(The interview originally appeared at Free Women Writers)
Rahiba Rahimi, 24, is the President of Laman, Afghanistan’s first domestically-produced clothing line. With its unique style, marrying traditional embroidery and colors with modern and versatile silhouettes, Rahiba and her team are redefining the country’s fashion. Their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. The brand has been featured in Deutsche Welle, France 24, News Deeply and many other outlets. And Rahiba is just getting stated. In addition to being a successful businesswoman, she is pursuing a degree in political science at the American University of Afghanistan, and has big dreams for herself and Laman.
(Her interview with Pary Shuaib):
Pary: Tell us a little bit about Laman and why you joined.
Rahiba: Laman is an Afghan-led fashion label that fuses Western designs with traditional Afghan elements and handicrafts in order to deliver quality, unique pieces. An important part of Laman to me is that we celebrate our country’s cultural heritage. We promote local arts and the almost forgotten traditional hand crafts such as embroidery, which are mainly produced by women who have inherited these skills over generations. It feels great to be part of Laman and we’ve accomplished a lot, however, I believe Laman is still a seed that needs to be nurtured further.
Pary: How does Laman contribute to women’s economic empowerment in Afghanistan?
Rahiba: Almost 80 % of our working staff are women. This includes tailors, designers, and managers. We also have more than 20 craftswomen who make Laman’s embroidery. By providing employment opportunities to women, we want to contribute to women’s economic empowerment. This can often lead to social empowerment as well and give women more power in their families and communities.
Pary: We love that the world is seeing our beautiful clothing and accessories again! What feedback have you received from the international community?
Rahiba: Everyone has been excited to see Afghan fashion diversifying. From the feedback we get, most enjoy the essence of traditional Afghan elements in wearable modern designs.
Pary: What advice would you give to the next generation aspiring to follow your lead? And to the naysayers who make it difficult for that to happen?
Rahiba: My advice to girls and women is to detail-oriented and make sure you are equipped with the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in your field. Set a goal, build your vision, make a plan, and take the necessary steps to make it come true.
Unfortunately, like many other innovators in Afghanistan, I face-backlash too. Starting something new is not easy and communicating it to public is also a task. Many may not always understand that I’m an entrepreneur who seeks to invite more art and creativity, all the while respecting our cultural heritage. However, this backlash cannot deter me. Rather it is a necessary challenge to work through constructed beliefs that undermine the importance of women in leadership roles, as well as the internal and external barriers which hold us back from reaching our full potential. So overall, I try to ignore naysayers and do what I believe I should. Ultimately, my work proves them wrong.
Pary: Where else may we find your designs and get our hands on new items? And what is next for Laman?
Rahiba: Currently, customers can visit our showroom and store in Kabul. We are trying to expand our reach to the local and international market through few different platforms. Laman will be engaging more into self-development and providing even better products, and from there on expand and extend production inside and outside Afghanistan.
Pary Shuaib is a Free Women Writers member with a relentless passion for gender equality. She has a BA in Communication from George Mason University and sometimes does yoga to soothe her soul.
About Free Women Writers
Free Women Writers (also known as دختران رابعه) is a registered non-profit, non-partisan, and all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization composed of writers, students, and activists based in Afghanistan and the diaspora and working for a more equal and just Afghanistan. Free Women Writers works to improve the lives of Afghan women through advocacy, storytelling, and education.