Macrame pull by The Zed / glasses by Anneleen Bertels
Macrame pull by The Zed / glasses by Anneleen Bertels© Mous Lamrabat

"Before I create something, I always have in mind the mood that goes with it"

The Zed

17 August 2023

In the heart of Molenbeek, Photographer Mous Lamrabat created a photo series in collaboration with 12 Brussels designers. The series is an ode to Brussels’ creativity, but also to the cultural melting pot that our city is. The Belgian-Moroccan photographer found his match in a lot of designers. Like Kenza Taleb Vandeput, who builds a bridge between Belgium and Algeria with her label Kasbah Kosmic. Or designer Siré Kaba, who reflects her Guinean roots in her brand Erratum Fashion. But also The Zed, Zehra, a multidisciplinary artist who draws inspiration from her Turkish roots and wants people to recognize themselves in her work. We had a talk with The Zed, about her work, inspiration and dreams.

The Zed

Can you briefly introduce yourself and your career so far? Have you always been interested in art and fashion?

“My name is Zehra, I'm 32 years old. I have always been into art. When I was younger, I took dance classes for more than 10 years. I also created things for myself, I designed clothes, I customized them, I made little accessories for myself. So, the link with art and creating was always there. But when I was young, I didn't know I would be working in art and fashion later. Creating was more of a hobby back then. The moment I entered the professional world and became aware that I had to make money, I started thinking more about this."

“In my professional career, I decided to first obtain my higher degree as a specialized educator. When I didn't find work right away, I started a study in fashion design. After 2 years, I quit this course and started working as a saleswoman for a clothing brand, which was also fashion related. After this, I worked at a call center linked to H&M. But during this job I went into a year-long burn out. After my burnout, I decided to do things differently and put all my energy into fashion and art. I really made a click back then that I would never again do anything I didn't like. I want to make money with my passion and talent. That's pretty much how it started for me.”


Is "The Zed" an alter ego of Zehra?

“I don't split the two apart. I'm the Zed, and the Zed is my universe. I can't say that I have an artistic view that's different from myself. I really put my personality, my emotions, my positive thoughts, but also my problems and breakdowns into my work. It's me expressing myself, all my sides. When you enter the world of the Zed, you see me, 100% of me.”

Can you explain a little more your creative practice, what exactly do you design?

“I make pieces that can be clothing or accessories, but I cannot define myself only as a fashion designer, because I don't sew. I like to say I am a ‘multidisciplinary artist’. I do many things. I prefer to start from a material, which can be thread, but also chains, beads or pearls, actually many materials that I can upcycle. But the basic goal remains to not sew, because I don't like that very much.”

“My pieces are a big part of my practice. But next to this, I also create the visual concept in which I see my pieces. I really like to imagine the universe in which I can put my work. I don’t just create the piece and that’s it. Before I create something, I always have the mood that goes with it in mind. My creativity is very image oriented. I always have images of scenes, settings, colors, places, people that can carry my creations, in mind. I really like to let people feel and see what I felt when I was creating. My artistic universe isn’t just the design or piece, it’s everything that goes around with it, that's what drives me.”

The Zed

Can you tell us a bit more about your work in the A(R)MOUR exhibition?

“Mous Lamrabat used two of my works for his photo series that is part of the A(R)MOUR exhibition. One of them is one of my very first creations. Before starting this design, I had the color combination of orange and dark blue in my mind. First I determined the general image and then I think of the piece that could match. I always work like that. With my culture in mind, I chose to incorporate the Nazar amulet, the pearl eye, into my design. In Turkish, this is called in full a "nazar boncuğu," which means the evil eye amulet. The blue eye is supposed to ward off the evil gaze. So for this piece, the inspiration and design really came from my own culture."

“The other piece that is exhibited was made for a client and this is normally a pull. In Mous' picture it was used on the head.”


Where do you get your inspiration for your work?

“I always find it difficult to answer that question. I have the impression that I don't really rely on outside inspiration. I have the feeling that my inspiration comes from myself. It's all in my head. For example, I don't draw inspiration from fashion magazines, other artists, or singers. So I think I'm inspired by my emotions, my thoughts and impressions, the images I have in my head, my culture and values that I grew up with."

The Zed x Jérémie Makiese

Which project are you most proud of?

“I'm actually very proud about a project that isn’t a piece of clothing or an accessory. It is a video project I accomplished with about 30 artists. It's called “Labyrinth”. We shot the video at the labyrinth at C-mine, in Genk. It was a collaboration with dancers, singers, acrobats, a painter, models, … I worked out the creative part and contacted the editors and videographers. Some of my designs also appear in the video. But I'm most proud of this project because it's one of the bigger projects I really worked on for several months. It was one of my first large-scale projects and I had an impact on me as an artist.”

“The pieces I am most proud of is a blue macramé creation that was exposed in the ‘Youth Through The Lens’ exhibition at MAD. But also, a series of masks made with thread that I made and that were used in a music video of Jérémie Makiese. He won the TV show ‘The Voice’ and competed in the Eurovision Song Contest a year ago.”

Model: Inès Dumbi

Do you have any tips for young starters?

“The best advice I can give is: don’t be afraid to jump and launch your business. Don’t be afraid of the trial because the trial is long. And always keep in your mind that everyone has breakdowns. There are a lot of difficult moments, were you feel bad, but it's normal to feel like that. And within the creative network, I get the impression that everyone's always doing well, that everyone's always successful, when in fact that is not the case at all. But when you have a breakdown, just don't give up. That's what I tell myself every day.”


What does the ideal future look like for The Zed?

“The ideal future for me would be first of all to make a real living out of my practice. because at the moment, I don't survive on just my creative work.”

"What I especially don't want is for my pieces to be just clothes that I sell to everyone and in stores. Each piece should be considered as an artwork. I want my creations to be unique pieces, made for specific artists. So, the most important thing for the future would be to be able to collaborate with many other artists, to create pieces for other artist, work out their art direction, their visuals, … I already did that in the past, but on a small scale. I would love to work together with well-known international artists. That's kind of the goal.”

“In addition, a big dream would be for my art to be known internationally. This by organizing exhibitions, fashion shows or other events around my universe. So that people recognize my work when they see it. That my universe tells stories in which people see themselves. I want to show that veiled women can also break through and be successful in the industry. And that I can inspire others."