As part of the exclusive contents of AC, linked to the artists of our community, on this occasion we had the opportunity to talk with the entrepreneur and fashion designer, Afroja K, who has an amazing and interesting fashion design proposal, where co-exist the physical and the digital, creating phygital pieces.
As an entrepreneur and very involved in the Web3, Afroja has created production spaces, with advanced technologies, such as Dress X, creating interesting designs in the virtual world.
Afroja K is a trailblazing entrepreneur and businesswoman based in London, UK. She is the Founder CEO of Neomodest that celebrates the beauty of modest fashion through disruptive fashion ideas for both the conventional and digital fashion spaces. She is also the founder of Hijab On Demand, the first-ever web 3 and digital hijab brand offering phygital hijabs, scarves and bandanas.
Afroja is passionate about empowering women and promoting diversity in the fashion industry. She believes that modest fashion should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or beliefs. Through Neomodest and Hijab On Demand, she is committed to making modest fashion more visible and to creating a more inclusive fashion industry.
To learn a little more about all this, we leave you with our guest, Afroja K.
Phani: Afroja, tell me about your professional background, and how do you establish links with the world of fashion?
Afroja: Thank you to The Artist Collective, for this amazing opportunity to share my thoughts on fashion, entrepreneurship and my experience in the fashion industry!
I’m a legal professional, and I’m studying Law at one of the top Law schools in London to be a Barrister in the UK. As a legal professional, I’ve always wanted to work in human rights sectors and through my initiative in phygital, inclusive and sustainable fashion, I wanted to show the intersection of fashion and human rights. I truly believe sustainable fashion including the innovative fashion techs can solve the problems in the fashion industry while empowering people working for brands and factories.
As a tech minded startup founder with a solid legal background, I’m highly ambitious about my startup and my work in web 3 and AI fashion.
PH: Can you tell me about Neomodest? It looks like a very attractive fashion proposal.
AF: I’m the founder CEO of NEOMODEST based in London. It’s the first-ever modest fashion startup offering AI-generated phygital (digital & physical) and sustainable fashion. We offer bespoke luxury modest clothing and accessories for women of all sizes and backgrounds. We also offer limited edition clothing and accessories to avoid unnecessary production. Our limited edition products come as NFTs (Non-fungible token) as well to reward our customers with real world utilities. As we follow our roadmap, we’re going to offer all the latest features like AR, virtual shopping, gaming skins, avatar outfits, wearable NFTs and more. We’ve partnered with DressX to offer digital fashion and our upcoming partnership with Union Avatars will offer modest outfits for avatars which can be used on different Metaverse platforms like Spatial. We have our atelier in West London, where our Couturier and artisans take care of our production. I have my plan to work and collaborate with more designers and artisans from around the world to empower them. At this stage, I’m looking for investors and with available funds, we can be the leading modest fashion brand in the market.
PH: Based on your experience as an entrepreneur, what are the challenges that women may face when they decide to start a business?
AF: I think there’s a huge gender gap in the business world, and it’s more likely that Muslim or other minority women entrepreneurs face more challenges compared to the white women. In terms of VC funding or other funding options, women face discrimination and challenges to raise funds for their startups despite their efforts and possibilities. For Muslim women, it’s indeed more challenging to start and run their own businesses as there are cultural and religious barriers, though religions don’t discourage women to work or run businesses. It’s again dominated by the male-dominated societies.
PH: Afroja, what is Hijab on demand about? What are its objectives? For whom it is?
AF: Hijab On Demand is my second venture, and it’s just focused on hijabs or scarfs to solve the inclusion problem in fashion and our societies. My purpose is to normalize scarfs as we offer phygital hijabs, scarfs and bandanas for women and girls. In recent years, hijab or headscarf has been a political issue and Islamophobia is one of the key issues behind the scene. Through my products and marketing strategies, I want to inform the public that modest fashion or faith based fashion should be respected. Besides, I want to educate them about women’s rights to wear outfits according to their own choice and comfort. Most importantly, the scarf isn’t just for Muslim women, it’s an important part of our style and fashion irrespective of gender and culture.
PH: What is fashion for you?
AF: As an individual, my choice of fashion has been influenced by my religion and my personal values. I believe fashion represents our personality, and we should think about the impacts of what we do or wear. It’ll solve so many problems in our communities and in the world if we think this way!
PH: What are your main sources of inspiration when designing?
AF: As my key inspiration was inclusion and sustainability, I use AI tools to execute my mission. I try to represent slow fashion and inclusion through my designs. Since 2020, I’ve created a good number of upcycled projects and my designs and handstitched patchwork patterns have been appreciated by my online community and customers. This artisanal patchwork fashion is also a great inspiration for me, as this type of fashion project ultimately empowers the artisans (mostly underprivileged women) who deserve more recognition and support.
PH: How is the day to day of a fashion designer?
AF: Since I’m working in AI fashion, imagination and vision are the most crucial factors for me to create my designs. We’re offering phygital fashion means 3D fashion or 3D rendering is another most important part of our design process. I’ve to work with my freelance 3D designers’ team to guide them through the process, and then I’ve to work with my Couturier for the physical production. As a visionary AI fashion designer, I do my research on more sustainable fashion design and production solutions and how we can represent cultures and communities. Since we’re still at the early stage of our business, there’ll be more collaborations and partnerships with other designers, creators, retailers and brands. So, it’s quite a lot to do as a designer or CEO. I hope to hire my team members to distribute the work for our greater interest.
PH: Tell me about the links of your work with the digital world and Web3.
AF: As we’re partnering with digital fashion platforms like DressX, Union Avatars and more, our customers can claim the digital outfits or NFTs on those platforms where possible and in most cases, customers will be able to claim and mint their NFTs when they buy our physical products. Since Metaverse platforms are mostly at their early stages, more platforms will offer wearable products and as a brand, we’ll be able to link our physical items to digital platforms.
PH: Afroja, what do you believe? What do you love? And, what are you afraid of?
AF: I believe humans can transform the world into a better and greener place empowering one another, ignoring the divisions and cultural differences. I believe everyone has potential irrespective of their gender and background, whereas AI and digitalization technologies will create more opportunities for everyone.
As an individual, I love to undertake initiatives that nobody else is doing and through my work, I love to help others. Besides, I like to keep control over what I do. Most probably, I love a minimalist lifestyle!
I’m a very optimistic person, but I’m afraid climate change is going to affect all of us and human rights will be at risk, specially for vulnerable populations like women, children and financially vulnerable communities around the world.
PH: Throughout your career as a fashion designer, what experiences or challenges marked you, and in what way?
AF: I started to showcase my work as a slow fashion designer, and I’ve had collaboration with slow fashion platforms like Slow Fashion Movement (UK). I’ve shared my thoughts and designs through my podcast and social media platforms. I’ve interviewed slow fashion activists to know and promote their ideas. Then as an entrepreneur and AI Fashion designer, I’ve got recognition from different print and electronic media and other web 3, Metaverse and phygital fashion platforms. I believe my work should get more exposure to encourage other artists, designers and entrepreneurs.
PH: So far, which of your works do you consider the most important, and why?
AF: My initiative to offer phygital modest fashion in both Web 2 and Web 3 spaces is definitely the most important part of my entrepreneurial journey. As I’m also the pioneer in AI fashion as a modest fashion designer and entrepreneur, it’s also another milestone for me.
I know more and more entrepreneurs and designers are being inspired by me, and that’s what I wanted. They’re asking me for collaborations, and that’s why it’s so important to do something that matters and empowers others.
PH: What readings and authors have accompanied you throughout your life?
AF: I must admit that I read regularly from any available sources that matter to me, but in most cases, I only keep the lessons and information to enrich my knowledge and to inform others. In most cases, I can’t remember the names of the authors! Though I was born and raised in an Asian country, I used to read English short stories in my childhood, and they influenced me a lot. I read Robin Crusoe by Daniel Defoe a few times in my school life as I felt inspired. Orientalism by Edward W. Said is another great piece I felt inspired to read and learn from it.
I also read a few books on justice, human rights and other global issues by Amartya Sen. I also read lots of Human Rights Journals and books by top researchers and academics from Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and other leading Universities.
All of these books made me more confident and inspired me to research and learn more.
PH: Afroja, how do you think Web 3 can make the world a better place?
AF: Since Web 3 offers decentralization features, I believe it will offer financial opportunities for more and more creators, artists, designers, developers, businesses, learners and people from all walks of life. Consumers and creators will own assets, and it can be a game changer to empower underprivileged communities. With web 3, AI will add more opportunities too.
PH: In your opinion, where are the next trends in the world of digital fashion headed?
AF: Since we’re more into social media and more people are creating content on social media, digital fashion will be a great source for unique content and self-expression. Wearable fashion including AR and try-on fashion will be a huge thing in the next few years. AI fashion is going to be another big factor to make digital fashion more attractive and accessible.
PH: What would you recommend to women who want to be entrepreneurs, even those that have already started, and are in the process of achieving success?
AF: I’m not a successful entrepreneur yet, but I’d always recommend women to start their own businesses. I believe everyone doesn’t need to build brands to be successful. We can sell everything we want, including services or products. Entrepreneurship gives more freedom, and ecommerce gives us more opportunities to do business flexibly. In fact, there are certain businesses, where we don't even need websites, but it could make us millionaires. Women should learn investing skills and starting with gold jewelries is a good option for women as they normally own jewelries.
I think keeping updated with social media trends and skills is very important for founders while being aware of our businesses, potentials and challenges. Partnerships and collaborations are important for many businesses and so, due diligence is crucial while partnering. Finally, a skilled and visionary founder can make a project successful today or tomorrow!
At The Artist Collective, we are very grateful to our friend Afroja K, who opened up her creative world to us, and from her own words, made her interesting fashion work known.
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