DUBAI: Inspired by migration and the search for a better life, Libyan designer Ibrahim Shebani’s ready-to-wear label Born in Exile is known for its modern take on Libyan streetwear styles. After making countless ones to watch lists in the fashion-focused media, he spoke to Arab News about his journey into fashion.
Shebani was born in Germany, but grew up between Cairo and Libya. He was inspired to kickstart Born in Exile after the 2011 Libyan uprising, launching the label in 2017 to show the world the country’s undiscovered beauty.
“The brand is mainly inspired by Libya (and) by my culture,” the designer told Arab News. “I see that Libya’s culture is really underrated in the media. When you want to search Libya all you can see is either 42 years of (Muammar) Al-Gaddafi or the civil war. Unfortunately, all media outlets around the world that’s all they care about and that’s all they cover. But Libya is much more than Gaddafi and the civil war. We have our own culture, our own heritage, our own history and I see this brand, you know, trying to show a different side of Libya.”
He worked in marketing, media and communications, but his passion for designing propelled him to take a leap and switch to fashion, despite facing hurdles and a general lack of understanding in his home environment.
“I grew up in an environment where fashion – as a business – is not really understood. For them, if you are a fashion designer, you have a small atelier and you are a tailor basically.”
His father did not understand Shebani wanting to study fashion design after high school, asking him what he would do there.
“I was explaining to him, then he told me: ‘You are going to go to an expensive university in London to become a tailor?’ It just didn’t make sense to him at all at the time,” said Shebani. “He didn’t say no, but he wouldn’t send me to London.”
Due to the Libyan uprising and his career in communications, Shebani moved between multiple places including Malta, Milan, Budapest, Amman, Cairo and Tunisia.
But it was living in Paris for a year that rekindled his spark for fashion.
“That was one of the reasons why I really got into fashion, because that year that I spent in Paris really, you know, there was a flame in me for fashion and it unfortunately died out because I never studied (and) I couldn’t practice. Then when I lived that year in Paris it reignited that flame in me again.”
His latest Spring/Summer collection is called “I’mmigrant.”
It takes its inspiration from the sea and the transition of culture and traditions through ports and migration.
The collection consists of 26 ready-to-wear pieces made from denim, the traditional Libyan woven fabric errda, silk tulle and cotton.