At the last International Babylon Festival, which was held from October 28 to November 1, last, the ancient Babylonian costumes worn by performers in the operetta "Mirrors of the Sun" (The Story of Babylonian Civilization) during the opening ceremony grabbed the attention of the followers, All of these costumes were created by the young designer Shahd Al Khalifa.

The Babylon Festival this time was held under the slogan "Civilization creates life from Babylon." It came after a 19-year hiatus. It was originally an annual festival held on the grandstands of the ancient city of Babylon (100 km south of Baghdad). Its first session was launched in 1987.

During the festival, many local, Arab and foreign artistic groups are hosted, which perform various musical and artistic performances.

Shahd says that her participation in the Babylon Festival was the challenge to make the impossible (Al-Jazeera)

With persistence and defiance

The designer Shahd Al-Khalifa lives in a neighborhood of Baghdad, and she is 28 years old, and she has completed her university studies in Business Administration.

And about her fashion design, she tells Al Jazeera Net that her desire to become a professional in design came after reading the success story of the late Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid 5 years ago, after which she began designing fashion.

"I participated in the campaign to make the city of Babylon a world heritage on the UNESCO list, and I also participated in several local and international festivals, until the last Babylon Festival came and I participated in it mainly," she added.

About her participation in the Babylon Festival, she said, "The challenge was to make the impossible, as I designed 140 Babylonian costumes and accessories in a period not exceeding a week."

Shahd continues, "I suffered a lot because of the difficulty of accessing the workshop in Baghdad, going to Babylon daily and returning to Baghdad, and then I go to Al-Shorja commercial market, and Al-Mutanabi Street, which specializes in selling books, stationery and heritage materials, to complete the preparations and purchase the necessary materials, relying on my personal effort and with the help of Two tailors.

A scene of the operetta that was shown at the opening of the Babylon Festival, where the actors were wearing costumes designed by Shahd (Reuters)

Sun mirrors saw

Concerning the opening operetta of the Babylon Festival, which Shahd prepared his costumes, she said that the operetta Mirrors of the Sun tells the story of the Babylonian civilization with the procession of King Nebuchadnezzar and his wife Amedia, where she equipped the costumes of 70 soldiers with their accessories, and the cavalry (in blue and brown), as well as the king and queen with their clothes and accessories. In addition to preparing the artists who embodied the characters of the operetta, they are: Dalot, the queen of the sun of the gods, Hammurabi, the priest, and the military leader Meshkaim. Then it prepared the 20 models representing the Babylonian people.

Regarding her mastery of the costumes used in the operetta, she said that all the costumes she designed for the festival were inspired by ancient Babylon images and history, starting with Hammurabi’s robe and Dalot, the wife of Meshchem (the military leader), which is a blue scarf and white embroidered kaftan, then Queen Amedia and her husband King Nebuchadnezzar with a scarf embroidered with a flower. Lotus and the lions of Babylon (symbols of Babylonian civilization that signify strength, spring and victory).

As for the crowns of the king and the queen, Shahd says that she executed them with her own hands, with the lotus flower that adorns the middle of the queen's crown, and the two power horns of the king's crown.

She made sure that the dominant colors for all costumes were blue, red, white and brown (the colors of the Babylonian civilization).

Al-Adhari: Shahd had a clear imprint in the embodiment of the Babylonian civilization in a beautiful, elegant and historical manner (Al-Jazeera Net)

Fashion is a characteristic of peoples

Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, the Iraqi fashion designer Ziad Al-Adari said that fashion is a characteristic of peoples, and in it a certain history and civilization are embodied.

He added that he was pleased with Shahd's participation in the Babylon Festival, as she had a clear imprint in embodying the Babylonian civilization in a beautiful, elegant and historical manner, through her selection of colors, cuts and drawings that she designed and showed the depth of this civilization.

He added that her achievement was wonderful, despite the limited time, which did not exceed a week, as she was able to prepare costumes for a large number of performers and actors, exceeding 135 Babylonian costumes.

He pointed out that in Iraq, there is a clear lack of support and fashion production. If it was available, Shahd would have been able to provide what is better and more impressive. Nevertheless, fashion had a great aesthetic element that was praised by many newspapers and international websites.

Musa Jaafar while sewing Babylonian costumes (Al Jazeera Net)

Unique experience

Regarding the difficulties and challenges they faced, the tailor Musa Jaafar - a female tailor and the right arm of Shahd - said that the Babylon Festival was a special experience, despite the difficult working conditions they lived through to prepare for it.

He explained that within one week he and his colleague were able to complete 140 outfits under the supervision of Shahd, as the work started from eight in the morning until three in the morning of the next day, adding that he sometimes had to sleep in the workshop, and on the last day before the costumes were delivered, he worked 24 continuous hours. He was helped by his colleague Abu Ali (a female tailor).

As for the embroidery work, Jaafar indicated that it was carried out by one of the two models in Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad.

He went on to say that the difficulties of work fell on Shahd's shoulders, while he was focused on sewing clothes.