Fashion as activism: Amna Elshandaweely

Egyptian designer Amna Elshandaweely creates clothes that break stereotypes, reference history and draw from indigenous cultures. Speaking at the Design Indaba festival 2018 and in an interview with CR, she sheds light on the politics of clothing in Egypt and the role of fashion in revolution.

Amna Elshandaweely in conversation with CR at Design Indaba 2018

Most Egyptians don’t like to think of themselves as ‘African’, states Elshandaweely. She claims that the rich colours, vibrant prints and tribal motifs often associated with the continent as a whole are often rejected in Egypt as vulgar or unaspirational. Egyptian fashion, she says, tends to be shaped by two major forces, a desire to imitate the West and simultaneously hold on to conservative Islamic values.

“I remember, when I was little,” said Elshandaweely said in her speech at Design Indaba, “my mother took me to buy clothes for our feast – which is like Christmas is in the West. Nothing I saw in the stores seemed to excite me. I would look at all the advertising and magazines and no one in there looked like me. So I asked my mum if we could go buy some fabric and take it to the tailor to make clothes that I wanted to wear. I’ve been making my own clothes ever since.”

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