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The graduate creating menswear reimagining Muslim tradition

Nazifa Begum’s Oummra collection, made with the Bala Club music collective, explores how young Muslim men navigate between their upbringing and youth culture

Newly graduating LCF menswear designer Nazifa Begum is presenting a collaborative, concept-driven iteration of her graduate collection in London this week as a presentation and accompanying film. The project, called Oummra, brings together the creative exploits of Begum, along with metal maker Slim Barrett, photographer Sam Bayliss Ibram, visual artist Hayden Martin, music collective Bala Club and others, and centres around the designer’s interest in her own British-Bangladeshi roots and how young Muslim men navigate between their upbringing and youth culture.

“I was just really into the double lives lead by British Bangladeshi Muslims, trying to keep up with London culture, working through their sexualities but retaining their traditions,” says Begum.

Begum’s aesthetic is part teenage-boy, part militant clubwear – exaggerated rave trousers and baggy graphic t-shirts with Islamic iconography, served up for the presentation and video, against a soundtrack of distorted Bangladeshi flutes (created by Kamixlo, Bala Club’s co-founder). The designer reimagines Bengali poetic script and images of the ancient Black Stone of Mecca through brass pendants hanging from oversize wax jackets and as print on t-shirts. “There's some resemblances to the clothes worn to hajj, and there’s some rebellions like the use of silk, which isn’t allowed to be worn by men in Muslim culture,” Begum explains.

Music feeds into the designer’s work, and the presentation will be hosted by progressive music collective Bala Club, made up of producers/DJs Kamixlo, Uli K, Endgame, and Yayoyanoh, who together run nights across London as an outlet for their own brand of heavy but emotionally charged electronic music.

“I showed Kami some traditional flute music which we distorted, and of course he put his spin on it,” Begum says of Bala Club’s sonic contribution, “They hosted the initial fundraiser event to get us to this point, but we’ve also been best friends forever, so it just made sense.”

Bala Club’s music reflects Begum’s interest in hybridity – a reflection of cross-cultural London, incorporating reggaeton, punk, and dancehall, and turning it into something completely other. While their post-presentation party line-up takes the sound to a global level, with international names like Swedish DJ/producers Toxe and alx9696; Berlin-based Shanti (also known as Yves Tumor, who is fresh from walking the Hood By Air show), and Yung Lean-associated producer ECCO2K.

For the video that accompanies the collection, Begum has drawn on her peers and other young creatives who are immersed in youth culture or enticed by it, like photographer Sam Baylis Ibram, stylist Jason Hindley, who both work closely with Nasir Mazhar – the designer exploring multiculturalism and street culture through branded menswear. Bringing on board her friends to art direct and model makes sense because they’re the people she’s designing for. “I want all my friends to wear me.”

Against an uncertain global backdrop, Oummra is bringing music, art and fashion together organically, in a collaborative, DIY, effort to create something truly relevant.

Oummra presentation takes place at Stage 3, Hackney Empire on June 24