“I felt like a bride should not have to choose between her heritage and beauty. They deserved both!”
When Shukri Hashi RSVP’d for a wedding a few years ago, she never realized how much it was going to impact her already burning desire for fashion. As far back as she could remember, Shukri knew she wanted to go into the fashion industry. It was in her blood after all. The daughter of a tailor, she has fond childhood memories of sitting on her father lap, hold the fabric, while he peddled away on the sewing machine. Like her father, she was always more creative than academic, so it was only natural that she would attend the London College of Fashion after high school. It was while studying there and attending Somali weddings, that this budding designer, with style in her veins, had an idea.
Born in Kenya, raised in London, but Somali by heritage, Shukri was attending Somali weddings and noticed that brides often had to choose between their heritage and an amazing wedding gown. Many Somali brides incorporate their culture into their wedding day, but only during the “preshow,” an event which usually only included the women. For this event, a tailor would take a couple of pieces of the traditional Haadiyo Daghan cotton fabric, and stitch it together to create a dress. “The dresses weren’t very flattering,” she recalls, “No real effort was put into them since they weren’t being worn for the actual ceremony.” For the ceremony, the bride would wear a traditional white wedding gown, and it was in this dress that she greeted her husband, family, and friends. The white gown was the showstopper.
Shukri had grown to love the traditional Somali Haadiyo Daghan print when she discovered it years before on her journey to both learn about her Somali culture and understand her parent’s journey, but she was not fond of how it was being used. “I felt like a bride should not have to choose between her heritage and beauty. They deserved both,” she recalls. And Shukri set out to ensure that they had it. She took the money she saved with the intent to buy a car and set off on a two-week solo expedition to China. She did not know where to go, she could not speak the language, and she was met with the word “no” everywhere she went. “No one wanted to print the Haadiyo Daghan print fabric on satin” she recalls, “and I could not use the tradition cotton fabrics to create the shapes and elegance of a wedding gown. It was very frustrating.” Then a couple of days before she was set to come home she found someone willing to help her make her dream a reality. It is these same satin prints that she now uses in her bridal gown designs.
“I never intended for people to know who was behind the brand.”
Like most superwomen, Shukri Hashi is doing more than bringing culture and elegance to Somali brides. During the day she works at a housing association for people on benefits. She helps ensure that tenants, who are having financial difficulty, do not lose their housing. Before this position, she worked with young people that had dropped out of the system. But as her brand continues to grow, it is becoming harder and harder for this designer to hide behind the wedding veil. “People have come into my job and recognized me. My coworkers had no idea of what I was doing, so it was awkward,” laughs the very shy designer, “I never intended for people to know who was behind the brand. I hate the limelight, but know it’s important to tell my story.”
Now married herself and looking to start a family, Shukri is looking to become a full-time designer by the end of the year and is even considering opening a shop. She hopes that ever Somali brides around the world will wear her gowns. For other budding designers, she advises them to “Just do it. I wish I did it earlier. It’s the best thing I ever did. Dream big and leap.” Only a few exceptionally designers impact fashion and style in a truly meaningful way. We have no doubt that Shukri Hashi will be one of them.