The global Black Lives Matter movement is proof that society is finally waking up to the importance of identity politics. Using fashion as a vessel for identity exploration, a new wave of POC designers are celebrating cultures and communities who have been ignored by the industry for far too long.
Case in point: 29-year-old Taha Yousuf, founder of the emerging label Love Closely. Born in the UAE to Pakistani parents, he launched his brand in 2018 in a bid to create meaningful streetwear inspired by his Pakistani Muslim heritage.
Residing in Toronto, Yousuf has long-been a fan of hip-hop. A true believer that style should cross geographical and cultural boundaries, he believes that “by connecting the two worlds together, we hope to expose our community to the beauty of different cultures and traditions and share its beauty with the masses”.
With intricate motifs and calligraphy combined with dreamy colours, Yousuf’s goal is to challenge common misconceptions about Middle Eastern and South Asian identity. And he’s not doing things by half. Having dressed artists like French Montana, Jessie Reyez, Ali Gatie, and Roy Woods at a time when Arab and South Asian representation is almost non-existent in mainstream fashion, Yousuf’s vision resonates powerfully.
“I want our community to appreciate and love their innate passions and talents; those that differentiate them from others and make them unique”, says Yousuf explaining the meaning behind “Love Closely”.
Labels like “made in Pakistan” or “made in Morocco” might evoke either low quality or tired stereotypes like “kaftans and camels”, but Yousuf is determined to alter and subvert perceptions and empower future generations.
Fond of the stories that often go untold, the brand’s latest sustainable collection ‘Birds of Love’ is inspired by the Persian fable Conference of the Birds. “It’s a story of birds in search of happiness, only to find that true peace comes from within”, explains Yousuf.
Shot in Marrakech by photographer Ismail Zaidy, the lookbook captures two lost souls in a landscape filled with pastel hues. As he notes, “They represent individuals in society wandering through life’s vanities in a quest to find what they already had within themselves”.
As we spend more time in isolation, Yousuf believes that this is our chance to remind ourselves what is really important to us. For him, the answer is simple: it’s about rooting yourself with who you are, and celebrating yourself.