By Marco Niefer and Sharina Shahrin
Our definition of what a fashion image is extends across the spheres of society and culture. Heavily impacted by our expatriate lifestyle and multi-cultural backgrounds we wanted to explore the fashion image in a different cultural perspective, not purely westernized. A successful fashion image not only has the obvious elements of fashion, but is also rooted with a message of deeper complexity, specifically through a narrative. Aesthetically our work lends itself to an abstract conceptual understanding that is heavily supported through artistic references. Due to our respective background in fine art, we created a series of fashion images that represented our beliefs that fashion imagery fulfills more than just a means of print. It could and should also be a viable asset in any gallery or museum.
The narrative is about a teenage Muslim girl with Middle Eastern heritage residing in a Western environment, London. She undergoes a come-of-age conflict of identity between herself and the two ‘foreign’ societies she is apart of. Her rebellion is reflected in her assimilation of her Middle Eastern tradition and the punk culture or her environment. We embraced this merging of ideals through the styling and post-processing of the shoot.
The first image of our series was the starting point in unfolding this narrative. The image is introduced with a scripture from the Holy Quran, the central religious text of Islam, and translates to “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” This excerpt was chosen as it is the first phrase recited before a prayer and emphasized her attachment to her heritage and religion. It is a photograph of a deconstructed woman wearing a hijab over an ethnic headpiece. This styling was chosen to represent the transition into womanhood, as the headpiece represents youth and innocence in Middle Eastern culture. The Alexander McQueen hijab, with its skull design, illustrates the progression into modernity thus constructing the idea of cultural struggle. The progression of the narrative is continued through the model’s gaze towards the second image.
The viewer’s attention is caught by the model’s visage in the following composition. The narrative continues in a market environment where the model is reaching for apples- the fruit commonly used to symbolize temptation as seen in the story of Adam and Eve in the Holy Bible, the religious document of Christianity. As well as being a reference to punk subculture, the overlying of the safety pins highlight the push-and-pull effect of tradition against contemporary values. The safety pins are also used on her garment to metaphorically represent her need of support for her metamorphic journey.
The third image of the series was photographed on location at a falafel vendor to signify her conscious return to her Middle-Eastern roots. This return is also represented through a cubist approach that illustrated her internal confusion as she attempts to piece it together. The Arabic writing is subtly contrasted with the Great British pound sign. Although a visual contradiction, conceptually is shows the merging of her identities that evolves fully in next and final image in the series.
As a final composition, the character resolves the internal confliction of cultural identities. She wears a Middle Eastern headpiece that balances the punk-inspired Mohawk and this symbolically shows the assimilation of her beliefs and identity. The overlaying of the medallions found on the headpiece are placed to frame the model. The medallions feature Queen Elizabeth II and displays the cultural emergence seen throughout history that she finally comes to fully realize. This realization is reflected through the saturation of white that portrays her cleansed mind and soul that is finally at peace with herself.