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Iraqi Refugee Turned Designer Previews Mask Fashion Show And Giveaway

May Hasan shows off her Iraqi-inspired designs in El Cajon, on September 11th...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: May Hasan shows off her Iraqi-inspired designs in El Cajon, on September 11th, 2020

On Saturday, immigrant designers in City Heights will take part in a fashion show and mask giveaway, meant to highlight how styles are adapting to the pandemic.

One of those designers is May Hasan. She came to the US from Iraq as a refugee seven years ago. She had been employed there by the United Nations.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

She now runs Zahra Design, named in honor of her late mother, Zahra.

“My mom put the seed in my heart about loving designs. She always took care of how I look and what I should wear, and she always did my hair. She was hairstylist, make-up artist,” she said. “Since then, I fell in love with how to match colors and how to wear clothes.”

Hasan’s designs reflect the styles of her native Iraq, with the Hamsa Hand and the evil eye. She makes them all by hand.

“I thought, ‘How I can make people see my cultural heritage?.’ This is how it all started,” she said. “Many of my items and designs have cultural touch and cultural stories.”

RELATED: City Heights Fashion Designer Turns To Masks To Stay In Business During Pandemic

Hasan began making masks shortly after the beginning of the pandemic. She says they’ve been a best-seller in her online store. She matches the masks with the collection of abayas that she also sells.

“They’re better than anything else,” she said. “I thought, how can we contribute so that people can stay healthy and still look fashionable?

Saturday's fashion show will take place at the Fair@44 on El Cajon Boulevard. It’s being put together by the International Rescue Committee Small Business Development Center and the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association. Designers will also sell their masks, and there will be a mask giveaway for the community.

Hasan says it’s the first time her designs will be part of a fashion show.

“I can share my designs, people will know me better, but also I can contribute to the community, which sings well to my heart. It means a lot,” she said.

The event kicks off at 11a.m. and features designers from Somalia, Uganda, Togo, and elsewhere. It will also be livestreamed on Instagram.

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