With Covid19 restrictions slowly easing off, hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy the occasional gathering, and the wedding season will pick up again. In the meantime, Eid is at our doorstep… If you haven’t shopped for your outfit yet, or aren’t thinking of going all out with an entire outfit, then Yassmine’s line of colorful accent pieces might be just right for you. Let me introduce you a NSCAD graduate in fashion design, who has a knack for making beautiful semi-formal luxurious pieces that can bring back to life what you may already own. A beautiful luxurious hand-painted silk top, skirt, vest, or scarf might just be the item to tip your outfit off the scale, without breaking the bank. This is the kind of shopping I can comfortably stand behind: small scale, handcrafted, locally made, sustainable, focussed, and timeless.
It’s perfect for the minimalist, a capsule wardrobe, and for those who have grown to appreciate the beauty of simplicity the last few weeks. This being said, if you just love color, and are on the lookout for a hijab or a custom piece that will elevate your style to the next level, then YHWasfy has you covered too! Let’s meet the lady behind the brand, and if you like what you see, go ahead and contact her on Instagram or Facebook to get your hands on your own unique piece of textile art!
Y.H.Wasfy stands for Yassmine Hossam Wasfy, the person behind the design and production of a luxury fashion brand that’s all about prints and hand-painted luxury fabrics like habotai silk. She believes in the energy of color and wants to reflect women’s femininity and strong spirit through unique colour combinations. Her aim is to offer affordable semi-formal luxury fabrics that modern women would love to wear. She strives for a style that shies away from complexity, dull colours and discomfort, and veers closer to the fun free spirit of the modern woman.
What’s the story behind YHWasfy?
I have been interested in fashion since childhood. I started drawing fashion garments and playing with watercolour combinations at the age of 7. I studied textiles and fashion at the Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design University (NSCADU), in Atlantic Canada. I fell in love with the heat-set technique of hand-painting and decided to create my graduation project based on it. I love the technique because it provides good printing quality, which is as precise as digital printing, but looks free hand. I believe that this effect gives the garment more energy and character. I based my brand on my graduation project collection, which was very well received by the audience at the NSCAD fashion gala runway.
You primarily work with silk, and you paint it by hand. Why? Do you use other fibres?
I love natural habotai silk and the way it drapes and shines, I paint it with dyes by hand because I believe in the uniqueness of handmade crafts. I also print, dye and paint other fabrics like organza, linen and chiffon, with different techniques depending on the material.
What is habotai silk? Why do you predilect it, and how do you choose which fabrics to use?
Habotai silk is a very beautiful lightweight silk that is relatively affordable compared to other forms of silk. It’s also the fabric of choice for handpainters, because it takes the paint really well, and allows for the vibrancy of the colors to show. It’s also ideal for summer and formal wear.
What propelled you to want to study fashion design and to start your own hand painted silk scarf business in North America?
Fashion has been my passion ever since childhood. I think the market in North America, Canada in particular, where I’m based, is open for new ideas and concepts. There’s no limit to what you can do and create as long as you have studied the market and know your audience.
So who is your customer?
You make party dresses and custom silk pieces. What attracts you to these types of designs?
My brand is mainly offering women semi-formal and cocktail dresses. What attracts me to this type of design is that it still has a lot if room for innovation. I’ve found many girls and women asking for brighter colours, more fun and less complicated party dresses. What my brand is providing is a very chic formal and party line with a unique and whimsical touch.
What do you mean by formal but whimsical? Could you elaborate?
I make garments that are formal in terms of where my customer can wear them. For example at a wedding, a party, a launching event… At the same time it’s not the strict haute couture formal, nor the Swarovski satin dress. It’s still simple, trendy, and fun, partly because it’s comfortable to wear, unlike most formal wear.
You seem to predilect quality over quantity, by making each piece by hand with high quality natural materials. This must be a very slow process, and possibly not as lucrative as faster approaches. What is your thought process behind this?
Yes, it’s definitely a slower process, but it’s focussed on the uniqueness of quality handmade items. I predominantly use non-toxic dyes, and sometimes natural dyes, which add to the beauty of designs and steer clear of the fast and commercial fashion concept.
Do you make all your own dresses and scarves, or do you hire people to do some of the work?
I’m still a start-up. I established a small studio in my house where I design and make the garments myself. I might consider getting a bigger studio with helpers, to make a relatively bigger production line.
There seems to be a boom in modest fashion, but instead of joining one of the many companies that cater to the Muslimah consumer, you have started your own line, why?
Yes, it’s true, there’s definitely more room now in the fashion industry trends for modest fashion. As a Muslim modest fashion is one of my considerations when I design my collections, in addition to maintaining a continuous scarf line that is popular among hijabi women. I consider modesty in my designs partly because I personally believe it adds to the elegance of semi-formal wear, and partly because I see a growing demand for a bit more modest semi-formal wear generally. I decided to start my own line because I believe I have something unique to offer, so I didn’t want to delay my concepts by designing for other companies. Nevertheless, I do also offer freelance fashion design services.
Talking about your own unique concepts, I noticed you are looking at pastels, large flower patterns, and even feather and bird inspirations. Although this does have some echo from the wider fashion trends happening now, it does slightly diverge from them. Where do you get your inspiration?
I initially got my inspiration from the folk arts. My first collection was inspired by the fact that I noticed the recurrence of birds in folk art from around the world. The pictures here make up my first collection, for my graduation runway project, and they form the basis of my brand.
What does your business have to offer that others don’t?
I think YHWasfy offers affordable semi-formal wear that is not only meticulously handcrafted, but is also colorful, fun, creative, and offers a uniqueness that many women appreciate and wish to celebrate when choosing to express themselves through fashion.
Are you specifically talking about accent pieces? Like a colorful blouse, a vest, a scarf? Is this why you concentrate on smaller unique pieces, rather than complete ensembles?
I think accent pieces are great because they allow women to style and wear the pieces any way they like. This helps them add their personality to their outfit, so they can look unique, in a more cost-effective way. For example, if I want to make a skirt that I had years ago pop, and become modern again, I can update it by combining it with a trendy blouse. It’s less costly than buying an entirely new ensemble, and carries all sorts of other benefits.
Your scarves are colorful and almost dream-like. What artistic concepts do you adhere to?
I base all my scarf collections on different concepts. It may be a rare type of flower, sea corals, a cultural artifact, or anything that interests and inspires me! I am also particularly interested in a variety of cultures and folkloric arts.
I’ve noticed that! Your work seems to stem from a deep love and appreciation for colorful nature, from the sea to the sky. Can we expect more muted, archetypal, uniform pieces in the future, or are you most comfortable exploring the colorful side of fashion?
Yes, my brand is based on the energy of colorful pieces and unique color combinations that I mostly dye myself. However, I would love to explore the muted color palette, but combine them with other more energetic colors. I love colors! I think that a woman who isn’t afraid to wear color is a more confident woman, and confidence looks beautiful!
Are you looking at dressing celebrities for special occasions, or are you more interested in the wearability and versatility of your pieces?
I’m dreaming of dressing celebrities of course, and I think it would be a big step for me. However, I believe that all women, with all their differences, are A list starts! My brand celebrates women and their happiness.
Do you do custom requests as well?
Yes, I do! We can customize anything as long as it fits within our brand’s concept.
What is your brand’s concept?
I can’t design something that is very far from what I make. For example, someone contacted me asking me to make a replica of a style she saw in a magazine. The dress was all made of beads and strass and had nothing to do with the idea of painted or printed fabrics. It wasn’t what I design by a long shot. There was no intersection whatsoever. What I always try to do is to meet the customer’s wants with my vision and style as a designer. There must be overlap.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
I am very excited about my debut and people’s reviews and feedback on my line! In five years I see my garments on more runways internationally.
Thank you for you time, and I wish you all the best!