Naomi from PopUp 38

Naomi wearing the Olya shirt in Striped linen from "The Fabric Shop"

Lack of Diversity has always been a huge problem in the fashion industry. Being constantly inundated with the same type of model is boring, and makes us feel like we are wrong if we don't fit into this very limited mould (young, thin, white, able) that is constantly forced upon us by advertisers.

Having always been one to question the system, It was very important to me that Paper theory would use ROLE MODELS not just catwalk models to showcase my patterns. Models are aspirational. They are supposedly people we want to be. I don't know about you, but I don’t aspire to be an aloof 17 year old.

I aspire to be a bold, brave woman who changes the world. And this is why asking Naomi to showcase the Olya shirt was a no brainer for me.

I first met Naomi in 2017, after a friend of mine bought a great pair of shoes from a Vintage shop in Soho. My friend convinced me to go check out the store and meet the owner Naomi as she had such an incredible story.

Naomi wearing the Olya Shirt in white linen from "The Fabric Store"

Naomi is the owner of Popup 38. A concept Store that pops up in various empty retail spaces around London and sells mostly High end Vintage clothing. However, it is a Vintage store with a unique story.

100% of the proceeds from the store have gone, and continue to go towards building and funding a school in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Naomi grew up in Afghanistan. Her father was a renowned Medical Missionary who set up a number of eye clinics and established the Noor Eye Hospital in Kabul. During their time in Afghanistan (her parents lived there for nearly 50 years) her father was required to perform an important operation on a prominent village elder. After the successful surgery, this man gifted Naomi's father a plot of land as a thank you gesture.

This plot of land is the bare field that became the foundation for what is now Lapis Lazuli School. A school built entirely on the proceeds from the sales of Popup 38.

Lapis Lazuli School building in the background. Kabul

Naomi recalls to me “Literally, as we sold clothes we ordered bags of concrete. Every single garment translated into physical pieces of the building. Clothes became concrete, windows, or the digging of a well.”

Most of the clothing sold in the store is donated, as well as a few pieces of new clothing or jewellery made by local designers and sometimes pieces from new fashion school graduates. There is a small group of Naomi's friends who take turns working in the store with Naomi. They have all previously held interesting jobs in fashion or retail so the items for sale are very curated and well styled, it is definitely not your average charity shop. All of the staff donate their time to work in the store, so they can maximise what gets sent to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is still a country the home office deems “unsafe” for visiting, and running the school has given Naomi more than her fair share of challenges. She has to have security around the school (someone once poisoned the well that provides the schools water). Thankfully due to the strong relationship built over time between her family and the Village Elder who donated the land, the school has his blessings and protection, and the much needed support of the local Community.

The school now has over 450 kids between the ages of 5-17 with some of the older students graduating and going on to University.

The running costs of the school are always ongoing, and PopUp 38 still has very serious targets it need to constantly meet. With such important responsibilities resting on her shoulders Naomi has a surprisingly serene and gentle personality. When speaking to Naomi it is apparent her intentions are crystal clear but she has lost none of her softness and warmth. She maintains a relaxed faith that the store will continue to provide for the school.

Naomi wearing Olya dress in "Natural" Linen from "The Fabric store"

It's strange to live in a time where the characteristics of our celebrities can be so questionable, and their fame reaching so far when women like Naomi and her wonderful store can go comparatively unnoticed.

I look to Naomi as a clear example of someone who has the characteristics I would like to model upon myself, and that is why she is an obvious choice to model for Paper Theory.

I want to see more examples of courageous women leading impactful lives in the media. I want role models to aspire to, and I want the roles they hold to be wide and varied and multifaceted. I want them to be of all races, ages, sizes, abilities, and of any sexual orientations they choose, and I want them to inspire me to be better, not just thinner.

Im very grateful to Naomi for being such an example, and for letting me share her wonderful story with you.


Popup 38's current location is 72 Old Compton St, Soho W1D 4UN.

The store will be there until the 7th January 2019. You can follow Naomi and what's happening in the store on instagram @popup38. I happen to know there has been a recent delivery of John Roca couture (YES COUTURE) donated by John Rocha himself, so it's definitely worth sticking your head in for a peek.

If you have a wonderful designer wardrobe at home that doesn't get the love it deserves, please consider getting in touch with the store. You could give those clothes a second chance at life, and help keep the wonderful Lapis Lazuli School in Afghanistan running!

Story Photographed by Sarah Victoria Bates.

In all photos Naomi is wearing the Olya Shirt, the pattern is available here:

All the fabrics used in these photos are from "The Fabric Store" available here:

If you want to get in touch with Popup 38 about donating to the store contact:

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