By Asna launched its first fashion line in Kuala Lumpur in June this year comprising three collections: resort wear, ready-to-wear, and traditional premium caftans. The fabulous textiles are handwoven Tenun Pahang, Songket, Pua Kumbu from Sarawak, and handmade silk Batik. Pieces are embellished with handmade wild silk thread trimming and beads. In an interview with the founder, Hasna Douafi shares her inspiration and her creative exploration in presenting a cross-cultural heritage.
Share with us the birth of by Asna?
It all started with a simple anecdote that grew to become an exciting entrepreneurial adventure. In 2015, I was at my tailoring workshop in Abu Dhabi, adjusting the measurements and cuts of a new dress I had designed, when a group of women entered the shop to pick up their outfits. When the ladies approached me to ask about the brand of that dress, I was standing in front of the mirror, checking the materials and the embroidery of my design. Feeling surprised, I explained the combination of designs and luxurious sustainable fabrics from Asia (tenun, songket, brocade and pua kumbu), the handmade trimming from Morocco and the western touch that I had exquisitely assembled.
The story behind each step, from the trimming by single and widowed mothers in Morocco, to the noble handwoven fabrics made by passionate artisans of several Malaysian kampung, the support for craftsmanship, combined with the refined end product, was very much appreciated by the women. Two ladies turned to the tailor and asked him for the same item. This was the starting point that empowered me to design bespoke and exclusive pieces for the local clientele. The collection is currently available in Malaysia and is expanding in Indonesia, Singapore, and across the Gulf countries.
What was your inspiration behind the collection?
Born in Belgium to Moroccan parents, I am naturally interested and inspired by other cultures and people, as I am a result of a cross-cultural “product”. After much time spent accepting my roots, I found myself being a proud Belgian and European woman with Moroccan roots-and sometimes, I confess, a side would prevail depending on the situation. On top of my corporate/diplomatic career, I have always been passionate about my cross-cultural heritage and how it allows me the form of self-expression and share it with others. I believe that embracing and sharing this immense wealth not only preserves our cultural heritage, but it allows us to build strong bridges amongst people, which is even more important, as it often contributes to powerful cultural diplomacy.
How does fashion empower a woman?
I would describe fashion as a powerful tool for self-expression and confidence, which reflects the individuality and personality of a woman. It allows women to express feelings without having to say a word, which is to me a form of art and communication as well.
Nowadays, we hear and see more and more women’s empowerment initiatives all around the globe, which is sadly still very much necessary. Concerning the fashion industry, I strongly believe that fashion allows women’s self-empowerment. It allows them to connect with people, to foster a more inclusive and diverse society through their creativity, their contribution to innovation, ethical and sustainability, craftsmanship, and support to communities by creating job opportunities as it contributes to the livelihood of everyone working across the industry.
How would you describe the by Asna designs?
The designs are clean cuts with impeccable details: all pieces are crafted for a seamless fit, with refined details and variations. At the heart of by Asna is an ethos of sophistication, feminism, authenticity and sustainability.
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