Osman Yousefzada on why we are stronger together
The multidisciplinary artist and designer speaks to writer Zainab Jama to discuss his new film ‘I'm Coming’, the process of collaborating over Zoom, and encouraging new ways of thinking
By Zainab Jama Friday 14 May 2021
As we emerge from the deep slumber of lockdown, we should all take a moment to appreciate the creatives around the world who found new ways of giving us hope and inspired us to remain optimistic during a difficult year.
One such creative is the London-based multidisciplinary artist and fashion designer, Osman Yousefzada. ‘I think this period of pause has really allowed me to put things into perspective,’ he says. During a decade in which social, political and environmental issues have spiralled dangerously out of control, Yousefzada is committed to using his art – in its multifarious forms – as a platform to share his point of view. He wants ‘each piece of work to encourage strength, inclusion and harmony with our environment.’
Yousefzada’s latest film, I’m Coming, which premiered at London Fashion Week earlier this year, is a continuation of themes explored in a poem that he released alongside it. Both are based on his own feelings of displacement. As the son of Pakistani-Afghan migrants, Yousefzada explains it’s the first time that he’s consciously included his own experiences of ‘otherness’ into his practice. He believes representation is ‘important for people who haven’t been able to see similar faces in the creative landscape. Lockdown increased my TV and social media uptake. And after a really divisive election campaign on the other side of the pond, I really liked the delivery and poem of Amanda Gorman for the Biden inauguration. It had a message of healing and it felt right.’
'Representation is important for people who haven’t been able to see similar faces in the creative landscape'
Also high on Yousefzada’s agenda was the impact of fashion on the natural environment. ‘The fashion world conversation is gearing up for another Roaring Twenties,’ he says. ‘I’m worried that the overconsumption associated with that period may mean we haven’t learnt anything during lockdown. I do hope we can go forward to be more active citizens, and that we’re in tune with our environment. We need to understand our footprint on this planet and take responsibility.’
For the film, he worked alongside artist, friend and former model Zoe Marsden, who has walked for some of his fashion shows. On the process of collaborating, Yousefzada says, ‘You need many people and teams to bring your ideas to fruition. We brainstormed over Zoom and discussed how to bring different settings and artists into this collaboration. Zoe knew an artist and singer based in St Kitts, and I had some contacts in Karachi for a tabla artist.’
Yousefzada hopes viewers will realise that we’re a global community – ‘we are connected economically, socially, and culturally,’ he says. ‘What I want people to take away from this poem and film is how important it is to value life, and to understand the inherent inequalities that exist in a system that’s biased to one set of people. I hope it encourages a new way of thinking.’
His expressions of creativity have been wildly celebrated, and in the year to come Yousefzada hopes that the return to a new normalcy will also include more meaningful interactions and exchanges of ideas. He concludes our conversation with a message of hope that we all undoubtedly share: ‘Together we are stronger.’
To find out more visit osmanstudio.com