London

They turned a school project into a unique London-based cultural clothing line

Two London university students have turned a school project into a unique cultural clothing and lifestyle brand aimed at celebrating and preserving identity.

Gulistan is an Afghan-Pakistani clothing and lifestyle brand

Ramla Naqvi, left and Almas Farooqi Lodin are both behind Gulistan. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Two London-based university students have turned a school project into a unique cultural clothing and lifestyle brand aimed at celebrating and preserving identity.

Almas Farooqi Lodin, an Afghan-Canadian, and Ramla Naqvi, a Pakistani-Canadian, first pitched the idea for a fashion-forward Afghan-Pakistani clothing line about a year and a half ago in a class at King's University College at Western University.

After some research and saving up, the 22-year-olds made their vision come to life last week when they launched Gulistan online.

"The experience of getting cultural clothing is one of those things that ties you to home or your culture, especially having these dual identities. We wanted to make sure that's not a rare experience," said Farooqi Lodin.

This is an Afghani piece inspired by traditional patterns. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

"We weren't really finding these products here and … [we] wanted to bring that here," added Naqvi.

Fashion-forward

Gulistan, which translates to rose garden, mainly sells colourful and embroidered dresses and three-piece sets.

The women came up with the idea after they realized there weren't many local shops that sold cultural wear that appealed to them.

Whereas, Gulistan offers more "modest, stylish and fashion-forward," said Naqvi.  For example, some of the items can be paired with less traditional accessories like sneakers.

A Shalwar Kameez is a three-piece Pakistani set. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

"It's less about changing the product and making it our own and more about presenting it in a different way.  A lot of the designs that we have are ones that are inspired by designs that have existed," said Farooqi Lodin.

"We are working with what we know and being authentic and not romanticizing some version of back home," she added.

She said the brand's target audience is the Afghan-Pakistani community. However, it also welcomes all fashion enthusiasts who wish to respectfully support the brand.

Accessibility a priority

Farooqi Lodin and Naqvi said many brick-and-mortar shops aren't accessible when it comes to sizing, availability and pricing.

Gulistan launched on May 21. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

It's why the pair made it a priority to ensure their clothes come in all sizes and avoid industry markups. They also said their online presence can reach a wider community.

"This wasn't about making money," said Farooqi Lodin. "Mainly there's such a history in people behind each design that comes from each province that we want to create a platform to celebrate and explore."

The two are looking at expanding their brand to sell men's clothing and eventually branch out to include other cultures.

For now, the students-turned-designers are entering their fourth year at Western and "still figuring out" work-school balance.

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