YOUSRA ELSADIG: “WHAT WE NEED IN THE MENA REGION IS MORE UNITY THROUGH THE ART OF FASHION DESIGN”
1/ What pushed you to send in your submission to this year’s FTA Prize? What do you expect from this experience?
I’ve always been fond of what FTA is all about since its first edition. I have seen how well they pamper the finalists and ultimately their winners. It is such a prestigious initiative that recognizes talent in the MENA region. It is the first of its kind and I felt like my brand and message could benefit from this sort of recognition. I’ve also always been an advocate who aims to represent the talent and potential of my beloved country Sudan and the good stuff it has to offer despite all the hardships it has been going through.
Moreover, I believe that my sustainable ideals are aligned with those of FTA. I live by my ethical ideals and felt like that FTA can help me nurture them even further. In addition, I have a message to break stereotypes and inspire ladies with similar circumstances as myself to go for their dreams, regardless of how unrealistic they may seem to those around them. I felt like FTA can give me the voice and ultimate platform to deliver my message, and showcase the type of fashion I am about, which is fashion with an impact. Ultimately, I believe that FTA as an initiative aligns with my beliefs, ideals and goals that I would like to achieve as designer from Sudan with many hopes, aspirations and dreams for herself and her country.
2/ What was the first object related to fashion (a piece of clothing, jewelry, an accessory…) that dazzled you when you were a kid, and why?
It was my mom’s vintage purple YSL bag. A medium size clutch with golden chains. The way that golden monogram shone in the hot sun of Sudan and dazzled my eyes was engraved in my soul. I was only 7 years old and that memory never leaves my thoughts, even in my design process.
3/ What was the trigger that made you realize that you wanted to be a fashion designer and nothing else?
What triggered me to become a designer was trying to find clothes that suited my “outlandish” style. I was always the odd one out when it came to my style choices. I was thrift-shopping when all my teen peers were rocking urban brands back in the early 2000’s. I was bullied for looking modest, in a long skirt with combat boots when others were in jeggings and furry coats. I was also called out for always being heavy on the accessories, like hats and large spectacles. However, I got my first true calling when I designed my own prom dress in Canada when I was 16 years old. I couldn’t find any modest dresses in the high streets as the style back then was tight, with little or no straps and very little material. I went for a Sudanese/oriental mash, I sketched it and bought the fabric and my aunt made it for me at the time. I was solo, original and very proud that day.
4/ Which fashion designer, Arab or international, inspired you, and why?
Arab designers that inspire me have got to be Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad. Their designs just speak to my soul. They embody a lot of creativity, love and just awesomeness. They have also dressed a lot of Arab and Western celebrities and some international stars like JLO, who is often seen in Zuhair Murad. I believe the wedding dress she wore in her latest film is one of his designs. This indeed is one of my goals as a designer. When it comes to international designers, I am very inspired by Erdem Moralioglu. His brand is everything! I am also inspired by Christian Siriano, as I literally saw him flourish before my eyes ever since he was a young contestant on Project Runway. I am sorry, I couldn’t just choose one.
5/ What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?
Jeggings. They’re a weird hybrid between leggings and jeans. They are a fashion sin and I just find them tacky and people should stop wearing them.
6/ What was your worst fashion faux-pas?
I believe in embracing situations, even if it is an awkward style choice. So, I can’t recall a certain faux-pas, because I tend to rock anything. But I could think of that time when I wore combat boots with long sleeves and a maxi skirt in the summer and classmate said that “I looked like a grandma on her way to join the army.”
7/ If you were to choose one of your looks, or that of any other designer, to wear every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?
I would pick my Gamasis tracksuit. It encompasses everything I am about. I love that it is made of material that is exclusively used in Sudanese culture. I also believe in looking comfortable, but still making a statement, which is what this tracksuit is about. More importantly, it breaks the stereotype that Garmasis can only be worn by brides at weddings and it is modest and sustainable. It is also gender neutral and can be masculine as well as feminine. It is basically the whole works, and I am so proud of it.
8/ Who do you dream of dressing?
HRH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, literally! Ever since I was a teen in Canada I was fascinated by her elegant style. She inspires me because she is the epitome of modesty and class. I’ve always said that BDN is the brand of Queens, trailblazers and change-makers. I dream of meeting HRH and dressing her one day and I am elated to see that at least one of these wishes will become a reality soon and I will get to meet her in October, God willing.
9/ What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?
Sustainability is a way of living. It encompasses different concepts, like recycling, Fairtrade and ethical goods. However, more importantly, it should be incorporated into a person’s character, so he or she can practice it organically and without forcing or “green-washing” everything they do to look cool or fit in. It is how we treat everyone with kindness, and create no waste when cooking or making something like a piece of clothing. It is thinking of where the waste we create will go and the impact it will have. It is also about using less water, and energy where we can.
10/ What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see changed?
“Cliques” in general can make anyone uncomfortable. I think nothing beats working in harmony with those around us. We rise by lifting others and a welcoming attitude is needed in any field. It allows newcomers in any given field to feel welcomed and this way they will flourish, excel and prosper. I just feel for those who find it hard to break into the cliques that can constitute a whole industry. This is why an initiative like FTA is exactly what we need in the MENA region. It has worked on unifying talent in the region and looked beyond geographical borders. FTA is pursuing exactly what we need – unity through the art of fashion design.