High fashion with an Afghan outlook.
An Australia based Pret-a-Couture designer working to bring a new school to Afghanistan.
Mariam Seddiq is a Sydney, Australia based Pret-a-Couture designer. Graduating in 2008 from Whitehouse Institute of Design she went on to win a scholarship to complete her masters at the renowned Accademia Italiana Arte-Mode Design in Florence, Italy where her taste for luxury, high-end fashion began.
An artist first and foremost, Seddiq draws inspiration from her background and culture to express her vision through unique creations. Her work focuses on transcending the boundaries between evening wear and high fashion. Her design aesthetic is a composition and passion of structured tailoring, fluid drapery, relaxed silhouettes with a touch of couture and masterful hand embellishment. She draws influences and focuses on her background and culture, which express a tribal flair. With all these essential factors of her designs,
Mariam does get distracted easily and can go from draping on a mannequin to drawing, to doing mood boards, to ripping things apart. Draping is very therapeutic for her. She loves it, she drapes so much that sometimes she can't even replicate it and then it becomes a one-off. She says it's all part of her unique process.
She debuted at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia with her Spring/Summer 2015 Collection. Mariam showcased and introduced her formal day wear and embellished sportswear as well as her Haute Couture gowns using contemporary fabrics. Her label is synonymous with conceptualism, architecture, and art the three key elements in her design ethos. All three visible in her work.
Mariam Seddiq has built great relationships with stylists all around the globe. From Magazine Covers to the Red Carpet, dressing TV personalities, movie stars, and musicians in Australia, the Middle East, and the US, including Kelly Rowland, Iggy Azalea, and Havana Brown just to mention a few. She is currently working with the Women's Council and prominent leaders in Afghanistan to establish, the first in Afghan History, a Fashion Institute of Afghanistan. So please, make sure you definitely read that part of the article because it is what intially drew me to her and it's quite fascinating.
SHOP HER COLLECTION
Mariam has a large selection of her work for sale online including tops, pants, dresses, and more from multiple collections starting at $230.
Mariam Seddiq in conversation
An in-depth interview conducted at her studio in Sydney.
Do your background and culture inspire you?
Not mostly, it’s really interesting because it just comes through. I used to not embrace my culture growing up because when I was 5 or 6, we lived in a predominately Anglo-Saxon Australian area, and my brother and I used to get teased a lot. We were teased about our skin by being asked if we had painted it brown. I was born in Australia, but my background is from Afghanistan, so you just wanted to hide the fact of what you are. I was also a bit naïve, too. So sometimes when I would be teased or bullied, I didn’t even know it was happening. Later on, when I grew up and thought about it, I realized they were being racists. It was a bit much, but it obviously thickens your skin. But then, we moved to an area where it was a bit more multi-cultural when I was 13, and this is where I went to high school, and they were crazy there, too. I started embracing my culture when I was 16, when I started doing art and fashion.
What inspires you the most when you are thinking about a collection? And how does that affect your design process?
I am a scatterbrain. I get inspired by music a lot, architecture, and art. Sometimes it’s weird stuff, such as straps on a truck, it’s basically what inspires me visually. I am narrowly focused, too. If I’m doing a collection where I am inspired by shiny silver, I’ll see shiny silver everywhere. That’s all I’ll be looking for. That’s why when I am sourcing, I have to go 60 times or more because I can only search for what I want at that time. I wish it wasn’t like this, but, then this is when the quality control comes in as I am so narrow-focused.
I noticed on your website that you only list Spring/Summer and Resort.
Yes, because the thing is we only do one main collection, which is called Resort, and then we also do another collection that tackles Spring Racing because that’s a big season for us and then we also do Spring/Summer. I use heavy fabrics anyway so you can wear them for Fall/Winter, too. I don’t feel like there is a need for a collection every season because I think if we were doing that we would never have a cash flow. We also have custom clients as well. Custom clients are the main focus of the business. We have all the garments on the website, and some of it is pre-order, so if you want a specific skirt you can tell me what your waist is and fit it to that instead of just sending you a size.
Do you see yourself ever showing outside of Australia such as Paris or New York?
Yes, I do actually, New York and Paris for sure. I want to start off with the bridal line in New York this October. I feel like I could take my new designs to get a good perspective on the Bridal Industry. It’s a bit more straightforward than fashion. I have wanted to do a ready-to-wear bridal collection for 2-3 years now, but because I have been so busy with everything else I haven’t been able to focus. But, now this is my priority.
The thing is, with fashion week and with the collections I use that more as a marketing strategy. The customers that we work with are really extravagant, and their daywear is not the normal daywear. Sometimes I even design something, and then they want something adjusted, and this will always inspire me to create something else because the demand is from the real women. Fitting a woman who is comfortable or uncomfortable, or what they were paranoid about is interesting to me. So if they want something a bit more conservative, I take note. Everyone is human.
If you could change one thing in fashion, what would it be?
I would change the set rules of fashion. There are too many rules, and people should just do what they want. That’s what we do here, we do whatever we want. We only abide by the annual fashion week, which is great. Because everywhere else fashion week is two different weeks a year and if that rule ruled us we would have to do two different collections instead of the one big one.
What kind of women wear your designs?
You would be surprised. Every kind of woman, all ages, and personalities wear my clothes
Do their moods change once they have put your design on?
I sure hope so. The thing is, I don’t stop working on the design until they absolutely love it. I have never had someone walk out and say I want a refund or I hate this. Plus, the beautiful part of a custom dress is the confidence it gives the client.
What's the best piece of advice somebody in the industry has ever told you?
Tell them nothing. Take them nowhere. But this is more personal advice.
Follow Mariam on Instagram
Are there any mottos you live by?
Advice on hustling has been a big piece of it. If you want something, you are the only one who can do it the way you want to do it. I am very particular, so I like things a certain way.
How did you become so talented when it comes to embroidery?
Obviously, the embroidery comes from art. When we create the patterns, we do the artwork. We photocopy and then we have paper patterns that we can stick on the garment until we see what is going to work. And then we actually cut holes with a tool, or we use black powder. But we also, just straight on embroider all the random patterns. These are just the basics when it comes to embroidery. Plus, my mum and my grandmother were the best at crochet. My parents are from Afghanistan, so everything is stitched by hand there. I'm just hoping to keep those traditions alive.
How would you describe your brand in five words?
Fun, Abstract, Drama, Creative, and Elegant. And my client is crazy, but she is classy.
What does the word CHIC mean to you?
Chic means a lot of things. Chic doesn’t mean just what you wear. It’s an aura. You’ll meet men and women, and they are just chic. They can be wearing jeans and a gross jumper, but the aura that they have is really chic. It could be the way they sit or the way they eat. It’s not just an outer thing. I don’t think you need to be confident to be chic, I believe there is a softness to chicness it doesn’t have to be so aggressive. That’s Chic for me.
I have to be honest here for the real reason I wanted to meet and interview you. I read in a magazine that you want to establish a Fashion Design Institute in Afghanistan.
Oh, yes this is my mission.
I died when I read it, but I thought it was a truly amazing idea.
It’s harder work than I thought, but it is going to happen. So, when I was in Afghanistan, we were with a family, and one of the girls was interested in what I was doing. She was studying commerce, something completely opposite, but she really wanted to study fashion design. But there isn’t a course, no offering or school to do that. There is literally nothing so; this would be the first institute for fashion design. And it’s also very risky as it’s “fashion” so you don’t know what is going to happen. The thing is as well; when you open up any type of business in Afghanistan, you need actually be there physically to sign everything off. We have been working towards this, and we need to get security guards full time to make sure it’s safe, teachers, etc. I want to offer them online business courses, so they don’t need to sit there and make clothes for people only in Afghanistan it’s more international.
There are Afghans all over the world, and they always want their own costumes as well as they have weddings, and they need at least 50 outfits. There is a lot connected to the culture, and I’m afraid the talent is going to disappear, so this would help to keep the traditions alive. The motivation for the new generation to carry it on would be the money in the business. Why would they learn something when there is no prospective future in it? They would rather be in a profession that they provide for the family. But if they know they can provide by doing this, it will keep the traditions going.
Is the Institute just going to be for girls, or are you going to allow boys?
Yes, of course, boys will be allowed to attend, too. It would be very risky for them to attend, but I want to offer this to them as well. I want to help offer them jobs and teach them how to be their own bosses. This is really important to me. This has to happen.
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