauty and the East”, subscribe to my YouTube channel: samiraatash and follow me on IG/FB: @samiraatash
I’d like to explore the positive influences the East has contributed to the West and remember a time when the two borrowed from and exchanged ideas with each other. An area that fascinates me is the historical influence of Eastern fashion on the West. Did you know that the West adopted the idea of buttons from the East? In the early Medieval period, European clothing was normally secured with brooches, pins, or laces (also known as points). Buttons were part of the Middle Eastern and Central Asian tradition of coats from an early date.
The Moors wore long gown with buttons, but buttons were not adopted by the Spaniards until later. Buttons can also be seen in a Moorish ceiling painting in the Alhambra (c. 1354). By 1292, button making is one of the trades listed in a document from Paris, so by this date, buttons were beginning to come in to use in France at least.
The sixteenth century was a period in which in both war and commerce the Ottomans were a crucial issue for the European powers. Henry VIII is known to have been taken with Turkish dress. He appeared dressed as a Turkish Sultan as part of a masquerade at an English court. Toward the end of his reign in 1542, Henry VIII posed for a portrait that is a striking comparison (apart from headgear) to that of his contemporary, Süleyman the Magnificent, but because of the pose even more dramatically resembles that of a later sixteenth-century sultan, Mehmed III.
On sixteenth century European coats, rows of horizontal bands form distinctive closures not previously seen in European fashion. Comparable examples can be seen on kaftans from the late 15th century in the Topkapi collections. The Turkish examples use an applied flat silk braid joining the fronts with a button and loop; Henry’s more ostentatious Mannerist version is created in bejeweled gold, but braid equivalents were also being used. This type of closure first appears in European dress in the first half of the sixteenth century, and would become a staple of European fashion, particularly associated with military or ceremonial dress.
However, it does not only appear as a closure on men’s coats. A portrait of Elizabeth I c. 1575 has a bodice closed with bands of decorative braid. When trade negotiations were concluded in 1581 between the Ottoman Empire and the English, the exchange of royal gifts included an entire ensemble of Turkish clothing sent by Sultan Murad to Elizabeth.
If you know vintage fashion, then you’ve definitely seen the Afghan coat, one of the biggest fashion trends of the late 60’s and 70’s. Made out of sheep or goat skin on the outside and soft fleece on the inside, the coats were embroidered with fine silk thread in different floral or geometric patterns. It made its first appearance in the West onto the London fashion scene in 1966, just as fashion was becoming more influenced by Eastern looks. Craigs Sams was an English entrepreneur who imported the coats from the Ghazni province and sold them to London boutiques including Granny Takes A Road Trip. One day, a band named The Beatles visited the shop and emerged wearing Afghan coats. Once they were photographed in them, it set off a worldwide trend that continued through the 70’s (even today, you can see variations of this boho-chic coat on the runway and the streets). The coats were so popular that rockers David Bowie and Eric Buron wore them on their wedding day.
John Lennon wearing an Afghan coat (now in the Julian Lennon collection)
October 28th, 2015 – I’ve always been inspired by the mod and boho fashions of the 60’s. Maybe it has to do with growing up and seeing photos of my parents in the late 60’s/early 70’s wearing groovy clothes from a lost time in Afghanistan – a “golden era” when there was peace, stability and style – when Kabul was known as the “Paris of Central Asia”. In the photos, there my mom was in her handmade or custom tailored dresses she designed, standing next to my dad who was young and excited about the future. Or maybe it has something to do with growing up in America and being drawn to reruns from popular shows from the 60’s (“The Monkees” was my fave!) and being fascinated by style and beauty trends – the voluminous hair, the Jackie O dresses, the winged liner, the mod cuts and the graphic bold prints and colors. Perhaps I’m reminded of when both Afghanistan and America were at peace with each other – a seemingly fun and glamorous chapter for my parents and for so many Afghans. Maybe part of me wants to freeze that time before war and destruction changed everything. Whatever the reason is, to this day, the late 60’s have subconsciously been my inspiration in so much of my work – from my fashion collections to the branding of FLOW Blow Dry & Beauty Bar. Call me old fashioned – or an old soul – I love that era and the love vintage clothes from the 60’s/70’s.
In the 60’s and early 70’s, Afghanistan was an exotic destination for both the world’s fashion elite and young hippies looking for adventure. Kabul was vibrant and had cute little boutiques and bazaars selling beautiful textiles, jewelry, fabrics and fashions.
Road trip in Afghanistan in the 60’s – it’s unfortunate that we can’t do that these days
When Vogue magazine landed in Kabul in 1969, the result was an editorial called “Afghan Adventure” which appeared in the December issue of that year. The spread was gorgeous of models standing against ancient Afghan ruins and the beautiful rural landscape. I would love to get my hands on an original copy of this issue!!
Vogue’s December 1969 cover (left) and patterns at a Kabul dressmaking school in the 60’s.