‘If people are willing to spend money on conserving their homes, heirlooms and artwork, why wouldn’t they do the same for their clothes?’ – it’s a question that prompted Amna Al-Misned, a Class of 2017 Fashion Design graduate from VCUarts Qatar to pioneer a service that combines her fashion design skills, with her steadfast commitment to raise awareness on sustainability in fashion, in the community.
Unlike most design students, Al-Misned started her own brand of ready-to-wear clothes before she joined VCUarts Qatar. However, stepping out of university with a better appreciation of sustainable fashion, and back into the commercial aspects of designing and producing clothes including abayas, made Al-Misned pause, and reconsider her options.
“When I initially started my brand – Terzi – with bespoke pieces tailored using expensive material, I realized that customers were willing to spend on a design they loved,” says Al-Misned. “Yet with time, and after my university studies, I was appalled at the sheer volume of cut-offs that were being thrown away. As someone who believes in sustainable fashion, I realized I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know this. I decided to do something about it.”
Al-Misned started out by saving each and every piece of cut-off material. Once she had enough, she started experimenting with designs for accessories made out of these cut-offs. For a start, she started handing out samples of such cut-off-based accessories to her family and friends.
An opportunity to display her repurposed collection in public came around when she took part in ‘Unwasted’, an event organized by a group of female designers, artists and activists to raise awareness of the sheer amount of clothing and textiles that end up in waste fill, in most communities. At ‘Unwasted’, Al-Misned exhibited a capsule collection of abayas, ready-to-wear garments, and accessories that she had fashioned out of cut-offs.
As her brand Terzi acquired a steady base of customers, Al-Misned took the next step in her drive for sustainability – offering to repair and redesign the expensive abayas that her customers had purchased from her.
“Fashions change, and wear-and-tear happens – so it’s only natural that customers would want to buy new clothes,” she explains. “This made me wonder if I could help them out by offering to make minor changes to their existing pieces, refreshing the look and feel in the process. And repair minor damages as well.”
Al-Misned says that she was pleasantly surprised and encouraged at the positive response. So much so that recently, she officially made the service a part of her brand. Today, operating from a studio in Doha, Al-Misned and her small team help customers increase the longevity of the clothes they love, and tailor clothes from cut-offs, while creatively turning accessories into ready-to-wear clothes.
“Recently, we repurposed a box-full of tote bags – that were meant for an event that got cancelled – into shirts,” says Al-Misnded. “These were part of the capsule collection at ‘Unwasted’ as well. We even used the handles of the tote bags, incorporating them into the design as a fashion statement.”
Al-Misned says that the local community is increasingly becoming aware of the need to make sustainable practices and outcomes a part of daily life, especially in the realm of fashion. And, she points to the role of young designers in this.
“As a fashion designer and creative director of a womenswear and lifestyle brand, and as a global citizen, I feel that it is my responsibility to unlearn and learn everyday ways in which I can contribute to sustainable fashion, and to always be conscious and ethical,” says the VCUarts Qatar alumna. “It is not easy, but I am determined, and slowly but surely I am incorporating this as a significant part of the vision and mission of my brand.”