Montreal designer told she is ‘too cultural’

WATCH ABOVE: The fashion industry has long been considered one of the most ruthless but what happens when a designer is told “she” looks too different to be a success? Rachel Lau reports.

MONTREAL – As a proud Montrealer, Iman Nakhala has always wanted to represent her city on the international fashion runway.

“I’ve been here all my life and this is home to me, so yes I do. I do find that I represent Montreal,” she said.

Nakhala opened her fashion house in Montreal in 2013, but the journey hasn’t been easy.

“There are a few comments that you hear here and there like, we don’t see you going anywhere far with what you have on your head,” she told Global News.

Every time she’s tried to expand her line in Montreal, she’s been rejected, she says, because of the way she looks.

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“It’s almost like it’s a handicap,” said Nakhala.

“What makes me different from the girl who has pink hair, blue hair every other week, you know? I just have a colourful scarf. I play with colours. Is that so bad?”

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Now, she’s had enough of the discrimination.

“It’s confusing, honestly,” she said.

“It’s sad and confusing but I mean, I’m still going. I love what I do and I will keep fighting.”

Jennifer Campbell, the Editor-In-Chief and Founder of Montreal magazine Diary of a Social Gal, was surprised at the cold shoulder Nakhala received in Montreal.

“We’re usually very open to different cultures,” she said.

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“To have that be reflected in clothing design, I think that’s something we could welcome and should welcome and if it hasn’t been that welcoming it should be.”

In fact, Campbell points out Nakhala’s designs are a perfect reflection of this multicultural city.

“I found her designs, while there were certainly inspirations from her heritage and culture, I still found them quite universal in her appeal,” said Campbell.

Nakhala hasn’t been able to break into the Montreal market, but the founders of Ottawa Fashion Week welcomed her unique designs with open arms.

“What we try to do is bring Canadian designers that have an international influence and Iman had just that,” said Hussein Rashid, the Executive Producer and Founder of Ottawa Fashion Week.

“She is using fabrics that are very unfamiliar to a North American market.

She is using them in a way that is also very unfamiliar in the Canadian market.”

Nakhala says she’s tired of people looking at the scarf on her head instead of the dresses on her models.

“I’m not trying to sell you religion,” she said.

“To each his own. You believe what you want to believe. I’ll believe what I want I believe and that’s it.”

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She admits if Montreal won’t accept her, she’ll move her fashion house somewhere else.

“A door closes and many other windows open,” she said.

“If you can’t find a window just kick into the wall and find your own door.”

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