A Kurdish Norwegian woman has revived traditional Kurdish fashion in Europe. Photo: Rudaw via Barzan Ahmed
Jwan Ahmad Badrxan along her family was forced to leave Iraq in 1984 due to the poor political condition and settle in Norway. She learned from her mother how to design clothes. Now two of her younger sisters have followed in her footsteps and work as a designer and model.
Badrxan reveals her latest projects to Rudaw English, including why she has used non-Kurdish models in fashion shows and plans for an economic empowerment project for women living camps.
Badrxan also says that interest in Kurdish clothing in Europe grew because of the Peshmerga fighting ISIS. The conflict informed Norwegians about the Kurds, and now, Kurds and even some Europeans purchase traditional Kurdish clothing.
Rudaw: Why did you decide to work in the areas of cultural design?
Jwan Ahmad Badrxan:
My mother was from the Rashola family, well-known artists in Sulaimani and this had an influence on us.
In the past, Kurds in Norway did not give much attention to Kurdish clothes. But after the fight with ISIS, Kurdish enthusiasm increased
My father is from the Badrxan family, which is known for their involvement in art, literature, and science. We work on art in family. My two sisters also work as designers and models. My mom has artistic skills and always supports us.
Rudaw: Is working as a designer in Europe for you as a Kurdish woman difficult?
I always had this dream to become designer and I think Europe values design and fashion. I also have tried to combine my ideas with Kurdish symbols. I always have kept the originality of Kurdish clothes, but I use different color and designs. I want to design the clothes like my ancestors, so the new generation will be aware of this culture. Now many people want to wear Kurdish clothes. For me as a Kurdish woman, even if there is difficulty, I can succeed. I am daring and courageous.
Rudaw: How much do Kurds in Norway pay attention to Kurdish clothing?
In the past, Kurds in Norway did not give much attention to Kurdish clothes. But after the fight with ISIS, Kurdish enthusiasm
This is right; most of my models have been European girls, but they look like Kurdish and Eastern girls.
increased among them, so now many want to have Kurdish clothes. The emergence of Kurds on world stage has had great impact on Kurdish diaspora in Europe. Kurds became known in the world because Peshmerga bravery and this increased the demand for wearing Kurdish clothes. Now Kurds in Europe as young as 8 and even older ones wear Kurdish clothes.
What do Europeans know about Kurdish clothing? Have any European citizens ordered Kurdish clothing from you?
Now many European girls wear Kurdish clothes especially those who have Kurdish husbands; they are more eager than us to wear Kurdish clothes. On April 17, Norway’s National Day, some Norwegian women wore Kurdish clothes. There are Norwegian women who wear Kurdish clothes for their own national events.
Photo: Barzan Ahmed
Rudaw: In Europe, how many fashion shows did you participate in?
Overall I had some fashion shows in Europe, particularly in Norway. Most of them were displaying Kurdish clothes, but sometimes we had shows displaying Kurdish, European, and Eastern clothes.
Rudaw: Why did you only use European models in fashion shows? Why didn’t you use Kurdish women to model?
This is right; most of my models have been European girls, but they look like Kurdish and Eastern girls. I had these Europeans for
I have a project in mind for women living in camps
several shows and no one knows they are not Kurds. I have used some Kurdish models. I have used mainly Europeans models to show Kurdish clothes and many people really liked it.
You said that you designed Eastern clothes too, especially from Arab countries. Was it not difficult for you to design the clothes of another nation?
Besides Kurdish clothes, we have designed Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Gulf and other clothes from the Arab world. There is high demand for these Eastern clothes; even Kurds now wear such clothing.
What is your new project?
I have some big projects including a professional and academic magazine to introduce various kinds of Kurdish clothing. Also, I want to publish a book on Kurdish culture in English. I have a project in mind for women living in camps especially those who are interested in sewing, design and art works.