All women deserve to feel beautiful. That notion—coupled with a celebration of feminine strength, individuality, and freedom—has become something of a centerpiece of the Fall 2017 Ready-to-Wear collections (I mean, it should be the centerpiece of all womenswear collections, but that’s another article). In Milan alone, we’ve seen an ode to “real” people at Dolce & Gabbana, a cry for love and equality at Versace, and a mini feminist rally—replete with pussyhats—at Missoni. But perhaps the most moving embrace of a woman’s power came tonight at the Oscars, when Syrian refugee and subject of Academy Award-nominated documentary Watani: My Homeland, Hala Kamil, stepped out on the red carpet.
Watani: My Homeland focuses on Kamil, a mother of four whose husband, Abu Ali, was abducted by ISIS, as she and her family flee from the Syrian Civil War and attempt to rebuild their lives in Germany. “When I heard that I might have the opportunity of attending the Oscars to represent Watani: My Homeland, I felt incredibly proud and happy but bittersweet,” Kamil said in a previous statement. “The first thing that came to my mind was my husband and soulmate. Abu Ali and I would stay up late every year to watch the Oscars live on television.”
Tonight, Kamil stood proudly on the red carpet, sending a message that hope and courage can prevail, and also reminding the millions of people watching that, even as bright lights shine in Hollywood, the men, women, and children of Aleppo are under attack.
Kamil arrived at the Oscars cloaked in a custom floor-length crepe black skirt, lilac velvet peplum jacket, and matching hijab, all of which were designed by Brandon Maxwell. “The goal for my collection is always to empower all women and to not just make them look beautiful, but feel beautiful as well,” said Maxwell, who was connected to Kamil through social media, in a statement. “To me, every woman is a star and every star has a story. Hala’s story sincerely touched me and I am truly honored that I had the privilege to create this look for her celebrating this momentous occasion.”
After news of Kamil’s arrival broke, Maxwell told Fashion Unfiltered, “Tonight, Hala said that she felt like a woman, and there is nothing, as a designer, that makes my heart sing more than that.” Indeed, beauty is not only superficial—it can be restorative and empowering. Kamil’s words to Maxwell, and her appearance this evening, are a prime example.
Runway proclamations and slogan tees are great, but no fashion statement sends a message of inclusivity and female strength quite like championing a woman who has pushed through such adversity and come out on the other side. And gosh, did Kamil ever look beautiful.