- GAYA Magazine
AVIZEH - Ethnic Afghan Jewellery & Clothing
THE MYSTICS II | PHOTOGRAPHER: KRISTINE (K2PHOTOGRAPHY) | MUA: FAZ (MAKEUP BY SATAN) | HAIR: TANESHA COLEY HMUA | MODELS: MARIE, SHILPA THAPA MASKEY
From the classic Afghan beauty, the skater girl, the Goth, Frida Kahlo, the Ice Queen, the Tibetan deity, up to the modern 21st century woman, Avizeh is known for pairing her beautiful ethnic Afghan jewellery collection and traditional Afghan dresses with unconventional concepts.
Young, passionate and creative, Marina has kept up with the high demand for ethnic Afghan jewellery in the West and has been bold in developing fresh concepts to sell her collection; one that reveals a new narrative far from the traditional and conservative presentation of ethnic Afghan jewellery and clothing.
Many of her pieces have been featured in various magazines and various media such as Asiana magazine, Gazelle Magazine, and BBC Pashto, but it is to limited knowledge that Marina is actually the mastermind behind majority of these concepts. Marina is not one to loan her pieces out to stylists or photographers without much involvement in the development of their concept.
She plays the active agent - essentially a stylist and art director of her own collection. It will come to a surprise that this incredible British-Afghan entrepreneur has been managing her business, organizing collaborations whilst studying for her degree and Masters in Psychology at a well-known university. Marina was also invited to speak at SOAS in conjunction with the Farkhunda Trust Anniversary Event, whose mission is to provide higher education to bright, yet disadvantaged Afghan girls.
"...I would like to educate people on things we either ignore or do not value within our community and outside, I hope to diminish stereotypes and stigmas..."
SKATER GIRL | PHOTOGRAPHER: LEANNE GRACE MILLER | MUA: BECKY PURSY | MODEL: KIRAN MATTU
How did the name, Avizeh, come about when you first started the business?
Avizeh was actually suggested by my brother, Ammad as he is always good at coming up with unconventional names. I’ve always wanted something connected to my brand but at the same time, find a name that is unique.
The word, Avizeh actually translates into “pendant” in Farsi (Persian language). Furthermore, Pashto and Farsi are languages dominant in Afghanistan so to me, the name Avizeh fits well. Besides that, most people assume Avizeh is actually my name! Though I actually wish it was…
How did the idea of making ethnic Afghan jewellery and dresses begin?
It all started when I was looking for traditional Afghan jewellery and found nothing online. From then onwards, I have decided to fill that gap in the British market.
Your concepts are known to be quite unconventional. You don’t seem to like playing safe with the traditional representation of ethnic Afghan jewellery. What inspires you to try out different concepts?
Ah yes…First of all, there is no one traditional look in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is really diverse that the traditional clothing style varies within each ethic group. That is why I don’t think there is really one representation of Afghan traditional clothing.
In the early establishment of Avizeh, the concepts started off by taking inspirations from both the East and West. I was inspired to respond this way since I reside in the West. I wanted to create concepts where Afghan clothing and jewellery were not only seen with traditional clothing but with Western clothing also. Avizeh isn’t afraid to be unconventional but the jewellery still carries on that traditional essence. That’s what makes Avizeh unique, as it’s not just conventional glam makeup or hairstyles but it is a form of art that focuses on strong concepts and narrative.
THE MYSTICS I | PHOTOGRAPHER: SIMONA INDIGO PHOTOGRAPHY | CREATIVE ASSISTANT: MARIA | MUA: MIIN MAKEUP | HAIR: SHABANA I MUA | MODEL: SHILPA THAPA MASKEY
Tell us more about the process behind the development of a strong concept?
Well, the process actually takes months! Interesting ideas often come to mind, like a strong vision and from there, I begin by focusing on the strong ideas and developing them before carrying it out. The concept development process goes on for few a weeks. After that, I get into the process where I really want to materialize my vision so I begin organizing a team which fits the concept well. It takes me around two months time finding the right models and photographer, makeup artist who I think will make my vision come to life.
What is the most memorable or craziest concept you’ve done or considered?
Haha! Well, there are many. I think the most unconventional idea for me was the concept with Qaiser Azim with models, Geri and Jaye, where we patted down prominent round, red cheeks on our models and their hair were very twisted up in an abstract way. According to feedback, some found it very shocking as it was not the conventional conservative concept that featured pretty faces with elegant traditional wear. It is bold and quirky. At the time, I’ve received a lot of appreciation for taking the risk and people really could see that it does carry a story. It isn’t random. The idea of representing the mountain dwellers in Afghanistan and Central Asia came across well. It is still my favorite campaign of all time.
You’ve just finished your Masters in Psychology. Congratulations! My next big question is about your work ethics. How do you manage to find a good balance with your student life and Avizeh?
Thank you. Well, I really don't know how I managed it to be honest! Haha! I think I was equally passionate about Avizeh alongside my interest in psychology. Although sometimes, it would get very busy but I love Avizeh too much so I would be working on it during my free time and going to events after my lectures.
Also, whether it is in my studies or Avizeh, I have a sense of responsibility of giving 100% of effort into my work and sometimes feel that I am a bit of a perfectionist. If I feel that I’m neglecting my studies due to Avizeh, or vice versa, I will not organize a new project unless I am satisfied with the outcome. I will keep a hold on shoots if I feel as though my studies are being affected.
It is good to keep that balance so I could produce good quality work.
"...For me, female empowerment as a female Muslim means being free and happy to choose whatever style you prefer to wear. Whether you are covered or not covered, it's ultimately your choice..."
THE MYSTICS II | PHOTOGRAPHER: KRISTINE (K2PHOTOGRAPHY) | MUA: FAZ (MAKEUP BY SATAN) | HAIR: TANESHA COLEY HMUA | MODEL: TONI
What is your biggest challenge as a young entrepreneur thus far?
I think my biggest challenge is actually myself. I want to do so much for Afghanistan and sometimes I forget to take a break and slow down.
So you were invited to the Farkhunda Trust Anniversary Event at SOAS in March 2017 to talk about your brand and your support the trust on providing education to bright but disadvantaged Afghan women. How did that come about and what was the experience like?
It was a huge honour to speak at SOAS and to support the Farkhunda Trust on such an amazing campaign. This opportunity came about after meeting a young girl from the organization who came to one my events and invited us to be a part of the Farkhunda Trust Anniversary Event.
The owner of the charity is a magnificent woman, a true inspiration. She went to Afghanistan to help young Afghan women even during the Taliban regime. I think for me, the experience was a bit emotional because the charity itself is based on a girl named Farkhunda, who was a volunteer teacher in Afghanistan but she was falsely accused of burning the Quran and was murdered in front of a large crowd. I think the charity is taking great steps towards women empowerment and education by offering scholarships to young, bright but disadvantaged Afghan women. They are the future after all.
FRIDA KAHLO | PHOTOGRAPHER: MONA MUNSHI | MUA: SHABANA I MUA | MODEL: ELLA HAMLIM
So what are the most important values that a young entrepreneur should have in order to succeed?
To be true to yourself and be honest. Use it as your platform to promote all that is good and beneficial to society too. Also, make sure you are passionate about what you are doing and work hard.
On the topic of female empowerment, what does mean to you as a young, female Muslim?
For me, female empowerment as a female Muslim means being free and happy to choose whatever style you prefer to wear. Whether you are covered or not covered, it's ultimately your choice. I feel as women, we should empower, love and support one another through the good and bad times and really just be supportive of each other.
Finally, what are your future plans for Avizeh and for yourself?
Well at the moment, I am not sure but Insha’Allah, I want to direct Avizeh into promoting Afghanistan as well as working with more charities.
At the same time, I would like to educate people on things we either ignore or do not value within our community and outside, I hope to diminish stereotypes and stigmas. Last but not least, I would like to promote unity, peace, love and most importantly, the beauty within Afghanistan.
THE WRITER: EMMA KHOO
Emma lives a double life as a research assistant as well as a part-time Malaysian fashion photographer under FYi Photography, occasionally flitting between London and Kuala Lumpur. Other than photography, she writes articles on history, film, fashion and emerging young designers. She is also a contributing writer for Nee Hao Magazine UK.
For more stories like these, get your free copy of GAYA Magazine here.
At GAYA Magazine, we champion the voices of today's Muslim women living through the complexities of today's social climate. Our doors are always open to new and exciting voices so if you're interested in becoming a contributing writer, hit this link!