Sarah Alasiri is my friend running into four years. She is a bubbly and humble persona that has never failed to bring warmth into my life. Behind the friendship we share, I have always been inspired by Sarah’s drive in pursuing her love for fashion. Four years ago, Sarah designed and made a customised skirt which I modelled for her back in our first year of college. Today, she has outgrown her first designs and has taken the time to step back from making clothes, to instead spend time discovering the type of fashion designer she wants to be. She practices her passion any free minute she gets to improve her undeniable talent. This has resulted in so many incredible fashion illustration collections she has created, the latest of which I have included in this post. In a cosy little café in Dublin, I sat down with Sarah over herbal tea, to discuss her passion for fashion, the inspirations behind her new collection, and what motivates her as a young person who is trying to make her dreams a reality.
MERIEM: First of all, can I start off by saying thank you for taking the time to talk to me and The Romantic Effect readers about fashion and your experience with it.
SARAH: Thank you so much for letting me get involved and I’m really happy to be platforming my work on your blog, because it’s been my weekly read since you set it up. It’s great to be taking part.
MERIEM: Sarah, we’ve been friends running into about four years now, but for those who don’t know you, what can you tell us about yourself?
SARAH: I’m 20 years old, and I’m in my second year of college. I study Economics and Finance. Despite my major, my dream is to be a fashion designer. I’m really interested in Arabic design and culture too, I find Arabic calligraphy and Arabic art in general beautiful.
MERIEM: On the note of Arabic art and culture, does your home country, Saudi Arabia influence your sense of fashion? How strongly does it influence your work?
SARAH: No, I don’t think my work has been greatly influenced by my home. The only thing I could say I picked up from Saudi is that we have a very elegant and classy sense of fashion. People have a good sense of fashion in Saudi and they definitely keep up with the latest trends. My work tends to incorporate that elegant look often. On the other hand, Ireland is definitely more casually dressed, and where in Saudi we emphasise bags and jewellery, there isn’t much focus on accessories in Ireland, I find. Saudi follows skirts and dresses, while Ireland is definitely the more street style look of jeans and a top.
MERIEM: Do you ever worry, if you make it in the industry, that your work wouldn’t be well received in Saudi Arabia? That people wouldn’t be able to connect or understand your fashion sense?
SARAH: I’m really inspired by a Saudi designer, Razan Alazzouni. For me, she broke big barriers for Saudi women, and she is a very well received fashion designer. She is not based in Saudi, but for me, as a Saudi woman, seeing her do what she does inspires me so much. Her designs are beautiful. So, I think if it’s been done before, it can be done again and again. I actually worry more that my work wouldn’t be as well received in Ireland for example as Saudi. In Saudi, we follow western fashion trends biblically. We know of all the different designers and take from their fashion trends a lot. I don’t know if a Western country like Ireland, would receive Arabic influenced designs the way we do Western designs. I think with globalisation and the status quo that is just the way it is, in a sense.
MERIEM: Growing up then with this immense love for fashion, when was the first time you discovered that this was what you wanted to do?
SARAH: In 5th grade, I worked on my very first sketch. It was a green dress, and that was the moment I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
MERIEM: I know you said Alazzouni is an inspirational designer for you, and someone you look up to within the industry. Is there anything else, an external factor other than fashion or designers that influences your work?
SARAH: Definitely. I’m really inspired by art. Music too. Paintings, photography, but particularly architecture really evoke something for me. Sometimes looking at architectural designs really helps my inspiration flow. I’m also really influenced by the characters of the people I meet and I sometimes design according to their characters.
MERIEM: That’s really interesting! I am definitely a firm believer of the impact people have on one another, and that can also be on our work. Do you think you can tell a lot about someone by their sense of fashion?
SARAH: I suppose you can’t really ever know for sure, get me? I do definitely try to guess, though!
MERIEM: What inspired this collection of illustrations in particular then? Was it art? Architecture? Music? A specific person?
SARAH: I was watching a series, and there was this song in one of the episodes, called “Dance Me To The End Of Love”. I don’t know the artist, but I kept re-watching that episode just to hear that song. I could just imagine two people slow dancing to it, the song has a classical tone to it, and it was just so beautiful. I wanted to draw up ideas of what that couple would wear dancing to a song like that – a ballroom dancing kind of atmosphere. This collection of illustrations is also influenced by the 1960’s and 70’s, and you can see that in the purple and green dresses, for example. Big bright colours was all the 60’s and 70’s.
MERIEM: My favourite piece from this collection of design illustrations is definitely the black dress, closely tied with the beige dress. Do you have a favourite?
SARAH: The black dress for me is a complete look, and for that reason it’s my favourite. You don’t need to heavily accessorise it and I like that it makes a statement on it’s own. I would team that dress up with a red lipstick and be out the door.
MERIEM: With any passion and the want to pursue it, comes the unfortunate but inevitable fear of failure. How scared are you of the idea of not being able to accomplish a name and status within the fashion industry?
SARAH: Of course, like anyone else, it plays on my mind, and it is one of the most unpleasant feelings ever. I think it’s easy to establish a fashion platform, just not one that reaches success globally and to a large scale, which is what I want. I don’t want to be limited to one culture, country or audience. I want my designs to reach everywhere, different places and all types of people. I think I will, because I honestly couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
MERIEM: To finish up, on that note, what advice would you give to someone else who is also trying to work towards the same dream as yourself?
SARAH: Well, I’m still very young and unexperienced, so I’m still learning it all myself. I would definitely say though, that the most important two things I have learned and could advise to someone else are to always listen to your own voice, believe in yourself, and just practice, practice, practice!
MERIEM: Sarah, once more, thank you so much for giving us an insight into your work, and contributing it to the blog. I genuinely wish you the very best of luck with it all!
SARAH: Here’s hoping! Thank you for taking the time to do this!