Sheryn Akiki is Changing the Face of Arab Fashion Design

Why the Beirut-born designer makes clothes for women on the go

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Of the talent rising out of London, 25-year-old Beirut-born fashion designer and Central Saint Martin graduate Sheryn Akiki is hard to miss. Spun around “women on the run”, as she expressed to Dazed, Akiki’s work is tripped-up with creasing fabrics and off-kilter tailoring to signify a woman running against the status quo. 

But there’s is a much more violent undercurrent to her designs, adjoined with the fourth-wave feminist message. Akiki relates memories of Middle-Eastern conflict zones in her work, like the need get ready quickly to flee at a moment’s notice. To Akiki, the act of dressing is political, and touches the embodiment of conflict. 

Lebanese Fashion Designer Sheryn Akiki

With clearly deconstructed clothing, she takes traditional materials fit for a lady (think satin shirts, silk gloves and leather purses) and skews them in a way that brings the items closer to resembling an art-object rather than utility-wear. And by doing so, Akiki puts to question the role of women in historical function, how sensibility was constantly preened closer to performance rather than presenting female reality. 

And the clothing is nothing short of performative. Models walked down the catwalk in this year’s Central Saint Martin’s MA show with tinfoil in their hair, kitten-like makeup smeared across faces; Akiki doesn’t allow her woman to dress-up at all. 

Lebanese Fashion Designer Sheryn Akiki

Half-dressed, distressed and deconstructed, Akiki’s clothing shows ‘the woman’ before she can ever dress-up to ‘become woman’. A notion that hasn’t existed theoretically since American philosopher Judith Butler ripped it apart, but is still assumed in the fashion industry today.

Lebanese Fashion Designer Sheryn Akiki

After the success of her show in February, Akiki was awarded the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award for her collection. With a new collection, a short film, and several collaborative projects in the row, Akiki is certainly one to watch.

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