In The Know 001 - Interview Hoda Katebi (of JooJoo Azad)

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05:42:00
I cannot even tell y'all how thrilled I am to write this post. I have been thinking about this since last year and I am just bursting at the seams to write this and start this series. Welcome to In The Know, a blog series that focuses on POC doing really cool and unique things within the beauty and fashion community. Once I month I bring y'all a new and very cool person (or people) that I think y'all have got to know about (hence the name!). This month I am honored to bring you a blogger who've I been a fan of since I started blogging so many years ago. I had the opportunity to interview  Hoda Katebi the creator of the political fashion blog Joojoo Azad. She describes her style as being unapologetic (yet) lighthearted, creative and angry. We talked about identity, upcoming projects and using fashion as a form of politics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
I’ve been a reader of your blog for a few years now and although I know your blog and who you are, my readers may not. Can you introduce yourself and your blog?

My name is Hoda Katebi. I am Iranian, born and raised in Oklahoma. I turn 22 later this month. I started Joojoo Azad (meaning free bird in Farsi) in August 2013. I started my blog two months after a pregnant Muslim woman in France had a miscarriage after a hate crime. Out of all the violence I had experienced growing up as a hijab-wearing girl in Oklahoma, and out of all of the gender-based and religious-based hate crimes I heard left and right in the news, what happened to the woman in France had really struck one of the deeper chords in my body. It was also around the time I started becoming interested in fashion from a political angle. I started JooJoo Azad as a platform to be able to portray myself, my story and show the space that Muslim women should be taking up. My blog is a radical fashion blog. It's a fashion blog that intertwined with politics.



Your blog mixes activism and fashion. Why did you start your blog and was it always focused on fashion and activism?
JooJoo Azad has always sat at the intersections of fashion and activism. Fashion is inherently political, and I want to be able to use that property. And of course, it's only right that I call out the industry that I work in. I couldn't work in the fashion industry and stay silent about the fact that it is one of the most destructive industries in the world.

On the Political Value of Fashion on Joojoo Azad - Photographed by Kevin Serna (Brownbook Magazine, issue 59, 2016)


 What message do you want people to take away from you and your blog?

My message to Muslim women and women of color is to be unapologetic. Forget the rubrics of beauty. Forget “flattering” clothes. Don’t let fashion become simply a mindless consumer good. It’s political. It’s a method of communication. Use it.



 You recently published your Tehran Streetstyle book, which is beyond cool! How was the process of creating this? Which parts did you enjoy the most and which parts surprised you?
It first started with reader requests. They wanted to see more Iranian fashion. I also did academic research on underground movements of Tehran. When I went to talk with activists, I asked how I could better support them. They told me to create a media for a western audience. I use the medium of fashion to create this message. So I started doing more research. I went to shows and taking photos (with their permission of course!) and interviewing people. After that came the process of editing, printing, thinking about how I wanted to publish it, etc. The most surprising thing was the multiplicity of the women and designers of Iran and how the value of fashion for them isn't what I thought it was. I thought of the underground fashion scene to be a largely political landscape but Iranians are not homogeneous and the underground fashion scene had different meanings to different people.


With the different styles and looks shown in your book, how do they inspire your day to day fashion?

Yes, definitely. Iranians are mad good with colors and patterns. I’m happiest when I’m clashing patterns head to toe (or in all black)! I gather inspiration from Iranian patterns, architecture, colors, shapes, and silhouettes -- as is the inspiration for my upcoming clothing line!

An Ode to the Ethical Jumpsuit on JooJoo Azad - Photographed by Felton Kilter


On your blog, you’ve talked about your religion and culture and haven’t been afraid and really allowing yourself to embrace your identity as a Muslim-Iranian woman.  You even embrace your identity through your style. Do you have any tips for a person looking to embrace their own identity through their style?
Love yourself and your people. Learn the history of your people. Celebrate and affirm your people. You’ll naturally start dressing to reflect it


Have you ever had an issue with embracing your identity? If so how did you work towards being comfortable with who you are and your identity?

Of course! I was born and raised in the incredibly racist Oklahoma. I cried every day and I was physically assaulted when I started wearing the hijab in 6th grade. Even with my hijab I tried fitting in with my majority white classmates and I just couldn't. If I ever felt American for a second, I would quickly be reminded that I wasn’t by racist comments of my classmates (despite being born in this country). I was able to overcome it when I started to learn how to love myself.



We are both college students and we both know that a college student’s budget is not one to joke about. Since some of my favorite posts of yours are about ethical buying. How would you suggest for those of us on tight budgets shop more ethically without draining out bank accounts?

Well, I just graduated, haha! But the number one way? Stop shopping. I know it doesn't really answer your question but it is the most ethical alternative. Even buying ethically produced things is still consuming resources. The best way to go about ethical spending is to stop spending. I started doing this and it has quickly leaked into all parts of my life. I talk about this a bit on my blog and how I try to live a minimalist life and I found that it made everything so much clearer-mentally, physically. It's a whole lifestyle change.


If you are going to buy something, find things at thrift shops or Etsy. Supporting brown and black artists, artisans, and designers. You know, instead of buying 10 pairs of pants from Forever21, take that money and buy 1 or two pairs of ethically-produced pants and support brown and black business designers.
Daydreaming on Joojoo Azad - Photographed by Daniel Chae


Are you working on any projects or events that readers should be on the lookout for?

I just hired my winter intern, but have a low-key open call for activist-minded women-identified people of color to join our volunteer team! Later this year I'm working on an ethical clothing brand that is inspired by Iranian fashion, and also starting up a radical fashion magazine for women of color that specifically feature black women and femmes who work in activism and organizing. I have a book tour coming up that will be in California, Toronto, and New York, so if you are in these areas please keep in touch! (Or invite me to come speak at your university, hah!).



Are there any brands or even people you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I love collaborating with activist-minded bloggers of color and ethically-produced brands!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

 It was such a pleasure to interview Hoda. It was really enlightening to listen to her opinions about fashion and to learn more about her blog and her approach to fashion as a whole. If y'all are interested in reading the rad stuff Hoda talks about on her blog I asked her which three posts people should read first and she suggested that you check out The Political Value of Fashion, Orientalism, Feminism, Asra Nomani and the Hijab and Allyship Post Trump. All three posts are brilliantly written and are definitely some of my favorite articles of hers.  She has a post coming up that discusses the Muslim registry, what is known about it, the history of it and what it means, and you really don't want to miss it.

If you are totally down with what Hoda is saying you can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Also be sure to check out her book Tehran Streetstyle and of course her blog.
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