By Roy Lie Atjam & Pedro Bala
Fashion Diplomacy may not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Uzbekistan. The Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in the Benelux organized two glamorous fashion pageants to promulgate Uzbek fashion.
Over the years theinternational community has come to realize the role of fashion as a soft power in international relations. As much as sports, food and art are exponents of a nation’s identity, so is clothing.
The phenomena “Fashion diplomacy” has become a hype for some time now. Its artistic aspects are currently a key strategy for the cultural departments of ministries of external affairs around the world. I dare to say that since the beginning of human interaction between different societies and nations, fashion has always been used to mark the difference at the negotiation table, either for peace or war.
Today, you will still find fashion as a fundamental characteristic in the political discourse and interstate affairs. World-renowned political personalities used fashion as a diplomacy tool. Individuals such as Mao Ze Dong, Gandhi, Nehru, Kenneth Kaunda, Evo Morales, Narendra Modi and Alexis Tsipras by their style of dress and accessories, showed that fashion is a hallmark.
More recently, The Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan hosted a magnificent gala reception to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the nation’s independence on 21st September 2021 in Brussels and subsequently on 23rd September 2021 in The Hague. The events were attended by the business community, the diplomatic corps, political representatives, the Uzbek diaspora, and the public.
With the objective of promoting Uzbekistan’s culture through style, a delegation headed by the Vice-Rector of the Tashkent Institute of Textile and Light Industry, Chairman of the Osiyo Ramzi Association of Designers of Uzbekistan, the savvy madam Khalida Kamilova, along with talented designers participated in the fashion pageant of Uzbek national and modern outfits made of Uzbek silk, cotton and other natural materials.
European fashion professionals noted that Uzbekistan is one of rare countries where ethnographic outfits occupy such an elevated position in the development of modern fashion. In no other country are the elements of the national historical costumes used in modern outfits so competently, detailed and carefully crafted in the outfit. Traditional Uzbek costumes are glitzy, gorgeous, elegant, functional, of bright shades and pleasant to wear.
Alongside the galas, a fashion show featuring famous Uzbek designers showcased the Uzbek new clothing collections – which captivated the public.
The Uzbek couture featured creations from several designers. Mursak fashion house, represented by Barno Khalilova came with their collection which is in close link to the history of the Uzbek traditional costumes. Adras semi-silk fabrics are used as the main material. The collection focuses on more muted tones. Hand-embroidered suzani is used as decoration. Stylization in design made it possible to wear these costumes both to parties and for every day. Uzbek fashion without a doubt has a promising future, stretching forward to the things ahead, unfazed.
Umida Muminova presented her “oversize collection”. This collection is made of national environmentally friendly fabrics, as for example the cotton boz adras, semi-silk adras and bekasam. These fabrics are made according to the ancient technology, which is called “abrband” in Uzbekistan, and “ikat” in the west. This sophisticated weaving technique is performed exclusively by hand and consists in the fact that the threads of the fabric are tied in bundles and dyed in certain colours. Then, when the fabric is woven, a pattern is drawn on it.
Young designer Dilnoza Erkinova immerses us in the atmosphere of native motifs. This modern, youthful collection, made of natural silk and semi-silk adras, is decorated with embroideries of ornaments and handmade beads.
Dila Izamova, housed in Belgium, presented her collection of women’s jackets; a limited edition prêt-à-porter that stands out for its colours and timeless style. The collection of jackets offered by Merossi emphasizes the use of adras, woven and dyed by hand, using traditional Uzbek methods. All jackets are lined with natural viscose and the winter jackets are insulated with 100% natural silk fibre, contributing to a sustainable Uzbek fashion industry.
The experience felt in this display of Uzbekistan fashion was ground-breaking. The Uzbek emerging industry brings new, bright, and refined relationship with fashion for Western standards. Paris, New York and Milan have been characterized as fashion metropolises, I believe soon we will add Tashkent in Central Asia as a new centre of vogue that will attract designers, business, and lovers from all over the globe.
Uzbek fashion is en route to join the ranks of renowned fashion designers that top the chart in Rome, Paris, London, New York and Berlin. Cities as Istanbul, Jakarta, or Beijing should be added to the list as well. Glamour and diplomacy, Uzbek fashion has the potential to win over the world with grace and sophistication.