By Sass Brown, NYC Editor
Zarif Designs, based in Kabul Afghanistan, employ and train 52 local Afghan men and women to practice handcrafted work and the art of slow production. All fabrics for the collection are sourced from Afghanistan and Central Asia, and feature traditional hand woven textiles and intricate hand embroidery. Zarif aims to preserve the traditional of Afghan handcraft by merging them with a modern aesthetic to produce a fashion collection that is distinctive and timeless.
Zarif jackets and coats combine the elegance of traditional textiles and clothing with contemporary Western style, to offer a collection featuring hand-embroidered mandalas, and distinctive borders. The brightly colored “chapan” materials create practical and magnificently finished jackets in a range of rich, unexpected stripes, and are helping to revive the tradition of Afghan craftsmanship. Zarif are also fostering fair-trade practices, and working with natural dyes. At its core Zarif acts as an ambassador sharing the rich cultural heritage of Afghanistan and its people with the rest of the world, providing a platform where traditional high-quality craftsmanship is a source of economic opportunity and personal fulfillment.
Initially part of the Persian empire, Afghanistan has been subject to Soviet occupation, and civil war for decades. Originally part of the Silk Road, the country has a long and rich history and textile heritage. The Zarif collection aims to preserve this tradition by merging it with a modern aesthetic to create fashion that is distinctive as well as timeless. Jackets and coats are beautifully tailored, reminiscent of moghul styling and featuring richly embroidered mandarin collars, deep flared cuffs and intricate belts and bands. Sleeves and jacket backs sport suzanni style mandalas and Arabic scrolls, with others showcase the beauty and delicacy of calligraphy. A men’s line of jackets are sleek, tailored and militaristic in styling with narrow mandarin collars with metal buttons and bright scarlet piping, facings and lining. Dramatic and sleek, the capsule is the perfect compliment to the more extravagant embroidery on the women’s line.
The Founder, Zolay Sherzad was born in Kabul, becoming a political refugee in Switzerland by age 10. After graduating from the School of Architecture in Lausanne, and working as an architect for companies in Switzerland, Japan and New York, she was wanted to give back to her homeland, leading to Zarif Design’s founding in 2005, with the intent to revive traditional skills such as textile weaving and embroidery. Zolaukha also founded the ‘School of Hope (SoH)’, a not for profit organization sponsoring education in Afghanistan.
Zolaykha has since presented her collections at fashion shows in Paris, London, Milan, New York and New Delhi. In September 2014 Zolaykha was nominated by the World Fashion Week as the Official Haute Couture Representative for Afghanistan. She has collaborated with Agnes B presenting capsule collections at her stores, showing her menswear collection at Agnes B’s men’s collection in Paris this year. She also has collaborated with TSE Cashmere, designed the costumes for two shows, “One Thousand Nights” in Toronto, and “The Comedy of Errors” at the Globe in London, and had her designs featured in the film The Reluctant Fundamentalist starring Kate Hudson . . . All while taking it slow in Kabul.