First Published: 2017-03-15

First fashion show seeks to promote Syria's Kurdish traditional attire
Show features 15 women, seven men modelling range of Kurdish traditional outfit held in Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli.
Middle East Online

Tradition preserved

QAMISHLI - In a shimmering dress, Efin Hissu strides confidently down a runway to the beat of Kurdish music at a fashion show in northeast Syria showcasing a revival of the minority's traditional clothing.

Her outfit is a riot of contrasting patterns, starting with her full-length gown, a sienna shade overlaid with a delicate leaf-like pattern in dark brown and gold thread.

The exaggerated sleeves extend out at the cuff to form a point that sweeps delicately as she moves her arms.

Over the dress is a black jacket, heavily embroidered in gold, and over her head and shoulders is a black, white and yellow headscarf held in place by a gold headpiece with dangling coins.

Such an outfit would not have been seen in public in Syria's Kurdish regions in years past, under restrictions on the minority that also banned their language and denied them Syrian nationality.

But after Syria's uprising began in March 2011, the government first relaxed some restrictions and then in 2012 withdrew most of its forces from Kurdish-majority areas in the country's north.

In the wake of the withdrawal, the Kurdish community, who made up around 15 percent of Syria's pre-war population, has worked to revive its language and culture, including its sartorial traditions.

"This show is the first of its kind," said Medea Akko, 25, who helped supervise the fashion show held in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli.

"Our goal is to counter the marginalisation of Kurdish clothing and to introduce it to society and the world," she added.

"Before the Syrian revolution, we couldn't even say that we were Kurds, but now the situation is different -- I can wear my clothes and speak Kurdish in our streets and our cities."

The fashion show was held to coincide with the Day of Kurdish Clothing, on March 10, which has been marked in neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan for years but only more recently in Syria's Kurdish areas.

- 'Feel like a queen' -

"Some people think that Kurdish clothing enhances beauty," Akko said.

"And I feel like I'm a queen when I wear Kurdish clothing."

The show was sponsored by a local political party and featured 15 women and seven men modelling a range of traditional attire.

It culminated with the arrival of a model in a traditional bridal outfit: a red robe with a heavy gold necklace and a diaphanous red veil.

As the men and women walked the runway, observers clapped along to the music and filmed the proceedings on cellphones.

After the show, Hissu and her fellow models walked proudly through the neighbourhood still wearing the traditional clothes.

"We're thrilled by this day -- to be able to wear our traditional Kurdish clothing and wander around in it in the streets of Qamishli and to celebrate this day in front of everyone," she said.

A traditional Kurdish outfit for women consists primarily of an ornate dress with exaggerated long sleeves and a pointed cuff known as "krass".

The gown is sometimes worn over a pair of wide trousers and accentuated with an embroidered coat.

Ornamenting the outfit is an array of jewellery, including necklaces and bracelets, nose studs, anklets and a decorative belt of silver or gold.

Men's outfits are simpler, though still distinctive, featuring trousers that billow out from the hips and nip back in at the ankles, secured with a thick belt of often-colourful fabric.

The outfit includes a simple shirt and matching jacket or waistcoat and is topped with a turban wrapped from a scarf often featuring flowers or other patterns.

- Tailors working non-stop -

In the past, Kurdish clothing was rarely seen in shops, with tailors instead creating pieces at home, behind closed doors and away from the eyes of the authorities.

But today the situation is reversed, and Qamishli's tailors are dealing with growing demand, particularly with the approach of the Nowruz spring festival on March 21, when traditional dress is favoured by celebrating Kurds.

"There is growing demand for Kurdish clothes since the revolution. They're worn particularly during the Nowruz festival and for weddings," said Sami Moussa, who works in Qamishli's tailors' district.

"Nowadays we don't stop working because demand is so high," he said.

"We're working on perhaps 100 pieces a month, particularly in the spring, while before (2011) we didn't do more than 10 pieces a month," he added.

His dresses range in price from 40,000 Syrian pounds ($80, 75 euros) to 80,000 ($160) depending on the fabric and sewing work involved.

Tailor Raed Yusef, 38, speaks proudly about the array of options now available to those seeking traditional Kurdish attire.

"In the past, Kurdish clothes were made in secret," he said, seated by his sewing machine.

"But today we have customers in Europe who we send clothes for them to wear at weddings and on Nowruz.

"A few days ago, for the first time, I made a traditional bridal gown for a bride to wear on her wedding day."

 

Turkey, US agree to ‘work together’ in Syria

Fears of expanding Syrian war could trigger peace deal

Six suffer breathing difficulties after Turkish shelling in Afrin

Thousands protest corruption in Tel Aviv amid PM indictment call

Syrians crammed in shared flats in Afrin

Russian mercenaries - a discrete weapon in Syria

Iran protests ban on wrestler who threw bout to avoid Israel

Battle to free Mosul of IS 'intellectual terrorism'

Turkey frees Garman-Turk journalist after one year without charge

Turkey hands life sentences to 3 journalists for Gulen links

Prominent jihadist commander killed by rival Syria rebels

300 Russians killed in Syria battle last week

Tillerson, Erdogan have ‘productive, open’ talk

Iran raises rates, freezes accounts in bid to shore up rial

Kremlin says five Russians killed in US Syria strikes

Oman FM in rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem

Senior IS leader extradited to Iraq from Turkey

Strikes hit another hospital in Syria's Idlib

Churches snub Jerusalem reception over tax dispute with Israeli authorities

Tillerson says US never gave 'heavy arms' to Kurdish YPG

Captured foreign IS suspects claim innocence

Yemeni mother awaits death penalty for spying for UAE

Fuel shortage shuts down Gaza's only power plant

Morocco arrests three suspected IS terrorists

Family of dead environmentalist in Iran threatened

Israel hands life sentence to Palestinian for triple murder

US appeals to Turkey to concentrate on fighting IS

Turkey sets up new 'observation point' in Syria's Idlib

Malaysia rejects criticism over Israeli visit

Tillerson in Ankara to ease Turkey tensions

Egypt arrests ex-presidential candidate

Tillerson: Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's 'political process'

Netanyahu says government ‘stable’ despite police recommending indictment

Corruption accusations facing Netanyahu

Syria denies ‘unacceptable’ chemical weapons use

Nations pledge nearly $25 billion toward Iraq's reconstruction

Egypt remands in custody former anti-corruption chief

Turkish PM 'hopes' German journalist is freed soon

US agrees to send $1 billion in annual aid to Jordan

Iran arrests money changers amid rial collapse

Saudi Arabia seeks to further reduce oil stockpiles

Turkey imposes curfews in Kurdish-majority province

Tillerson urges allies to focus on fighting IS

France threatens Syria strikes if chemical attacks proven

Tillerson says enduring IS defeat not yet achieved