Invest in Yourself

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If someone would have told me ten years ago I would be working in fashion someday, I would have probably laughed hard at them (...).

I have always been a visual person : younger, I was doing all those collages, taking pictures all the time, and I always knew somehow that I would do something with image. But fashion? It would have never occurred to me one second.

I was a careless teenager, experimenting a lot of stuffs : and from the day I have been given the freedom to shop on my own, I made it to every single existing style tribes at some point. Then in high school, I found myself listening to rock and metal music, skateboarding, and driving my whole family crazy (let’s just say it is not very common for African parents to have a punk-rocker child in the house), until the day my very open-minded mom had enough, cut off all my baggy jeans and took me on a shopping spree to - basically - get me a new life. This is how I went from weirdo to casual, from casual to trendy, and from trendy to… what I guess was fashionable then.

Now you might be asking yourself why I am telling you all this, but the thing is I believe we are the sum of everything we experience, and our actions, the results of what we are. And if I hadn’t been through all of the above (and below), my (first) magazine - Ghubar - would have probably never been.

I used to have a shoesaholic blog "The High Heels Chronicles", and do you remember Myspace? Well, this is (kind of) where everything started. I was already very digitally involved then : my nickname was MissDrums (tribute to the era I used to play), and I had a very (very) cool and super stylish profile page attracting cyber-friends from everywhere (visual, I told you). This is how one day of Spring 2008, a girl contacted me to join a community website project revolving around black fashion, created by some fellow young talented African people. As it was my best skill, I offered to manage the Image and Communication of the website. It was an exciting and innovative venture I was definitely thrilled to be part of, as there was absolutely nothing like that at that time. But my experience there didn’t last long.

On august 2008 23rd, I got into a car accident that lucky is a weak word to describe how I feel to have survived and still be walking. I was hospitalized for a month, and sentenced to stay home for 3, to get re-education and cares. As I couldn’t move much, not even remain seated for too long, I had to put college on hold for the whole year (...), but desperately in need to stay connected no matter what, my mom and I found that the best solution to my problem was a portable computer - and my (first) macbook was yet the best purchase of my life.

Despite the convalescence, I was still operating as communication manager, but my will to get more involved into the project was fading : the more the time went by, the more I felt the urge of doing more by myself, for myself. So I left. And I decided to give life to something of my own.

Somehow, the accident awakened something in me that I had never felt before, and if I first thought I was crazy for getting signs from everywhere, I know now that it was just me, finding my purpose.

A month later, two of the people I met there also walked out, and reached out to me for us to do something together. I presented them the very first Ghubar layout along with the essence of the project, and they immediately jumped on board. At this very moment, I would have never known this was the beginning of something bigger than my-small-self.

I started working on Ghubar in October 2008, with absolutely nothing, but a vision of how I wanted thing to be. I didn’t know what a budget was, neither how to pull clothes from PR houses, but I knew how I wanted everything to look like. I had to be creative to make my work look as sleek as if I had shot in a studio with designers clothes (did I mention that I first started shooting with my own stuffs?) Well… It took time, but I slowly got there.

Three months later, on January 2009 5th, the first issue launches, and five years later, I am honestly wondering What the hell I got myself into?

When the magazine first came out, everybody thought it was exclusively addressing a black crowd, which was definitely not the case. So the month after, I put a white girl on the cover, and yet they all got confused (…). The question was Who is this magazine talking to? Then I understood I would have to fight to make people understand what I was rooting for despite of my own skin color : I didn’t want to create a magazine for girls like me - only - but for girls (and guys) who felt like me, who felt like they’ve been forgotten or intentionally cancelled from all fashion representations in the magazines style and beauty pages.

The sad thing is we live in a society where people tend to put everything in boxes that I am always trying to break, and my goal was to bring and mix people, genders, trends, styles, prices, all together, and market it like that. It was about serving Online Fashion for All.

I launched this project right on time when the openly first debate about the lack of black girls on the runways was blowing, and I couldn’t help but ask myself Why is this industry making such big deal about it?

I mean, fashion is fun and all, but hey, at the end of the day, we’re all going back to ashes, so at some point I believe we should all chill about the things we’re making big deals about. Would it (really) hurt a brand, a designer, a make up artist or a cabin dresser to deal with a little bit more color backstage? I don’t think so. And that was my point.

Ghubar means dust in arabic, it’s also the name of an ancient calligraphic script known to be as fine as dust particles. I fell on it while researching fonts for the magazine logo, which was originally supposed to be called Five (…) but that’s another story.

I knew it was what I was looking for because it immediately made sense to me : reminding me this old quote « What comes to dust, comes back to dust », it was taking me back to the fact that I had survived that accident, and should never take anything in this life for granted nor too seriously. What I could do instead, was trying my best to give a meaning to what became the rest of my life that day, before eventually going back to dust, when my time would come. So this is what I decided to do.

See, Ghubar is not just a fashion magazine ; I was not an expert in fashion, nor in any kind of arts. I just wanted to do something meaningful, and send a message to anyone who would be interested in listening. I didn’t do it to attend shows (I didn't even know that I could go), neither to be famous : I just did it because it was giving me a purpose, and that was enough to make me happy. Then it took another dimension, and I feel great about it today, but if it didn’t, I know something else would have, because that fire that awakened in me few years ago, was simply the root of my entrepreneurial adventure.