At the workshop, we sometimes have particularly inspiring encounters that remind us of the importance that clothing can have on a person. The right clothes can give you self-confidence and have an impact on your day-to-day life, and that's no mean feat. Our meeting with Ghazaleh helped us to remember why we chose this job. I'm delighted to be able to share this wonderful exchange with her.
I was contacted by Ghazaleh Mirakhori. I have the impression that when
Ghazaleh is determined, she doesn't give up easily, as she contacted me on almost every possible platform in the same week: it was impossible to ignore her! Ghazaleh has recently been represented by the inclusive modelling agency Kello. So she decided to contact brands for whom she would like to model. The agency's website features this mission:
"Kello Inclusive is an art agency exclusively representing disabled and visibly different talent; because the beauty of disability, diversity and difference deserves to be represented fairly and fully."
Ghazaleh was born in Iran with a shorter and atypically shaped arm. She is very dexterous with her two asymmetrical hands, and functions normally with both limbs. For appearance's sake, she was quickly forced to wear a prosthesis, which hindered her far more than the looks of others. Her dexterity without the prosthesis was far superior, but it took Ghazaleh several years to listen to herself and finally abandon the prosthesis... in the waste bin of the laboratory where she was studying. It was thanks to her studies in chemical engineering that she made the journey from Iran to here. Her doctorate at the École Polytechnique de Montréal focuses on the experimental development of techniques for studying the hydrodynamics of complex reactors. In particular, her research is looking at the use of microwaves to recycle post-consumer plastic. She is interested in the circular economy and waste management, concepts that are also close to our hearts.
When she contacted us, the idea we had in mind was not to do a photo project. We were mainly interested in her relationship with clothes in relation to her difference. In the past, she had never had clothes altered or created for her. So we developed two items based on pieces from our collections that inspired her and suited her body. No more rolling up a sleeve to get access to her hand! Ghazaleh was touched to wear a garment as unique as her for the first time. For us, the beauty of having a sewing workshop is being able to adapt our clothes to the individual needs of our community.
During a discussion on body diversity, Ghazaleh told me that she began to embrace her own differences when she discovered Instagram. She saw another woman with the same difference for the first time, and rather than hiding it, she photographed it, showed it and talked about it. Ghazaleh realised that by being visible, her activism could serve marginalised communities. That's how being a model came into her life, as a way of claiming her place.
Following these discussions, and Ghazaleh's delight at trying on the clothes sewn for her, the idea of a photo series emerged. We wanted to create images that breathed summer and were bright, like her. For the last twelve years, we've used the Champ des Possibles as a place to rest and get together. It's a place where we can recharge our batteries, just a stone's throw from the studio, a small nugget of intimate, almost wild nature. So it was there, in all simplicity, that we arranged to meet Ghazaleh to photograph her in our linen and cotton basics. In the tall grass, she tells me that she grew up on a farm where her family grew cotton. The field gives her a certain nostalgia that makes her smile. Just goes to show that we often find ourselves in the most unexpected situations!
For us, giving Ghazaleh a voice by giving her a new channel to reach out and touch other people who feel different is quite a privilege. To have the means to transform clothes to suit the uniqueness of her body is another. Thank you Ghazaleh for coming to us with all your charisma and openness. It's generous of you to take the time to make yourself visible, so that you in turn can become an inspiration.