It’s not every day that siblings decide to work together, let alone pursue the exact same career path. But that’s what happened with London-based Iraqi sisters Zara and Sarah Asmail, along with a friend, Giorgio Lieuw-On with whom they shared a mutually aligned goal: “to disrupt the stigmatisation of the supressed, and tell the untold stories of immigrants”.
Their medium of choice? Fashion. The trio got together early last year and began working on their very own label, Atelier Mundane. Prior to even releasing their first collection, they could already count Drake-favourite and Brit award winner Jorja Smith as a loyal client.
The British singer wore an unreleased design of theirs last may—a red strapless wrap dress, featuring adjustable sling ropes adorned with metal hardware—for a performance at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend. She also sported a one of their body-hugging corsets (called the Martyrs) in a shoot for Billboard magazine.
Today, the Asmails and Lieuw-On are finalizing the details for the launch of their first capsule collection, which they’re calling ‘Mirage’. Ahead of their big release, we caught up with them to chat about the inspiration for their label, how they hope to empower the Middle East, and how Jorja Smith became a fan.
When did you decide to start your own label?
We were at a point in our lives where we wanted to have an outlet for our creative impulses. Therefore creating Mundane felt like a natural process.
Did you always know you’d end up being fashion designers?
We don’t necessarily see ourselves as fashion designers. Having diverse backgrounds, we consider ourselves as just people who enjoy making things. We chose this medium because we feel like it can be fully utilised to convey our view on today’s society, the one before us, as well as the one that will be after us.
If you have one mission to accomplish with your label, what would it be?
We want to disrupt the stigmatisation of the suppressed and tell the untold stories of immigrants, our ancestors and unite all different cultures in the shape of design and art to initiate a dialogue.
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You’ve been teasing your new collection by posting a piece featuring Kiffeyeh pattern that you’ve called the ‘Freedom Suit’. What inspired this collection?
This capsule collection aims to empower women in the Middle Eastern and Western region, creating a cohesive set of ideas and beliefs from two juxtaposing elements. The ‘Freedom Suit’, as part of the collection, utilises the Kiffeyeh pattern used throughout the Arab world. But the colours we deliberately chose, is an ode to Palestinians. The wearer of Mundane will be a walking statement making their surroundings aware of the current state of certain situations.
Your designs are actually anything but mundane, so why choose the name?
We like playing around with juxtapositions. But most of all, we wanted to challenge the idea of ‘ordinary’. Being brought up in an immigrant household fuelled that idea. When you tried to express your own culture, you were not normal to western society. And, when you adjusted to the western norm, you weren’t normal nor staying true to your heritage. So, what is ordinary? It is subjective. The things that we class as ordinary might not be the same for another and vice versa.
Jorja Smith has worn your pieces a few times now, how did that all happen?
There’s a great upcoming artist, Wesley Joseph from OG Horse, who we made a few pieces for, for his video shoot and Jorja was in it. That is how we came in contact with each other.