by Marie Schuller .

Birds Eye View focuses on Arab fashion

This evening, Birds Eye View returns to the ICA with a special 80 minutes screening of documentaries, short films and art films that explore the relationship between fashion, society and religion across the Arab region amidst a time of exciting and drastic cultural and political changes. 

The festival, which focuses this year on work by Arab female filmmakers, presents its Fashion Loves Film programme this evening, featuring Cannes award winning documentary DoBuy: The Fabric of Faith, which follows three Emirati women as they attempt to launch a forward-thinking fashion range in the heart of the Gulf.

Also screened will be Niquabitch, a Guerrilla video filmed in response to France's 2010 burka ban.

The screenings will be followed by a panel discussion, featuring speakers Reina Lewis (Professor of Cultural Studies, University of the Arts London), Emily Harris (director, DoBuy) and Sophia Al-Maria (Artist). Programming the screening and chairing the panel will be fashion filmmaker, curator and SHOWstudio contributor Kathryn Ferguson

Tonight's event promises to give an insight into a fashion scene that is often underexposed due to its complicated relationship with cultual and religious traditions. Keen to expore the complex relationship between fashion and politics, SHOWstudio launched its film season Political Fashion in 2008, asking filmmakers to submit films to a general brief set by Nick Knight. As Craig McDean's contribution explored, there seems to be a general attitude throughout the fashion industry that fashion and politics should not mix. 'Tell me about fashion and politics,' McDean asks designers, models and other fashion figures, armed with a Mini DVCam pointed at his opponent's face. 'They don't go very well together,' Milla Jovovitch responds, 'People who are in fashion should not be in politics.' 'They shouldn't mix ever,' Gabrielle Hackworthy, fashion editor of Vogue Nippon says, 'because fashion is kind of superficial and politics shouldn't be superficial.'

The trivialisation of fashion and the attitude that it shouldn't tap into areas of politics or be used to voice a cultural statement, however, is something that has been misprooved by generations of fashion movements, most apparent in subgenres such as punks, mods and skinheads. Fashion is one of the most basic forms of self expression and can carry political significiance. Fashion and politics do mix - if intended or not. 

Two years into the Arab revolutionary wave that forced political rulers in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya from power, Birds Eye View's focus on Arab fashion couldn't come at a more interesting time and the programme and panel discussion are set to draw a unique insight into the part fashion plays within the exciting political and cultural changes throughout the Arab world.