Nadia Girach presents "One of my kind"

The Burberry Culture and Heritage award winner presents One Of My Kind. Exploring the intersection between Islam and Western Fashion

Nadia Girach is the artist and photographer whose latest project, 'One Of My Kind'  recently won the prestigious Burberry Culture and Heritage Award and snagged the runner's up prize for FACE's Excellence Award. The project is a captivating photo series that showcases the complex and often overlooked relationship between Islam and Western fashion. In the series, Girach explores the diverse styles and identities of young Muslim in the UK, highlighting the beauty and diversity of their fashion choices and how they express themselves through clothing. From African prints to South Asian embroidery, 'One Of My Kind' depicts how people of different races practice Islam, and how their unique cultural backgrounds influence their fashion choices. Girach's work is a testament to the power of art in creating understanding and breaking down barriers between different cultures and communities. In her first exclusive interview, Nadia Girach opens up about her creative process, inspirations, and what she hopes to achieve through her work.

What was the motivation behind this project and what is the project called?

The motivation behind this project was my own family coming from different cultures and ethnicities and their embracement of that. I feel very passionate about Muslim representation in particular and minority communities as I didn’t see many people like myself in my classroom doing projects on culture with a focus on faith. Being a Muslim is such a big part of my identity that I am proud of and always want to champion in my work so I would say that always informs the way I approach my projects. Another motivation I would say was also a conversation I had with someone who said to me ‘isn’t Islam just a brown person religion’ and from then I saw the misconceptions of my faith and made it my mission to showcase the variety of different cultures and fashions of the Islamic faith. The book focuses on the youth and how they have adopted this cultural attire but also the wholesome aspects of the ‘western culture’ and the fashions and modern brands and how they are willing to combine and embrace both religion and fashion to create this hybrid mix which sees something which has not existed previously. 

Your pictures are a mix of documentary style and very highly produced studio photography. What was the thinking behind using this mix?

Well initially I wanted it to be purely studio photography as I saw the images come to life and conversations I had with people I realised that the studio images are quite intense and as much as they were bold and impactful I needed some ‘real life’ imagery. As the project ran through Ramadan and subsequently Eid it made sense to me to also go and photograph people on Eid in their cultural attires in Victoria park where the Eid prayer is held outside. The Muslims community in Leicester is so much bigger than I realise and it was nice to be able to meet and photograph so many different people and cultures in one place celebrating. So the mix of photography came from this and it gives the book a balance where you have this documentary style approach of people just ‘being’ and also stylised studio photography with some still life imagery to also break up the people and provide conceptual context to the book and inform the viewer.

Were there any difficulties studying fashion communications and styling as someone who's faith is very important to them?

I have found it very difficult at times where I don’t watch or follow the same people my peers or classmates follow because that is not something I am interested in or its someone I cant relate to.I have also learnt to embrace that also that my references and people I follow are not well known or other people follow and I feel like its my job to educate and open peoples mind about Islam and faith in general as sometimes its seen as something so negative. So its been a difficult journey that sometimes my concepts and ideas may not be understood or I may not be able to explain or inform as I would have liked. Saying that however over time this has become easier as I have kept true to my faith and my beliefs and this has kept me going in terms of what I want to portray and say in my works. 

Where does your initial interest in fashion stem from?

My initial interest in fashion stems from the women in my family having fashion interests and sewing textiles background and seeing them sew and create their own clothes has sparked my own interest I have always been interested in what people wear and how people choose to wear certain pieces of clothing so to be able to embrace both faith and fashion is something I am so grateful I was able to explore within this project.

How did it feel to win Burberry's Culture and Heritage Award and runners up in FACE's excellence award?

It felt surreal never would I have imagined for my work to even be shortlisted amongst thousands of graduate work but to win it was a whole other feeling. I am so glad that given the platform and the right people the ideas and conceptions around something as specific as faith can win awards like this. The constant hard work and passion for my faith has paid off and it’s a really proud moment for not only me but to be able to make my family and grandma proud it makes what I do worth it.

What would you hope Muslims and non-Muslims take from your work?

I hope that all people can take away the message that what unites us is far greater than what divides us and that faith is not something that everyone will have and that’s okay but if I can showcase a small part of my world and my faith I hope that changes some preconceptions that people may have around Islam and faith in general. To also give the Muslim youth something they can relate to and representation within the realms of fashion. But above all I hope it informs people to embrace people as they are.

Article by Martyn Ewoma

See more from Nadia on Instagram and via her website


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