The term “fashion statement” can be entirely overused, but not in the case of Myah Hasbany, whose wearable knitted art softly screams for attention. Her most recent works are showstopping displays of human creativity, consisting of amorphous lumps of mohair that transform the wearer into strikingly surreal characters in a fashion fantasy.
Hasbany is a recent graduate of Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts and a new student at London’s Central Saint Martins foundation program for fashion and textiles, which she says teaches fashion design through a fine-arts lens.
“It is not traditional in any sense, as most of what we are doing is drawing, collages and sculpture,” Hasbany says.
Learning along with students from all over the world in a supportive environment has given Hasbany an invaluable perspective, she says, and it gave her a cultural appreciation of her own roots.
“I always thought it was super boring or relatively normal, but since moving to London and meeting so many people from so many places, it gives you an appreciation for how strange Dallas or Texas is in general in comparison to other people’s experiences growing up,” she says.
The pandemic sent the young designer back to study virtually at home in Dallas; she’s now waiting for any new strains of coronavirus to die down before she can return. Once her current studies are finished, Hasbany hopes to be accepted into the school’s BA program.
Despite her short time in the art scene, she’s already found a client and mentor in Erykah Badu.
The neo-soul icon, a fellow Booker T. graduate and perennial supporter of the institution, held an audition among students in 2020, scouting for dancers. Hasbany is not a dancer, but signed up anyway figuring that while her moves might not impress the singer, she’d get to showcase her fashion.
“I auditioned in one of the outfits I made and was able to participate in the show even though I am absolutely not a dancer,” Hasbany says. “I just knew that she would probably appreciate the outfit and I was willing to do anything to make that introduction.”
Her plan worked. Badu was so impressed with Hasbany’s work that she reached out shortly after asking her to design a piece ahead of her virtual concert.
“From then on we’ve been collaborating ever since,” Hasbany says of Badu. “She’s been a great mentor and is probably the only person that has understood my work without explanation. She just has an appreciation and understanding which is something that is so valuable to have with a young artist.”
Another artist who sought the designer’s lucid-dream vision is avant-garde performer MATTIE, who appears in a ballsy Hasbany creation in her music video “Human Thing.”
Hasbany says she may have inherited a fashion gene from her mother, who once designed sweaters for dogs and influenced her art through example.
“I’ve always been interested in it as a child, and my mom was a very encouraging figure for me,” Hasbany says. “She has always been adventurous and seeing pictures of her racing cars or skydiving really influenced my confidence in pursuing what I wanted.”
As a child, Hasbany focused on studying fine arts, but she found fashion could serve as an all-encompassing medium.
“I’ve been doing fine art for a long time, but once I started experimenting with clothes it really clicked for me that this is what I wanted to do,” she says. “I think fashion combines all the things I love about art into one: sculpture, drawing, painting and performance art.”
But Hasbany strays from the traditional molds that usually inform a career in textiles.
“I think it was also really important that I didn’t go into making clothes with a traditional sewing background as I didn’t ever limit myself because it wasn’t the ‘right way’ to do something,” she says. “It has allowed me to be experimental and push what is or isn’t fashion.”
One thing Hasbany ponders is the main "point" of her own work.
"While I’m still trying to figure that out, there are certain things I know to be true about why I make things," she says. "I know that fashion is ridiculous in every aspect of its existence: production, consumption, presentation, design. And I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge, celebrate and be critical of that. That might mean making something so utterly ridiculous that no one can wear it, or talking about the means of production in a piece of work."
In an industry that can be The Devil Wears Prada-competitive, Hasbany keeps a light-hearted approach.
"And I also know that fashion is way too serious and there needs to be more humor in it," she says. "I’m still working on even explaining to myself why this work needs to be made when so much exists, so the answer to that question is a work in progress."
She may not know what she means to say through her work, but Hasbany does know what she aims to achieve through it: sustainability. She raises the point that the planet is becoming one big dumpster of old laundry. According to data by the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018 alone, 17 million tons of textile waste sat in landfills, where they’ll take up to 200 years to decompose.
Making a career as a sustainable fashion designer is not particularly easy, Hasbany says.
“Overall the education system is really outdated and that’s particularly true of fashion school,” she says. “It’s strange to sit in a class and be told to be sustainable, but then be instructed by the same teacher to work in ways that are not sustainable to your mental health or the world, and that will eventually prepare you to get into the industry and basically work at the same pace that it is going now, which is killing the planet.”
If anyone has a creative solution on to how to work on recycling textile goods, it’ll be Hasbany.
“So it’s hard,” she says. “You work a lot, you produce a lot of work very quickly. Whether or not that’s good is up to you to decide, I guess.”
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