The right formula will lead you to success - Saarah Deen Ismail | Sunday Observer

The right formula will lead you to success - Saarah Deen Ismail

1 May, 2022
Saarah Deen Ismail
Saarah Deen Ismail

Saarah Deen Ismail, is a multi talented business entrepreneur in the beauty, textile and garment manufacturing industry. The Youth Observer caught up with Saarah, who, in a quick interview with us, highlighted a bit more about her vibrant journey as a fashion entrepreneur.

Q: What sparked your interest in fashion design and textile manufacturing? and Do you have any specific inspirations in mind?

A: My love for abstract painting has been apparent in my life since I could hold a brush – I have always been drawn to art and my inspiration comes from my childhood and my love for nature.

My love for colour and mixing them with nontraditional and off beat hues makes the process all the more exciting! In my world, design and textile manufacturing is like a marriage made in heaven.

Q: What led you to pursue beauty, textile and garment manufacturing as a serious career?

A: On the beauty side of things, we started out small - with precise planning and front hand experience we were able to grow our business at a steady pace. ‘Customer is always king’ has been our ethos as without them we wouldn’t be able to be where we are today. An integral part of our success also needs to be attributed to our dedicated workforce comprising our team of enthusiastic women who share our passion for success.

When it comes to textile and garment manufacturing, my parents and grandparents were a focal part of my journey that pushed me to create a space and create a label that would be competitive in the industry. From having started in my backyard and now grown into being ‘Ira Industries’ we are excited for all that’s to come our way in the future.

Q: Did you have a formal background or training in fashion design and textile manufacturing? Do you believe a formal education is essential for fashion design?

A: I was able to learn the art of batik under a well experienced artisan, Kolvin who has been in the industry for many decades. I was privileged to visit Jaipur and further expand my knowledge in textile design too.

Yes, I believe that it’s important to have a strong foundation for your craft, that you could further develop and make your own after you completely grasp it. It’s important to keep reinventing old crafts and make them your own!

Q: How would you describe your ‘Alai’ line to the uninitiated?

A: ‘Alai’ means wave in Tamil - the brand being inspired by island living and the coast. I felt Alai would work perfectly as a brand name - I was able to represent my inspiration in one simple word.

Q: Also, how would you describe Fusion 14?

A: Fusion14 is a retail space that has a range of unique pieces handpicked to depict the concept of East meets West. We have a range of one of a kind batik pieces, festive wear, interior finishings, and ceramics.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for ‘Alai’? Where did you find inspiration for this line of designs? Is it especially different from your usual work?

A: Alai is a passion project I came up with, and it pushed me to immerse myself in new techniques in terms of textile design. I wanted to create a brand that would represent my passion for colour and island-living

Q: When you say ‘Alai’ Edition One, does that mean you have plans for a follow up line in the future? Do you already have some kind of vision for it?

A: I would like to expand the line further into accessories that would complement the ethos of the brand! We are energized and ready for the next collection.

Q: From what I understand, you create all your designs yourself. What’s the typical process behind the making of one of your designs? Are you the only designer behind Fusion 14?

A: My mother and I, both contribute in designing all our edits. My mother handles the more festive side of our garments and I manage the rest of our edits ranging from batik, casual, accessories and interior finishings.

Q: You’ve described your works as ‘sustainable’. What specifically about your process makes it sustainable?

A: From the inception of creating a garment - I try my best to source excess fabric to create my garments and use off cuts to maximize our usage to create different accessories. We stick to sustainable practices with a circular eco-system for batik, where we use and reuse many of our ingredients.

Q: What is your personal style of fashion like? Do you wear much of your own designs?

A: I would say I am rather laid back and tend to be very last minute! I do wear our own designs - but I feel my sister and my mom own more of our garments than I do!

Q: What other pursuits do you follow besides textile design and manufacturing?

A: I handle more of the strategic and administrative side in our beauty businesses, and we have mapped out exciting new treatments we hope to launch this year. I am also passionate about the interior and ceramic pieces I create and retail a collection at ‘Pendi’, as well as at my store.

Q: What does your team look like? How do you find the people who work for you?

A: Our team is relatively small, hard-working and like minded individuals. We found them through traditional means of advertising and through word of mouth through our network of friends and family.

Q: As someone who has had extensive sustainable textile printing training in India, how would you compare your experience there to the state of the industry here in Sri Lanka? and Do you believe it is lacking in any way?

A: Sri Lanka has all the means to compete in a global arena in terms of our own creative ideas. I believe if we could make it our own, we would be able to achieve great heights.

Q: What is the primary demographic you reach with your designs? How would you describe the majority of your clientele?

A: We have women of all ages that shop with us, primarily a more mature clientele.

Q: What future projects do you have in store?

A: We plan on rebranding and renovating our space this year.

Q: Do you have advice for anyone hoping to get into the textile and fashion industry?

A: Try to think outside of the box, and prepare for long days. With the right formula you are bound to succeed.