Kurdish designer Lara Dizeyee on celebrating 'beautiful resilience' of women with fashion

Kurdistan’s cultural attire, with its rainbow colours and delicately designed patterns, was in the spotlight in Paris

Through her vibrant designs, Lara Dizeyee, creative director of Kurdish Haute Couture, is highlighting Iraqi-Kurdistan’s cultural heritage on the world stage. Creating traditional gowns with a modern twist, the designer presented her autumn 2023 collection during Paris Haute Couture Week in July.

The collection reflects her vision of Kurdish women, whom she describes as “powerful and resilient”. “I was very excited and grateful to share the colours of my culture through my creations. It was a night full of love and emotions that I will always remember,” says Dizeyee.

The designer was born in Vienna and grew up in the US; however, her love for Kurdistan and its deep-rooted historic culture and folklore is endless. Ahead of the show, Dizeyee had only six weeks to prepare. The collection includes 30 looks, each meticulously paired with matching jewellery and accessories. Every piece is carefully crafted by Dizeyee and features a rainbow of colours and delicately designed patterns embodying Kurdistan’s long history and traditions.

A traditional Kurdish outfit features a lot of colour. It can be a long dress worn by itself, or trousers and a top combined with a jacket or a vest. Belts come in co-ordinated hues or gold, with eye-catching headpieces worn to accessorise the outfit.

Dizeyee’s gowns are made from a range of luxurious fabrics, which include satin, silk, velvet, lace and georgette, with each look retailing between $7,000 and $12,000.

After realising there was a lack of options when it came to Kurdish fashion, Dizeyee, who is an oil and gas expert, decided to create her own line of clothing, and she became the creative director of Kurdish Haute Couture last year.

“Everyone knows what a kaftan from Morocco looks like. They know that a sari is from India because they do it in such a beautiful way, and I want the world to know what a Kurdish design looks like. I feel like I owe it to my people to share our beautiful culture with the world. I want one day to have it on the red carpet,” Dizeyee says.

Her first collection, Dream, was launched last year, and was a reflection of her pride for Kurdistan. One of the designs, which received significant attention, was named Love Story. Speaking about the design, she says she wanted to create something to “show the world that a love story can still be beautiful, even if it does not have a happy ending”.

The photo shoot for the collection took place in Erbil Citadel, a Unesco-designated world heritage site in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Dizeyee dedicates the piece to the women who have been victims of honour killings, those who were unable to marry the loves of their lives and to the women of the Peshmerga, or Kurdish military forces.

“Women, in general, need to work harder for their voices to be heard,” she says.

Dizeyee’s message for women is that “power is found within. I want to tell women: ‘Don’t wait for anybody else to make anything happen for you. You can do it. If you believe in yourself, you may go out there and make your dream come true.’”

The designer believes “everything is possible when your work transcends borders and when you believe in the merits of your mission”.

Her second collection, Fire, which debuted at Paris Fashion Week earlier this year, is dedicated to Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who was killed in custody last September, after she was arrested by the Iranian authorities for wearing “inappropriate attire”.

“I wanted to show the women of Iran and the women of the world how beautiful, resilient and powerful they are. So I mixed beautiful Kurdish costumes with a Peshmerga camouflage look,” Dizeyee explains. “I wanted to show them how I see them.”

Updated: October 16, 2023, 4:03 PM