Starting this month, Pulse will go further in its mission. As you know, this platform is all about shedding light on everything that happens in the Arab fashion scene, and on everyone who makes waves and empowers the Arab fashion industry. From now on, we will focus more on helping debut talents, and young Arab designers from all over the MENA region. Once a month, this new segment will feature a renowned Arab designer who will share their experience, talk about the obstacles and hurdles they had to face when they jumped into the industry, and how they overcame them. We will ask them five questions about their journey, and their recommendations are sure to be priceless.

Our first interviewee is Sandra Mansour. The Lebanese-Swiss maestra – the first Arab woman to collaborate with H&M – founded her brand in 2010 in her car and with a tiny budget. Twelve years later, here she is, the queen of lace, using vulnerability as a nuclear weapon to transform dreams into garments, and mixing her Arab roots with her Western education to tell some of the most beautiful fashion stories in the MENA region.

So, here we go, here’s our talk with Sandra Mansour about the challenges she’s faced down to get to where she is.

If you were to look back on the early years of your career, what were the obstacles and pitfalls you had to overcome as an Arab designer?  How did you overcome them? Do you think you made it on your own?

As an Arab designer, I would say that my biggest obstacle was how to access the international markets, to solidify my brand identity, to cater to both Middle Eastern and international taste and to build a team I can trust. Transitioning from a fashion designer to a business owner was also interesting as I had to maneuver my way forward and learn things through experience.

I think you overcome obstacles with perseverance, dealing with the issues one step at a time, learning form others and believing in yourself. Saying I made it on my own would be to disown my team, who have put in the hard work and stood by me every step of the way to get to where I am. I made it with my team and support system.

Same question but, but specifically as a woman, was it more difficult, or complicated, in an industry dominated by men? What were the hurdles and how did you blow past them? Or was it easier?

Difficulties and complications are a matter of perspective. I never choose to see the difference [between the two] as a negative, but rather as a positive notion to push me further and to show women that they can still make it in the Arab world. I believe that women should push themselves and believe in themselves to grow and attain their goals, and that’s why the majority of my employees are female.

What happens when the dream becomes a reality and the accolades are flowing? Do the difficulties grow exponentially as well, or is it way calmer?

Success is not tangible, but rather a set of expectations that an individual builds for themselves to attain personal satisfaction. I prefer to focus on growth and change to continuously evolve.

What advice would you give to a young designer who has just opened their atelier? In the super digital world we live in, would you encourage them to open a store right away, too?

I would advise them to push hard, go against the odds and to believe in themselves, because it is only through hard work that one can learn and grow. I would advise them to understand their finances to make sure that they spend correctly, and for that, I would advise them to work on digital rather than having a store.

Finally, is there something you would’ve done differently or changed totally during your first three or four years as a professional?

I think that we learn from everything and every obstacle. Challenges and achievements shape us and will shape our future actions. What shaped me were my experiences and I wouldn’t change anything.