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FEIRUZA MUDESSIR on Shaping Ethiopian, Indian and Arabic Roots into a Hybrid Street Style

"Every piece that I create has a meaning or draws inspiration from a certain culture. Afrofuturism to me is about taking our culture and tribe, which was there before, and making it relate to the now and the future. I need to show off what we already have and bring it out there."



FEIRUZA MUDESSIR in Conversation with GAHSP: Discover the world of tribal street style and beyond.


THE CREATIVE


Profession:

Fashion Designer


Current Location:

Dubai


Introduction:

My name is Feiruza Mudessir; I come from Ethiopia. I grew up in India and moved to the UAE after high school where I started working in retail. I went to a fashion school and by the time I graduated, I started doing freelance jobs while building a collection. In 2012 without having any clue where to go or what is next, I launched my first collection. At that time I didn't even have pieces ready to sell but people came to my show. Fast forward to 2015-16, I started doing pop-ups and markets, and I ended up opening my first store in 2019.


My brand stands for tribal-inspired streetwear and I like to take street style to the next level. I am adding tribal elements, and patterns from the different places I've lived in, from India, the UAE and Ethiopia. My concept is ‘taking my background with me forward’.



FEIRUZA MUDESSIR in Conversation with GAHSP: Discover the world of tribal street style and beyond.


THE QU & A


What are 3 values that you wish to mediate through your work?


Background

Current situations

Future visions


What are 3 relevant problems that you wish to solve through your work?


When I design, I include cultural references. Taking my Ethiopian heritage as an example - because so few people are familiar with Ethiopia's past - I enjoy making pieces that do. These you can find in my accessories collection, such as our digitally printed scarves with the history of the Aksum Empire, the Fidel bag (Ge'ez), an alphabet created by the Aksumites that we now call Amharic, and the very famous # finchituadenim jacket with AfroMido (Afro pick) and references to India and the UAE with either pattern or Arabic slogans.

These elements, I believe, assist my customers to understand the backstory and learn something new from it. I'm not sure if these little tweaks fix any problems, but they make me more intentional in my design process. The idea is for # finchituacustomer to recognize that it is done with love and purpose.



FEIRUZA MUDESSIR in Conversation with GAHSP: Discover the world of tribal street style and beyond.


THE CONVERSATION

Free format conversation with Feiruza Mudessir.

The Westin Mina Seyahi Hotel, Dubai. 1st of May, 2023.


In terms of the experiences from the different places you've lived, like Ethiopia, India and the UAE, do you consciously know which elements you take from where, or does it come together as an organic mix?


Yes, they usually merge organically. At times, I would choose tribes that appeal to me artistically rather than politically. Ethiopia's population is extremely diversified, with over 80 ethnic groups. For my # AfroRetrobyFinchitua I chose a design from a tribe in southern Ethiopia that isn't from either my mother's or my father's side. I was just drawn to the patterns and the vibrant colours.


How are the color schemes of the various tribes you look at different from each other?


A while back, when I was doing color forecasting for a business, one of the themes I chose was something I termed as "Tribalized" - the blending of many tribes from across the world. When you combine all of those photographs, the tribal patterns' design and colors look as though they are one seamless piece, which is what I discovered throughout my study. Because of this I also don't find it surprising when customers visit my store and ask where they believe the designs are from. Simply said, the purpose of this is to demonstrate that despite coming from various corners of the globe, we are all one.


How do customers relate to your designs?


With roots in the UAE, India, and tribal Ethiopia, Finchitua is a cutting-edge, contemporary streetwear brand with an artistic spin. Because finchitua is a mashup of cultures in a street-style way, people are drawn to it regardless of their heritage or sense of fashion.



FEIRUZA MUDESSIR in Conversation with GAHSP: Discover the world of tribal street style and beyond.


As a designer taking inspiration from multiple cultures at the same time, and taking heritage into the future, what do you think about cultural appreciation vs. appropriation?


That is an interesting question. If I saw someone wearing my traditional garments on the street who was from a different region of the world, I would be grateful that they valued my culture. That is why they are dressed in it. Why would I see that as a bad thing?


What is your design philosophy when taking inspiration from all these cultural roots?


Finchitua is a tribal and culturally influenced streetwear brand. My objective is to create pieces with meaning - so that no matter what your background is you can relate to it, without being bound to any trends or seasons.


What are the responsibilities of a creative?


To be intentional in the designs and highlight certain issues.


Should creatives showcase a more realistic example of trial and error?


In a perfect world, definitely yes. In my case, I'm not the type of designer who sketches and then sends it off to someone to produce. I am involved in the whole process from start to finish, designing, fabric sourcing, fabric treatments, cutting, production and quality checking; everything is done by me except the stitching. So, there's so much struggle and it’s not fabulous. Who wants to see that? What people are used to seeing in designers is being all fancy and glossy. Unfortunately in this age, people judge and respect you based on what you look like and what you're wearing.



FEIRUZA MUDESSIR in Conversation with GAHSP: Discover the world of tribal street style and beyond.


How transparent should creatives be when it comes to communicating their work?


There was a period when people would tell me to post every day and say this and that to expand my SM quickly. I did just that, but it didn't feel genuine. I needed to do what felt right for me. Yes, the rate of expansion is slower than I would want. But am I comfortable and satisfied with how I communicate?


Do you find empathy plays an important role in your everyday life?


Empathy has an important role to play in my life as I am an empath myself. I am very sensitive and receptive to people’s energy and vibrations. This helps me to understand and bond with my customers.


What is the role of religion in your life?


My faith is very strong. Nowadays being Godless is the trend but I'm very proud to say I believe in my creator and I'm Muslim. Islam is the way of life which teaches me how to talk, how to treat people, how to walk, how to sleep, how to treat family, how to eat, what to eat, how to treat your body and all those things. It applies to my work as well.


FEIRUZA MUDESSIR in Conversation with GAHSP: Discover the world of tribal street style and beyond.


THE LEADER


Creative Leaders to look up to:

To me, my mom is whom I’ve always looked to either as being creative or a leader, saying that there are many great leaders I take inspiration from. If you're creative, create what is true to you and create something that matters. I consider that as leading by example.



FEIRUZA MUDESSIR in Conversation with GAHSP: Discover the world of tribal street style and beyond.


# ASK


One question that would come to my mind, is related to why I opened my store. Doors were shut in my face as I am an individual who didn't come through a connection or position. The value that they would give me was zero. There are so many creatives who can be amazing if they're given the platform. What can be done to solve that?



This interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.


Written and Edited by Julia Horvath and Bator Toth

Image Courtesy of Feiruza Mudessir

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