A decade or two ago the magazine industry consisted of only a handful of glossies and indie titles. And both shared the same space on newsstands in Selfridges or selected newsagents in Camden and East London.
Now? Take one look around and you'll see there are more titles being published than ever before. And not just fashion-focused, either. In 2018, print has become a tool of expression, whether it's political or sartorial. Just look at The Skirt Chronicles, which is about - you guessed it - skirts.
Then there are people like 23-year-old Jameela Elfaki, founder of AZEEMA. As a woman of colour (with Sudanese and English heritage) she realised that waiting around for publications to represent people like herself was pointless. Instead, she created a print title made by women of colour, for women of colour. Or, more specifically, women of Middle Eastern and North African heritage.
What started out as a university project, AZEEMA has flourished in the last year with a steady online and IRL following. While femininity is a central part of magazine, identity and sexuality remain key topics to the brand. Each issue is narrated by a theme: The Habibi or The Huia (Arabic for identity). Their latest issue, launching this Friday, will be their third: The Haraka (movement) features everything from conversations with Palestinian DJ Sama to activist YASSA, curators BBZ, spoken word poet Asma Elbadawi and many others.
ELLE UK spoke to Jameela about the wonder women in her life, her creative process and what’s it like working with a small team.
Why you started AZEEMA?
Diversity and representation in the fashion and media industry is something that’s an ongoing problem. Growing up, I always wanted to see something that I could relate to directly. I quickly realised that there weren't any print magazines exploring women from the MENASA regions, diaspora and women of colour.
How did you come up with the name? What does it mean?
Azeema is an Arabic name. It means determination, resoluteness, firmness of purpose and strength. It’s a name that I actually discussed at length with my dad - he suggested it and I loved it.
What is the casting process like for shoots?
Everything starts with the concept. We look for women who are inspiring and strong in different ways.
And what’s your team like?
We're a close-knit team of four, which is made up of myself, Noor, Sunayah and Evar. Noor is the Deputy Editor, and she’s also a radio presenter and DJ princess in the making. Noor does most of our interviews. Sunayah is AZ’s Senior Editor/Producer and Social media Manager. She’s our very own organisational wizard. Evar is our Culture Editor and as a talented Multidisciplinary artist she brings so much to AZEEMA.
Ella is our most recent addition, who is our Fashion Editor at a large. Ella has been a contributing stylist since the first issue and brings her styling magic to each issue. I’m so grateful to be able to work with such great women - we're like a small family.
We've had the great pleasure of working with so many inspiring women. We are honoured to have met them all and they all add to the collective spirit and little family that we have become. It’s also really rewarding when we get messages from young women who support us who have read the magazine or follow us on Instagram.
You’ve worked on projects for ELLE UK and Bricks, talk us through your style of photography.
I love shooting women of colour and capturing them in a beautiful and powerful way. It’s something I strongly believe in. This is something that is present in all of my work.
My talented friends, my mum and the women I have met through AZEEMA who have the most inspiring stories.
Who do you go to for advice and what is the best advice they’ve given you?
Always my Mum - she's my biggest cheerleader. She always tells me to keep going and to keep aiming high, but always to remember to look after myself so I don’t burn out.
Your latest issue is called The Haraka (Movement) - tell us more about it.
The Haraka (Movement) issue is a collection of powerful, beautiful and brave features exploring both tangible and intangible types of movement. Those that allow us to grow, those that spark evolutions, those that teach us self-love and make us free.
We chose this theme after coming together and discussing our ideas as a team. The theme is broad and beautiful and gave us so much to talk about. The meaning is to explore the themes of movement in a beautiful but honest way. The meaning is also a declaration of our movement - us being here and creating the content we want to see.
And you've got a launch party happening on Friday, right?View this post on Instagram
⚠️FRIDAY WHO’S READY⚠️ The Haraka issue launches in 4 days! 🚨 Catch sets from @manara1766198272 @bbz_london & @noorpalette whilst getting your henna done by the talented @isnahenna & @huqthat ⚡️ Link to RSVP in our bio ❗️🔗 Here’s a sneak peak from our cover shoot with the stunning @noufling ⭐️👀 shout out to our brilliant videographer @kieferpassey_video & @billygadd for hooking us up with the location & bike! 🏍
Yes! Copies of the new issue will be available to buy, along with AZEEMA merchandise. We will be giving away a limited number of goody bags to those that buy a mag on the night, so make sure you get yours early. There will also be henna at the start from Isna Henna & Huq, as well as DJ sets from Manara, BBZ and Noor Palette.