When you speak to Asiya Rafiq, a modest and special needs fashion designer from Abu Dhabi; you realise her passion for fashion serves multiple purposes. An Indian national of Kashmiri origin, Rafiq defines herself as an individual who strives to help other people. She explains her psychological educational background and her certified in applied behavioural analysis play a pivotal role in possessing a sense of empathy for others which is a useful trait. With her experience in designing clothes, she wanted to do something which would benefit others.
As she narrates: “It all just happened simultaneously and collectively. During the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, I had an opportunity to volunteer for the event where I met people of determination since they were visiting the event. My work involved helping people of determination.”
She narrates one episode where she saw a young man who wanted to go for prayer but was having difficulties with his shoelaces. “He finally asked me to help and I obliged. It was from this point onwards; I opened my eyes to the fact that small things such as being unable to untie laces can go a long way towards making someone feel frustrated and helpless.” This was a stepping- stone to initiate designing work clothes for people of determination. At the core of her concept is producing high-quality work using accessories and fabric which she believes is her unique selling point. From a challenge perspective, Asiya explains: “I have come across various individuals; some were on the wheelchair who was paralysed below the waist which required easy wear clothes for the lower half body. In this case, I focused on leveling up the fabric accordingly. On the other hand, there are some people who have shaky hands or stiffness; in this case, I use magnetic buttons to help them for fixing or removing their garments. In a nutshell, every individual approach is unique.”
When asked about her personal style look, Asiya likes to put comfort at the forefront: “I like to feel comfortable in my clothes which is pivotal and ensuring it possesses an easy-going nature towards more casual outfits.” Surprisingly when asked about her favourite designers, she is quick to point her passion for designing from childhood: “I have been designing for myself, my friends and family since childhood. I received appreciation from them which boosted my confidence to improvise.” Recently, she introduced her concept of easy wear on the runway of Dubai Modest Fashion Week enabling designers to showcase modest designs. For her, it was about proving that her designs could be worn by anyone regardless if it was a runway model or a model with a disability. “My showstopper was a beautiful girl with Cerebral Palsy. I received a positive response from the audience, the show was a success.” In addition to this, she participated in the AccessAbilities Expo held at the World Trade Center, Dubai. She believes a fashion designer can improve by thinking harder before they cater their designs to the world.