‘Islam is about unity,’ Muslim Miss World Australia 2017 says

Esma Voloder, 25, has come a long way from her war-torn roots. (Photo courtesy: Miss World Australia 2017)
Updated 18 July 2017
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‘Islam is about unity,’ Muslim Miss World Australia 2017 says

DUBAI: A Muslim woman who fled the Bosnian refugee camp she spent time in as a baby has been named Miss World Australia 2017.
Esma Voloder, 25, has come a long way from her war-torn roots and was awarded the coveted crown in a competition in Melbourne on Friday.
Voloder said that she hopes to use the title to challenge stereotypes associated with Islam.
“The Islam that I know, that is in the Qur’an, I don’t associate that with any acts that are occurring around the world,” she said after her crowning ceremony.

 

My heart is full Gratitude and joy overtook me last night as I was crowned @missworldaustralia 2017 at @grandhyattmelbourne Last night re-affirmed that dreams really can become realities. We have all heard this and some of us have been fortunate to not only think it, but truly know it… though it has never prevented the doubt that creeps up on us... it is faith in the best outcome provides us with the strength and motivation to do our best and continue striving. So many people I would like to give a whole hearted thank you to- My family for your love and support. Miss World Australia team and @pageantqueenaus (Miss World Australia director) for your kindness, understanding, faith and trust in me. The judges who represented diverse and relevant elements and industries in Australia that I admire- from an organisation dedicated to helping those in need and giving women opportunity, comedy to keep us light hearted, fashion that keeps us feeling who we are, health and fitness which equips us with the energy to chase our dreams and send positive messages, and reality which showcases bravery to be who we are in front of a large audience. To @phuketpearls for the stunning crown inspired by the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge-it is so appreciated and considerate of you to have incorporated iconic Australian culture into your carefully handcrafted masterpiece, it is so beautiful and I love it dearly <3 The @hugthailand for your partnership and hospitality- I am so very excited to travel to the land of smiles once I have an extra big one to bring to your country @ozwearaustralia , @novoshoes and all our other sponsors for their generously donated gifts (products, thoughts, hospitality and love) . Each time I received something I felt so spoilt and meeting some of you has been a pleasure you are all so infectious and it really does translate in your products. Thank you for having myself as your ambassador. It has been a blessing to raise funds under #beautywithaprpose and for @varietyaustralia . Thank you Australia- for giving me a home and opportunity to do good #missworldaustralia2017

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“People tend to blame religion for the atrocities that are happening, but if we do that we take responsibility away from the individuals.”
The seasoned pageant competitor told the crowd that “a lot of things have been misconstrued about Islam.
“I feel that a category has been created that is not really what the Qur’an actually promotes. I believe Islam is about peace, unity, prosperity and inclusion.”

Voloder moved to Australia when she was five-months-old and went on to earn a degree in psychology.
She now works as a criminal profiler in Melbourne and said that she hopes to inspire unity in her new role.
“Despite what your personal beliefs are, if we all believe in what is good, we can work together and make this world a beautiful and liveable place while we are here.”

 


29-year-old Saudi designer breaks down barriers between fashion and art

Updated 21 July 2018
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29-year-old Saudi designer breaks down barriers between fashion and art

  • Art meets fashion in these thought-provoking sneaker designs, thanks to a Saudi designer with a foot in both worlds
  • The Nou Project is anything but a traditional Saudi sneaker brand — the shoes are unisex.

DUBAI: A university project turned lifelong career is not what Riyadh-born Nour Al-Tamimi had in mind when she first stepped into the world of art.
But the 29-year-old designer has managed to do just that, breaking down the barriers between fashion and art with striking clothing designs. Now Al-Tamimi has created the Kingdom’s first sneaker brand, which “speaks the truth” by featuring striking and often thought-provoking  artwork.

The Nou Project is anything but a traditional Saudi sneaker brand — the shoes are unisex. “That was the biggest thing for me, being Saudi,” Al-Tamimi said. “I was excited to come up with something that was unisex, something that Saudi men and women could wear as equals. People asked about creating flats or cute clutch bags — but I wanted to appeal to both sexes and have them find a common ground.”

Al-Tamimi’s artistic journey began at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts in Boston, where she gained a bachelor of fine arts. Soon after, she was on her way to Milan, where she was awarded a master’s in fashion at the renowned Istituto Marangoni. Later, in Los Angeles, she pursued a master’s in art business at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. “I was always into art and fashion,” Al-Tamimi said.  “I ended up doing my last semester in New York City, where I got blisters from walking around in flat shoes or stilettos. That’s whenI realized I wanted to invest in a cool pair of sneakers for daily use.”

Riyadh-born Nour Al-Tamimi

As part of the course, Al-Tamimi had to develop a business plan for a project to benefit the art world. That was when her idea came to life. “I thought it would be cool to cater to sneaker-heads and art collectors,” she said. “I wanted to have really cool sneakers with limited art and to have art on a different platform. New York, as a city, was inspirational, and it became about combining my passion for art and fashion.”

Following her graduation, Al-Tamimi spent time at an art market website that collaborated with artists to produce furniture and other household items. “It was a valuable experience,” she said. “I decided to make my business plan a reality and I met my co-creative director Basma Chidiac in New York.”

Featuring pop and street art, Al-Tamimi’s leather shoes became an instant hit. One design features water pistols by artist James Rawson, whose work addresses issues of the past 50 years, including over-consumption and global inequality.

Another favorite and a bestseller for the Nou Project includes work by Eric Yahnker with his “AirObama Cares” — a portrait of former US president Barack Obama “giving the finger”. Yahnker used gouache, a paintbrush, colored pencils and a roll of watercolor paper to create what he calls “a crude gesture that many of us may wish he would use, but are grateful he doesn’t.” Although Al-Tamimi loved the idea, the gesture caused some doubts.
“I showed it to my mother, who asked how I could put that on a shoe and wondered what people would think or say,” she said. “But it became our bestseller, so it’s important to remember that art is all about things that are shocking. It’s about commenting on current affairs and pointing out issues.”

The designer received requests from customers in Miami suggesting an artwork of Trump blow-drying his hair. “Those shoes point to the value of art and art history,” she said.

One of Al-Tamimi’s favorite pieces is by fellow Saudi artist Rexchouk, who works out of a SoHo studio in New York and has been featured in the artist program of the Walton Fine Arts Gallery in London.

“I admired his courage and the way he never studied art but knew this was his passion and what he wanted to do,” she said. “It’s really nice to support each other as Saudis.

He is one of the artists who means a lot to me. But I love them all — I was really excited about our collaboration with the Untitled Art Fair in Miami last December because we did 55 pairs with three artists showcasing there.”

Although the journey has been challenging for Al-Tamimi since she started in 2015, it has been worthwhile. “I had no idea this would become my life today,” she said. “It’s exciting to be the first Saudi sneaker brand — that’s a milestone in itself.” The designer believes the opening of art galleries in both Riyadh and Jeddah will make it easier for aspiring Saudi artists to enter the market. “I’m so proud of all of them,” Al-Tamimi said.

“I would tell young Saudi women looking to start their own business to work with other startups as they encourage each other to grow. We are all in a creative industry, so helping each other out will help you to stay ahead of the game.”

Decoder

What is the Nou Project?

It is an artist-designed sneaker brand featuring illustrated pieces that turn footwear into wearable art. Conceived by Riyadh-born Nour Al-Tamimi and creative director Lebanese Basma Chidiac, the brand supports emerging artists by providing them with a platform to gain recognition. With minimal lines and stitching, the high-top grain leather sneakers are presented as a blank canvas for each artist to creatively showcase their artwork. The limited-edition sneakers are numbered from one to 300, making each pair a collectible. Inspired by asphalt and street art, the soles feature a unique grainy recycled rubber. In future, a portion of the revenue will be donated to a charity selected in collaboration with each artist. Nou Project sneakers can be found on www.thenouproject.co