Emirati designer Sara Al Tamimi is determined to bring back retro glamor to modern-day dressing – and that she is. Tamimi’s debut collection features carefully curated luxe fabrics crafted into powerful yet fluid feminine silhouettes inspired by 80s extravagance. Timeless silhouettes, sophisticated designs, sustainable fabrics, and a sense of nostalgia are at the heart of Tamimi’s eponymous label.
In an attempt to get to know the emerging Emirati brand, we sat down with Al Tamimi to discuss everything from her inspiration to her dreams to mission of sustainability.
Who is the Sara Al Tamimi woman? Who do you consider to be your muse when you design?
The Sara Al Tamimi woman is the one who wants to look trendy and beautiful all the time, but doesn’t want to look like she’s putting a lot of effort into doing so. It’s an effortless chic kind of look. She’s a woman who wants to be daring in terms of clothing and fashion while maintaining an elegant look. She’s daring, powerful, and feminine all at the same time.
You knew early on that you wanted to be a fashion designer. I was wondering if you can share your experience of how it felt when you finally started your own label. Did everything go as expected, or were there any unforeseen challenges to setting up a brand that you experienced?
Honestly, I knew it wasn’t not going to be easy. I always knew that I was going to do something far different from what my peers are doing, from what’s available in the market. I knew that I was going to have to source everything from abroad and have to get some help from people for professionals that are not within the region. So I knew that it was going to be tough before I got into it.
But once I was into it, that’s when I found out how hard things really are, because I am so involved in the details. And it’s so hard to actually get a garment made to perfection. For example, I would have a vision of something that is impeccably perfect. But then when it comes to the execution, it is just really tiring to perfect every single detail. That’s the part I would say was something that I did not expect.
You’ve mentioned that you are determined to bring back the grandeur of older eras to dressing through your clothes. I was wondering about your opinion on how bold, statement-making clothes will fit into the post-pandemic wardrobe? Do you think we will witness a ‘roaring 20s’ kind of effect, where people will want to dress up very chance they get, or will they continue to seek comfort in loungewear?
I feel that the comfort of loungewear is not going anywhere; it’s going to stay for sure. But I believe we will see a transition. In fact, I feel we are in the transition phase right now, with people taking the vaccines and starting to go out. And that is reflected in our first collection – it is the transition collection. It has this laid-back aesthetic while being glamorous at the same time. And I feel like that’s what people need and want right now. We are all so used to being comfortable. We are so used to an effortless look. And we are giving people this effortless yet glamorous look.
I do strongly believe that the ‘roaring 20s’ are coming back. When I speak about the grandeur of the past eras, it’s the pictures from the past that inspire me. We don’t dress like that anymore. Those people, they used to put so much more effort than we do. They’d always wear suits and jackets with shoulder pads and have very specific buttons – they really put in the effort to look glamorous. It’s something that I enjoy seeing and I want to bring back.
How did the style of the 1980s come to influence your latest collection?
There’s just something about the 80s that I really love. I particularly enjoy looking at my mother’s old pictures from the 80s and the 90s. She was so stylish. So I feel like maybe that’s a part of the reason why I like the 80s – it’s one of the things that has influenced me and the collection.
There are some designs from the 80s that really fascinate me. The shoulder pads, for example. I love that look. It gives the garment structure. It’s so powerful, yet feminine at the same time. I wanted to bring that power into my collections.
What does your design process look like? Do you source the fabrics first and create the designs around them? Or do you have a mental image of what you want the piece to look like, and then hunt for the appropriate fabric?
It’s both at the same time. Sometimes I see a fabric that I really want to use, and then I try to find a design that would work with it. But most of the time, there are designs in my mind while I am trying to find fabrics that would suit those designs. Fabrics are highly significant.
The most important thing to me when it comes to fabrics is the feel – the way the fabric feels on the skin. The feel is always something that you need to actually touch and see. And another thing is how the fabric acts, how it reflects, and how it makes you feel when you put the fabric on your skin. When you put the fabric on your skin and look at yourself in the mirror, there’s something magical that happens and that’s when you know that this is a fabric you would like to work with.
Is sustainability a big factor while selecting fabrics?
Yes, it is. Our second collection is almost 100% sustainable. Taking steps towards sustainability was really tough because after I set up the whole supply chain – which took a long time – I realized that the fashion industry is just really harmful to the environment. It’s really consuming. I felt like I was contributing to something that’s really dangerous. So I decided on accelerating our sustainability efforts. So we were back to square one, sourcing everything, finding people that would source the fabrics, setting up the supply chain. But thankfully, with the help of our team, we were able to turn our brand into a sustainable one quite smoothly.
How has working remotely affected your collections? Were there any challenges that you faced, especially with your supply chain?
The pandemic struck just when we went into sustainability, and all the trade shows were suddenly virtual. So that was challenging. Getting the second collection manufactured on time was also very stressful. Due to the lockdowns, most factories were working reduced hours, there were lots of closures, and a lot of uncertainty in general. But there were also a lot of positive factors. I feel I’ve never been so focused as I am now, while working from home.
What message would you like to give through your designs?
You can see from our designs – which are modest – that Sara Al Tamimi clothes are about the woman wearing them. They are not about the body of the woman that’s wearing it. Our message is about power and confidence. I want to create pieces that fit so well they give women confidence, making them feel beautiful without compromising on comfort. It’s all about making our customers happy. So that’s the message. It’s also about elegance, because you can see that everything is made from the finest materials. So that’s the second message.
What do you hope for the brand to achieve? Where do you see it going?
I want to be leading in luxury and sustainable luxury. That’s where I see Sara Al Tamimi going.