The making of Follow for more Soft Islam
I’ve wanted to document my friend Shasha’s style for a long time. So I set about making something that would celebrate her unique vision of the world.
I began with the sketch below that summarised my vision and ended with three short fashion films, which I released on international women’s day.
Shasha is a modern muslim woman, who expresses herself through her pastel fashion style. We wanted to create a set of films together that would celebrate her, as a brown-skinned woman in alternative fashion.
At the time, we were really inspired by the work of Shirin Neshat, as her work also explores the relationship between women and the religious and cultural values of Islam.
Shasha initially began wearing pastel fashion to break out of what is expected of a muslim person, and a darker skinned person.
At the time, tumblr was a very popular platform and there were particular trends for things called “pale blogs” and “rosy blogs.” These were aesthetically lead blogs which collated images - kind of like a mood board, and each one would put a phrase like “follow for more rosy posts” under every image. What we noticed about these blogs that darker skinned people would not feature, unless they were heavily filtered to lighten their skin.
Even in the modern case of instagram, pastel fashion is often still attributed to look “best” with white skin.
We wanted to cast aside all of these preconceived imaged and create something that celebrated an image of a dark skinned, Indian muslim in an alternative fashion. We wanted the theme of the film to be joy, and thriving rather than just surviving.
I painted a series of traditional Islamic art patterns in pastel colours and glitters, rather than their traditional rich colours and gold detailing. Shasha collected her favourite pastel items, as well as some traditional Indian pieces to create three looks. The looks went from very pink, very pastel looks with a wig to slowly becoming a bit more wearable and revealing more of Shasha’s features, such as her black hair. We wanted the looks to tell a story where it was about her finding her own rhythm and place in the world through her unique style.
For the both of us it was important to show the mix of cultural themes with a modern fashion, and the beauty of a darker skin tone. I made Shasha smile and laugh a lot during the filming because again, the underlying theme was joy! We wanted to celebrate.
Since the conversation we wanted to have with these videos was partly about social media, and a response to “pale blogs” I chose to present the films as square - since square videos are the most popular on social platforms.
The videos are also set to Indian drumming loops that have a pop feel to them, as another way to mix up all of the different cultural elements.