Follow her dream
Atefa Fasihi had an unusual ambition. She wanted to make a place for herself in the fashion world, and she did it.
In a traditional society where women are expected to be neither seen nor heard she has emerged as a fashion model, showcasing Afghan designs and materials that are part of centuries-old aesthetic.
Just 21, this plucky young woman talks of her professional life as a model and her passion for clothing. "I wanted to be a model and I have succeeded," she says. "Once I spent money for my university fees on clothes that were irresistible," she recalls. Fasihi is a graduate in international relations from a private university.
What is required in the highly competitive world of fashion?
Fasihi says, "To become a model she must be a talented designer, tailor and beautiful…" Ajmal Haqiqi, also an Afghan model, is Fasihi's mentor in the profession. Fasihi says that she has developed a lot through Ajmal's help and Ajmal is the one who has encouraged her to launch out on designing and tailoring clothes.
What has been the response of people?
"Fashion and modeling were not important for people but gradually when they found that we were supporting Afghan and Islamic culture we see we have some supporters," Fasihi says. "We have held many exhibitions and shown clothes of different tribes. Our work has made a good impression."
What do people think of modeling as a career? At first people had negative views, she says. They thought models appeared in music videos and dances. "A model can present the culture of people by wearing national cloths," she asserts.
What did her family have to say about her choice of career?
As with all families, at first her family was completely against her decision to become a model. But when they saw she was adhering to Islamic values in her work they were "happy", she says.
"My family is strongly supporting me, particularly my mother," she says.
Is it challenging being a model?
Like all professions, she says, there are difficulties. "One cannot be financially self-sufficient in modeling but we can say that this profession will give good results over time. Money is not our only goal. Our goal is to showcase the culture of our country."
Fasihi, who before she turned to fashion thought she would become an actor, studied up to class nine in Mashhad, Iran, the child of Afghan migrants. About life as a migrant she says, "The memories I have is that we used to go to parks, cinemas, and bazaars. Buying things were very joyful for me." But there were difficulties in living as migrants, and the family returned to Afghanistan, she says.
What is it like travelling in Afghanistan?
She recalls a tense journey by bus from Herat to Kabul. "The road was terrifying and we feared attack by the Taleban. When we reached Kandahar, the bus stopped and the passengers were told the Taleban were nearby so we would not go forward. After one night, we continued our trip to Kabul in great anxiety," she says.
Will she act in films?
"I have not received any proposal. If I receive a proposal I will think about," she replies.
How is it living in Afghanistan?
"In the beginning it was difficult; everything seemed destroyed in Kabul. I was in depression for the first three months. The poverty and loss made me very sad. Now I love Afghanistan a lot because I feel that I am in my own country and can do any work that I like."