Fashion designer Kazna Asker (Instagram) combines her British upbringing and Yemeni heritage in a streetwear label inspired by the Arab and Muslim world as she incorporates traditional Middle Eastern designs and fabrics into activewear.
When did you discover your love for fashion design?
I was nine years old when my dad bought me and my siblings matching Rocawear outfits for Eid, everyone would come up to us and be like, “That’s Jay Z’s brand.” I guess that’s when I discovered fashion… and Jay Z.
Your work is driven by community and values, why is this important to you?
My aunt is extremely involved in community work and we’d always co-organise charity events to fundraise money for Palestine and Yemen. I’ve always been surrounded by a strong Yemeni community where we all know and help each other. I have a lot of experience in charity work and community work, from working with refugees in the Netherlands, to teaching in Nepal and organising fundraising events in Sheffield. It felt natural for me to be inspired by real people and reference their stories and voices within my work.
What’s the message you are trying to convey through your designs?
The story that I try to convey is always based on sincerity. I design in matching pairs – a complementing look for men and women – to represent the brother and sisterhood of my community. My muse is always inspired by the strength and prayer of Muslim women, so I prioritise Islamic modesty within my designs. I would say my story is sincere to the people I was raised around, which contradicts and challenges any stereotype and negative connotations associated with the Muslim community in the news.
What was the biggest challenge you faced whilst designing your recent collection?
Definitely imposter syndrome, especially at Central Saint Martins. I’m aware fashion is a superficial industry and that people don’t want to think about politics whilst shopping. So I’d always question if fashion was the right platform to convey my message, but my tutors really believed in my message, which I’m super grateful for.
Why did you choose streetwear?
I was born and raised in the UK, and around people wearing tracksuits everyday – whether it was my dad, brother and cousins in Liverpool or my community in Sheffield. So all I would see and wear was Nike and Adidas, and I guess those details and styling inspired the design process.
How is your personality reflected through your work?
I combine my Yemeni heritage with my British upbringing, the same way I wear a Nike tracksuit with a keffiyeh head scarf. I think you can definitely see the family dynamic within my work. I’m super close with my brother and sisters, and I always design in groups or pairs to tell my story. Also, I’m a little feisty, and my work stands up for all my political views.
Who is your biggest style inspiration?
Probably my grandma and my cousins. I love my grandma’s traditional abayas and hijabs and my young cousins in their tracksuits. I like seeing how we adapt our cultures as the next generation. In terms of fashion eras, I’m inspired by everything from the 90s.
You won the Debut Talent Prize from Fashion Trust Arabia, what’s next for you?
I feel super grateful that I could represent Yemen and raise awareness on the current humanitarian crisis. I’m also proud that I could bring everything beautiful about my local community in Sheffield to Doha. My goal is to develop my own brand and continue the journey of merging local cultures, community, charity and activism with fashion.
For more regional fashion stories, check out our fashion pages.
This interview with Kazna Asker appeared in YUNG ISSUE 2 PRINT.