Women in Afghanistan are using some of the country’s oldest traditions in an effort to rebuild its global image.
April 12, 2010 4:59 by Helena Malikyar
“As a social enterprise, Boumi measures success on the idea of a double bottom line; turning a profit as a company while meeting well defined goals for social progress,” Hassina says. “This has been an important development of Boumi as it helps sustain other industries in Afghanistan that once were leaders, but now are struggling from years of war.”
Boumi products became a must-have for Kabul’s expatriate crowd. “The current market consists of international women who come to Kabul to work with embassies, governments, and peacekeeping agencies. That is between 10,000 and 20,000 potential customers,” says Boumi’s founder.
Although numbers show that the factory produced 10,000 units in 2009 alone, Hassina says that Boumi does not currently generate profits.
The latest traditional-meets-modern market operation to enter the scene is Haus of Vixen. It was launched last June by Nilofar Zia Massoud, a niece of the slain hero of the Afghan resistance, Ahmad Shah Massoud.
The 24-year-old graduate from the American University in Dubai describes her garments as having an Afghani touch, and targeting a younger, trendier female clientele.
“I don’t mass produce at the moment because I am still new to the fashion industry. I only make one or sometimes two pieces of an item because I want to keep it very original,” she says.
Her father, Ahmed Zia Massoud, served a six-year term as vice president of Afghanistan from 2004. Her maternal grandfather is Barhanuddin Rabbani, a former president of Afghanistan. Given that she hails from a political family, Nilofar says that eyebrows were raised when she announced that she wanted to launch a fashion line.
Nilofar, who has been living in Dubai for the past 10 years, draws some inspiration for her designs from the dresses of Afghan nomad women (known as Kuchi).
All of her garments and accessories are manufactured in Kabul. Nilofar says she didn’t face too many challenges in this regard. “One thing people don’t know about Afghanistan is that we have the best tailors in the world.”