Freedom suits and alternate realities: enter the world of Atelier Mundane

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Words by Jameela Elfaki, Edited by Sunayah Arshad

Atelier Mundane has officially arrived. Created by London-based Iraqi sisters Zahra and Sarah Asmail and their Surinamese graphic design partner Giorgio Lieuw-On. Made especially for those who have the strength to rise up. With strong roots in fashion, architecture and fine art, their vision is combined to create the cultural fusion which makes up Mundane. 

They invite us to step into their Mirage; an alternate reality where all is not quite as it seems. The new capsule collection consists of ten full looks, with a focus on the corset (Freedom Suit) and iterations of it. With the strength of women at the forefront of the inspiration behind their work, it makes sense that they have taken typically male elements such as the Palestinian keffiyeh/shemagh and upcycled it into the bossiest of corset suits. The feeling of being powerful and free is woven deeply into their work and we applaud their vision to empower their audience.

 In an ode to unity, the contrasting stitching in the collection is based on the colours of the keffiyeh which represents Palestine, along with the colours of the Arab nations. Their intentions are to spark necessary conversations around notions of freedom and the positive differences between contrasting cultures.

AZEEMA caught up with Zahra and Sarah to explore their roots and celebrate the launch of their new collection:

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What inspires you both individually?

Looking at our heritage, history and roots, from the Babylonian era to the 21st century, so many impactful things have occurred, both positive and negative. We find it interesting how the people coped with all the highs and lows during these times. The everyday life of people experiencing happiness as well as the people in distress and how they deal with the good and the bad. We look for beauty in the Mundane things in life.

 Being sisters, we have a similar way of thinking, we know each others ins and outs and push each other wherever and whenever necessary, by being brutally honest. We can say things to each other without any hard feelings which means we get the most out of our ideas by bouncing it back and forth, questioning everything to straighten out all the kinks within these thoughts. Our differences inspire one another especially when looking at things from our own educational background.

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What does empowerment mean to you?

With the Freedom Suit for instance, we created this statement piece for the women that rise up after a downfall, the women that are resilient to negativity and  the women that won’t be taken down by any forces trying to hold them back. Using such a male dominant piece as the keffiyeh/shemagh, we put the power in the hands of the women. Playing around with the juxtaposition of women taking back control.

What necessary conversations are you hoping to initiate with your label?  

We hope to spark a dialogue about the differences and similarities between all of these different societies, whether that be Western or Middle Eastern. The differences are often shown in a negative light, but we hope to inspire people to look at the positive elements. 

Your new collection is called Mirage. What is the thought process behind its creation? 

The name of the collection comes from the notion of a smokescreen that is being held up in front of us. Governments give us only the idea of freedom, when in reality people all over the world are still suffering and how can we all be free if others are oppressed? That’s what Mirage means for us, (choosing) to see a completely different reality than the one that is actually in front of us. This is also what we kept in mind whilst creating the pieces, empowering the wearer and enabling them to tap into the most strong and confident version of themselves.

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Being based in London how has Western influence mixed with Middle Eastern influence in your collection? 

We were brought up in Western society in an immigrant household. This fueled the idea of playing around with juxtapositions. We wanted to challenge the idea of what is ‘ordinary’. So, what is ordinary? It is subjective. The things that we class as ordinary might not be the same for another and vice versa. Resulting in a collection consisting of in-complete looks, utilising a Palestinian keffiyeh, in-house developed print and shirting. 

What is next for you & Atelier Mundane? What are your aims?

At the moment we are working on the next collection and aiming to do things on a bigger scale. There is much more to come, but those things will reveal themselves when it’s time to do so. Everything will fall into place eventually.

You can follow and support mundane here and get your hands on their collection here

Photography: Rashidi Noah

Photography Assistant: Rob Akin

MUA: Alice Dodds

Models: Chiara Mottironi & Ratiba Ayadi

Art Direction: Mundane

Set Design: Mundane

AZEEMA -