Femininity by BLACK ANAAR
Fashion is trend, fashion is style. Fashion is culture and tradition. But fashion is also power. A powerful tool to play with. BLACK ANAAR is a new founded fashion brand that captures almost all of the above-mentioned features. This has led us to another question: What is femininity? This question has been debated as much in the past as it is discussed in the present, with fashion philosophers also pondering its future. All around the globe this question posits new theories daily. This is why we searched for some answers. The founder of BLACK ANAAR, Frances Stafford, is who we spoke to. What we found: new words, great inspiration and advanced views. A bold fashion editorial shot by the talented Francesco Lonigro accompanies our text, which embodies the beauty of contrasts women stand for. So please, follow us now on a journey of worldwide influences, beauty and femininity ...enter the show case of our COLLECTION N°4.
The picture of women and what femininity encompassed developed throughout time. Your fashion label is the perfect reflection of this changing process. Before we delve into details can you tell us how Black Anaar came into being?
For the last 5 years I have worked for the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA, the former Ministry of Culture) acting as a producer and director for various public projects as well as dealing with exhibitions at the National Museum amongst other things. The final push towards launching my own label was after completion of a huge public project commissioned by Shaikha Mai Al Khalifa called Little India in Bahrain. I immersed myself into this historical center of Bahrain, called Souk Manana, and really fell in love with the vibrancy and rawness present there. I got to know the people of the community on a whole and specifically became engaged with the tailoring community where I created my first pieces.
Basically it’s your first try to settle down in the fashion business, right? What have been your main passions and work life looked like before?
After years of wearing many occupational “hats” working within the Art Scene in Bahrain as a curator, gallerist, cultural producer etc, I lacked time for my own forum for expression. I was also busy with a small gallery I founded having regular art exhibitions for Bahrain based artists. On top of that I had created an art consultancy. I recognized that although I was helping many others achieve their artistic goals, in doing so I was putting aside my own artistic need. After High school I decided to study Art History and become a curator because it was more socially accepted (I come from quite a conservative area in Canada) than studying Fine Arts. I had always loved creating with my hands however and had a passion for dressing in unique ways. Fashion was a way I could wake up everyday and use my body as a canvas so to say.
From Bahrain to Berghain, from the Middle East to Ost Berlin. Your working base like your company headquarters couldn’t be more different. A contrast that is likewise remarkable in the clothes themselves. Starting with the main design, the Abaya - please explain the origin of this piece in your designs and how you developed a fashion label out of that?
Well the Abaya is the staple piece for many Muslim women’s attire. Although Bahrain is quite liberal and open-minded and allows its expats and visitors to dress as they see fit. I am very interested in these cultural nuances because its not just about the religion anymore... wearing the abaya is layered with tradition, history, heritage and also communal acceptance. I wanted to re-appropiate the Western understanding of women in the Middle East and the Gulf specifically, and wanted to use the most iconic fashion staple to do so. I wanted to show the changing times of the “woman” in the Gulf as there was a shift happening. I also wanted to show the Abaya simply as it was, a piece of cloth. I saw a chance to educate the western public who I would eventually be selling to, that Bahrain specifically is full of colors and a vibrant history of dressing. I started doing so in selling vintage pieces collected on my trips to Bahrain. These pieces were so intricately made that I wanted to share the craftsmanship with people who could appreciated that – Berlin was the right fit.
At the same time I started making modern grtaphic patterned abayas for the Gulf and selling the more traditional ones (called "chadors”) that only grandmothers here are known for wearing to German techno girls because of their cape like appearance. All of that shows once more that there is more connection in the world than difference and there is one thing that is for sure: women everywhere seem to love fashion...
How to dress a woman – we in the fashion industry create and curate around this idea daily. Religion, tradition and also trend affect the way of dressing. You are a perfect example of that. You have Ukrainian-Canadian roots and create now between Bahrain and Berlin. How would you explain the vision of your clothes relating to these backgrounds?
I grew up in a very Ukrainian cultural community in Canada. I used to Ukrainian dance and we of course had to wear traditional costumes. My blouse had English roses embroidered on it because my Father was English and my mother was Ukrainian. Even though I was in Canada the Ukrainian tradition of embroidery had an important cultural connotation that connected us to our roots. I look for connectivity within otherwise lost or forgotten traditions related to embellishing dress. These elements were important signifiers in the past and I think their messages are interesting to look at today as historical mementos. I try to keep some elements of Bahraini tradition alive in the pieces I create while other pieces may be more simply ‘modern’ and ‘trendy’.
So how can Black Anaar designs be worn?
Designs range from modest and classic to artistic and wild. Women can wear my clothes seriously or go to festivals in them...its up to them and their personal choice.
Trends, tradition, culture: these elements affect how we dress daily. What is your “fashion advice” to stay more open minded while dressing for today’s world?
My advice would be to simply tell women to not be afraid to dress in whatever way they want. I know that's not exactly what happens in both Bahrain and Berlin, but hey, we are social creatures and therefore have to play by the rules that have been laid out for us. I would love to see people wearing whatever their hearts desired, without judgment in the back of their minds.
Coming to our last question, let's have look two at different styles of dressing: stereotypical femininity vs. a strong look. Of course, we are all strong women, but does that also mean we have to give up a part of our femininity nowadays?
Again I refer to the point I made above where I would like to see expression free from the monochrome world of binary signifiers, good or bad, slutty or modest, too feminine or too butch... the global realm we live in allows for consumption and regurgitation of all things at lightning speed. I don't think femininity has to be given up. I think men and women should both be free to express themselves as they see fit without societal restrictions. I am a person who believes in personal freedoms and I respect others choices as long as they are not causing real harm. I think clothing and deciding how one should dress is totally up to the individual and that this should be celebrated.
ROUND UP of the beautiful BLACK ANAAR LOOKS
Look I | Navy Chador
Look II | Navy Chador
Look III | Rose Hamam
Look IV | Vintage Abaya with Added Panel Print
Look V | Graphic VJJ Chador
Look VI | White Paint Stripe Fully Reversible Abaya
Look VII | Rose Tie Dye Abaya
Look VIII | Eden Hamam
Look IX | Slinky Gulf Abaya
Look X | Desert Rose Hamam
Look XI | Gulf Waves Abaya
Look XII | Rose Tie Dye Abaya
Special thnx to the incredible team for realizing this project: Photographer Francesco Longrino our Models Ingrid & SolangeJulia Saroian for Hair & Make up last but not least the incredible Frances Stafford, Designer & Founder of BLACK ANNAR