BEIRUT: Sara Kayyal is an aspiring womenswear and menswear designer who draws inspiration from different cultures. Her collection mostly intertwines from movies, travel spots and human interaction in order to deliver outfits that are eccentric.
Kayyal who is 21 years old, just completed her final year of Fashion Design at the Lebanese American University in collaboration with Elie Saab and University of the Arts London.
Kayyal never considered fashion design as just a hobby. It has always been a way for her to communicate her ideas and express herself freely. She believes that there is more to what people choose to wear than a simple outfit. “I’ve learned to observe and interpret how others are feeling on a given day based on their clothing choice,” she added. Thus, through her designs, she wants to give her customers the opportunity to fully express themselves.
Kayyal chose LAU because she believes the university not only offers technical courses that include pattern cutting and construction skills, but also theoretical courses which help students throughout their research process.
A part of her university courses, Kayyal was occupied with several internships that helped her grow as a person and played a big role in her management of the final year project. In April 2016, she interned at Fashion Forward Dubai, a fashion platform for Dubai and the Middle East.
She had the privilege of working with designers of all nationalities. Her main tasks included organizing the consecutive fashion events, coordinating time schedules for both models and designers in a strategic manner. “It was overwhelming to multitask from show to show, making sure all models were wearing the correct outfit and that they were in the correct running order,” she added. “Unexpectedly, after attending a meeting with my boss, I had the privilege of designing the window display at Galerie Lafayette in Dubai Mall”.
Shortly after, in May 2016, she worked with Studio Safar, a Beirut-based design, and art direction agency. Her duties mainly involved researching several brands and creating new brand identities. She proposed mood boards and website designs and worked alongside the Creative Director of the firm. “This experience helped me build my research techniques and understand how to create a brand identity.
"Each designer must create his/her own brand identity that reflects his/her work,” she said. The brand should represent itself and Studio Safar has a unique way of working with minimal yet striking ideas that truly show an artist’s identity.
Summer came but work didn't stop there for Kayyal. In June 2016, she interned for Devon Halfnight Leflufly, a unisex fashion designer based in Antwerp, Belgium. There, she had a broad scope of responsibilities which ranged from pattern making, sewing, and branding.
During her internship at Antwerp, she had the privilege to work one on one with a designer, learning the steps from A to Z of creating a collection. she said that “My favorite part of this internship was working hand in hand with the designer and learning his ways. Devon taught me the tricks of sewing, faster techniques, and most importantly the pros and cons of having my own brand”.
Every year in school, her research and influences took a different direction. For example, for her first-year project, she used the original Spiderman movies as her inspiration. In the consecutive year, she was inspired by World War 1 and Indian architecture. And for her third year, she got inspired by the first Olympics in London and the more sportive style. All this research on varying topics helped her understand what she likes as a designer.
Upon the beginning of her fourth and last year, Kayyal needed to work on her final collection. “I kept searching for a topic and nothing would feel right, then as I was browsing the Internet, I found a three-minute video about Mongolia that spoke to my heart. I was inspired by a journalist’s journey to Mongolia. He spent three months living amongst the people carefully learning their daily habits,” she briefed.
Thus, her final project centers around the Mongolian culture, customs, and lifestyle. “I saw the beauty in the organic and the naturalistic routine that they are accustomed to. I experimented with different fabric manipulations consisting mainly of macramé, weaving, and knitting with materials that range from wool, leather, and more,” she added. She named her collection “Gobi Desert,” which is the largest desert in the Asian Region, found in Southern Mongolia.
In order for students along with Kayyal to display their collection, LAU along with Elie Saab and several other sponsors created a fashion show solely dedicated to new graduates. The fashion show was named “First” since it was the first of its kind for LAU and took place on June 8, at the Abroyan Factory, Bourj Hammoud.
The graduating students debuted 160 outfits on the runway with the attendance of various honorary guests and guest speakers such as the program’s honorary chair, internationally renowned Beirut-based designer Elie Saab, and the expertise of the London College of Fashion (LCF).
Kayyal said that “as the dressers were lining up the models and there were only a few seconds until they went on the runway, I was still altering the small details of each look. Seeing my work on the runway made my heart feel full of satisfaction.”
She admitted that although she has previously helped many designers prepare their models before the show, it was a completely different experience doing the same for her own designs. “So many emotions were going through my head, it felt surreal. Hopefully, this show was the first of many,” she added.
Kayyal attributed the success of the fashion show to the small size of the graduating class, which comprised only 16 students. Thus being a small group, they were all close to their teachers and this, in turn, helped them contribute in organizing the fashion show. They were mainly involved in giving ideas, choosing the venue and more importantly insisting for the best outcome no matter how hard it would be.
“We were even asked to attend a board meeting with the chairperson of Fashion design, the investors, the hospitality team, and of course our teachers. I was happy to be a part of the process, which made seeing the result even more pleasing,” she added.
Kayyal believes her work is unique because she is not afraid of using bold and risky color combinations. The aim of her collection is to strike the public's eye through the mixture of material, color, and garment silhouettes. Fashion is always shifting; new trends are dropped because another trend came in so for me it’s all about experimenting.
As for her next steps, Kayyal has signed up to be a member of “Not Just a Label” who will promote and connect her to designers worldwide. Not Just a Label is the front page for the fashion world’s contemporary show runners. She is hoping that this will be a jumpstart to her working path.
Also, she plans to study fashion marketing at Polimoda fashion school in Florence.
For the long run, Kayyal would like to open her own boutique in Beirut. “The aim behind my boutique would be to create a one-of-a-kind handmade piece that fit each customer. Every individual has his own unique personality; to which I believe should match a unique garment. No outfit in my boutique will match another one,” she said.
Annahar's "Faces of Lebanon" is an occasional series that takes a look at the talented young people who work, study, live and dream of a future in Lebanon. Ages range from 15 to 30. We encourage you nominating candidates and telling us their story. Send your nominations to Facesof.Lebanon@annahar.com.lb
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