FT.WA is a creative collective bridging British and Pakistani culture, expressing a clash of traditions
Meet the British-Pakistani creative collective opening a contemporary conversation on diaspora cultures through clothes and content.
- 10 February 2021
- Jyni Ong
As a British-born Pakistani, Shams Mansur grew up with a dual heritage, often feeling fragmented and displaced as if she did not belong to a current place and time. She tells us, “My heritage has been heavily influenced by the physical and psychological impacts my family has experienced post-partition.” Having witnessed how Brexit, the Far Right movement and 9/11 have negatively effected people of colour for the past 20 years, Shams has seen the world through a different lens. At the same time however, she acknowledges her privilege of being in a Western bubble, remarking on how “I saw my peers in Pakistan go through the same patterns of experience in a far harsher environment”.
In spite of all this adversity however, Shams found a silver lining through this bridging of communities. A healthy creative exchange developed between these peers residing in either the UK and Pakistan, and a connected community was born. This community is FT.WA, a collective of now 15 people working across multi-disciplinary creative routes from film, photography, styling and fashion. Uniting the two nations, Shams explains how FT.WA is “linked together by their bittersweet legacy”. Its output is expressed through the lens of Pakistani street culture and streetwear, and through a variety of creative outputs, it aims to celebrate a movement of cultural liberation while “exposing and shattering the concept of minorities, and open a contemporary conversation on diaspora culture through clothes and content.”
The name is reminiscent of the word fatwa, a word deriving from the Arabic root of f-t-y with meanings which include “youth, newness, clarification and explanation”. Shams and the collective wanted to reinterpret the phrase, providing it with a more accessible take on how people of colour view the word in the modern world. A word that’s been “hijacked and stereotyped beyond recognition”, the creative collective attempts to reclaim the original meaning of the word. In turn, the name of the collective FT.WA stands for forward, thinking, woven, attitude; Shams explains, “where we want to take back control through statement pieces of streetwear and content with a conscience,” and raise awareness of an identity that is inherently bound to its post-colonial perspectives.
Currently, the group consists of artists, students, models, doctors, copywriters, musicians and many more. Specialising in visual content, branding and art direction, FT.WA has an intersectional approach to creativity, drawing on each group member’s individual experiences to add flavour to the meaningful projects. FT.WA are particularly interested in shedding light on issues affecting Pakistan’s youth – a group which make up the majority of the country’s population. “The youth remain unheard and inappropriately represented due to political, religious and culturally warped ideologies,” Shams says. Aiming to unite as opposed to alienate, FT.WA’s projects highlight the real, day to day struggles which are rarely seen nor heard by the mainstream media.
As a small team, the group creates sustainable clothing, taking Western streetwear staples and putting their own spin on the craft and design. Injecting cultural traditions into the design and manufacturing process, FT.WA’s ethically made, custom pieces are an expression of rebuilt identities modelled by a range of creatives from dancers, painters and rappers. An interesting mix of high and low fashion, using surplus fabrics in an innovative way, Shams goes on to say of the clothing line; “It is about being radically you.”
Elsewhere, the collective are addressing the politicised gang culture of Karachi through a concept called “Sins Of Our Fathers” which loosely focuses on “the good, bad and corrupt policies that have steadily weakened the infrastructure of Karachi and basically brought the city to its knees”. The conceptual project features clothes made by the collective revolving around a “tactical best” representing “how you always need to be on your guard,” and additionally, plastic guns as a sarcastic metaphor for the very real gun crime that riddles the city.
In other work, FT.WA have explored what it means to hold feminine energy, referencing traditional hair accessories and delving into the mind of women, interrogating “the mundane things women can’t do in society without the male gaze dictating their every move”. Creating a narrative around the “metamorphosis of waking up,” the project takes place on a rooftop, away from the gaze of the masses where women can climb, jump, run and embrace each other for support. In Lords of [No]Where in the Age of Isolation, on the other hand, the collective pay tribute to Karachi’s skate scene. Most of the footage was shot last year and edited together during the pandemic from several bedrooms across the city. Shams adds on the project, “Our focus was on space, mental health, young women on skateboards and involving the wide community in sports which the government doesn’t provide as healthy outlets to the youth.”
Having just launched its first shop, a YouTube account to host all its work and a Soundcloud, the expressions of FT.WA feel limitless at the moment. Staying true to its multi-disciplinary roots, the group plan to continue working with Karachi’s young people to showcase the diverse talents across the city. “We believe every person is a thousand stories,” Shams concludes, “and we are mining collective experiences that portray how the youth of this city are a struggling expression of clashing cultures and traditions, where there is a reconciliatory battle to belong and place themselves in the city.”
FT. WA (Copyright © FT. WA, 2020)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.