Galina’s Book Shelf: “The Go-Between” by Osman Yousefzada

I have been a fan of designer Osman Yousefzada from afar for a while. Having seen his creations grace the runway of the London Fashion Week, I was intrigued to hear that he has written a book “The Go-Between”. When I messaged him about the book, he replied that it was hardly ‘fashion-related’, peaking my curiosity further. Suffice to say I was touched when Osman’s PR kindly sent me an advance copy to read, before the book was officially published on January 27.

Osman Yousefzada “The Go-Between”

Having read Osman’s articles in the glossies – he has written in the past for British Vogue and ELLE – I found his writing style evocative and capturing the attention with the sincerity rarely seen in fashion circles. Having said that, I had no expectation or any preconceived notions about the book and was bowled over by the gentle voice that recounted Osman’s life and experiences through the years.

“Her friends gave her something, a self-respect and lightness that showed in her eyes. She loved the company, the people around her. Guests were gifts from God, and you opened your heart as well as your home to them”

Osman Yousefzada on his mum

Every page of the book drew me in with the frankness with which Osman himself (and not a ghost writer, as is often the practise when it comes to the biographies) wrote about his life. A visual artist and activist Osman expertly weaves the words & sentences on the multitude of subjects in one memorable fabric of the book.

Waterstones Biography display

There is chapter and verse about his relationship with his parents and treatment of women within a very diverse Muslim community of immigrants in the UK, genders, creativity, passions and finding your own path, while navigating the fast changing life lanes and having to consider his own religion, expectations and traditional beliefs. From the devout Pashtun upbringing (Osman himself was born in the UK, in Birmingham, in the family of hard-working Pakistani-Afghan immigrants) to preferring to stay with his mother and her female circle of friends & clients for as long as it was allowed, rather than with his father’s chain-smoking male circle, and making fabric scrap outfits for his sisters Barbies. He addresses the prevailing illiteracy within his childhood community and the fact that girls were taken out of school and often hidden at home from social services on flimsy excuses once they reached puberty. There are funny anecdotes and painful reminders of growing up in the ultra conservative Muslim household & within a deeply religious community, while wanting to read books, watch television, gorge on sweets and explore the wider world, including the presence of prostitutes on parallel roads to the households where you had to conform, rather than be an individual.

” There were Indians, there were Pakistanis, and the Irish – who had been there the longest and were beginning to move out of the inner-city slums – the West Indians, the Rastafarians, the East Africans, the Bangladeshis, the newly arrived Afghans: layer upon layer, we made our own very own cultural Battenburg of many colours”

Osman Yousefzada ” The Go-Between”

Osman went on to study at Central Saint Martins, founded his own fashion womenswear label and then evolved and directed his creativity and experience towards creation of public art installations around the world. I still very vividly recollect his dark art documentary about Bangladesh garment workers called “Her Dreams Are Bigger” to coincide with the LWF in 2020, instead of doing a fashion presentation on the catwalk. Osman tirelessly draws attention to unsung artisans & skills like those of the South Asians embroiders, while the artisans working for revered French couture houses seem to get all the headlines and glory in the mass media. He truly believes that clothes need to have meaning and the urgent need to change the way fashion cycles and manufacturing system works.

A sincere and humble man of powerful convictions, who is not afraid to take the stand for what he innately and passionately believes in. Yet Osman does it not righteously, but with grace, consideration and kindness. There is no anger or venom, just internal power of a man, who voices exactly what he deeply feels. I urge you to read this beautifully written book and draw lessons on how we all can contribute and support the varied and nuanced fabric of our society, understand other individuals better and close the gaps around the world, rather then widen them.

Osman Yousefzada ” The Go-Between” is published by Cannongate in Hardback/E-book/Audio. £14.99, pp358

You can purchase Osman Yousefzada’s book at Daunt Books or Waterstones (the links are not sponsored). You can also purchase it via Amazon, but personally I am keen to support local bookshops in as much as I can as a voracious reader.

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