In a warehouse in the backstreets of the Sydney suburb of Marrickville is Baba’s Place, a diner celebrating the cuisines and cultures of suburban Sydney, and the migrants from all over the world that have made their homes there since WWII. Baba’s Place’s menu draws inspiration from the melange of cultures that call Sydney home, reflecting how they’ve merged and changed over time to create their own, Sydney-specific, cultures and cuisines.
Similar forces are at play with Sokkah, a new clothing collection that Baba’s Place is launching with Melbourne label Soliela. Like Baba’s Place, Soliela – founded by siblings Rahma and Adam Soliman – celebrates diasporic cultures. It shines a light on the beauty of Middle Eastern countries and offers comfortable clothes for those from Arab backgrounds in a non-Arab society.
“[The Solimans] have got a very distinct voice, which I think is something that generation and my generation, and a little bit younger, is very good at doing,” Alexander Kelly, co-owner of Baba’s Place, tells Broadsheet. “There’s no pretence … it’s just these two kids who started when they were in high school. Their design work is punchy and grabby, and it’s obviously very intuitive.”
Sokkah – the phonetic spelling of “soccer” – celebrates the communities formed around “the world game” by generations of migrants.
“It’s played in all these countries … people who are outside their countries of origin, in their diasporic destinations, are searching for affinity, searching for community,” says Kelly. “And in Australia, NRL and AFL weren’t a representation of what [migrant] people were playing – but soccer was a way communities were built.
“That’s true for me, my family and the Eastern European diaspora, but it’s also true for the Arab and African diaspora that Adam and Rahma speak to – [people] who don’t feel like they belong, or they express this otherness, or this duality.”
The Sokkah collection mimics soccer kit – it includes jerseys, socks, shorts and a crew-neck jumper – which nods to both brands. A crest on the jersey spells out “Soliela” in Arabic, with a rose inspired by Kelly’s baba’s (grandmother’s) garden and the pillars you’ll find proudly decorating mid-century migrants’ houses across Sydney.
“For Eastern European immigrants … soccer was one of the only sports that [they felt like] they could play,” says Kelly. “They couldn’t play NRL [rugby league]; they didn’t understand it. Soccer is where they found their community. These people that moved to this country wanted to recreate home, wanted to recreate community, wanted to meet like-minded people and eat the same food.
To mark the collection’s launch, Baba’s Place is hosting a party this Sunday May 29. Head in from 12pm to 6pm for sets from Melbourne DJ C.Frim, R’n’B artist Gabby Nacua, hip-hop outfit 3K, rapper and producer Chef Chung, Beat Kitchen DJs and producer Evie Weily. Top-tier tattoo artist Lauren Winzer will be on ink duty, with all proceeds from tattoos going to Football United, a not-for-profit that makes soccer accessible for diverse communities in Australia and Myanmar.
Mapo’s gelato truck will also be pulling up to the warehouse, scooping Baba’s Yoghurt, a gelato made with Baba’s yoghurt culture, cinnamon, honey and lemon. The kitchen will have cevapi – sausage served in a roll or wrap, often served at soccer games – plus a riff on half-time oranges (here, a rakija-spiked jelly, served in orange peels). There’ll also be Gatorade-inspired cocktails, wine by Doom Juice and beers from Hawke’s down the road.
The Baba’s Place x Soliela Sokka line is exclusively available in Sydney at the launch party on May 29, and online via the Soliela site for Melburnians from midday May 30.