Meet Salma Mahjabeen, an assistant designer at a local fashion house, and current winner of ValleyDez with her aptly named collection, Bint Dubai. Her designs impressed the judges and have earned a place in uber-fashionable boutiques.
What inspired you to start digital illustration?
My dad was a software engineer and he always had Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop on his computer. When I was in school (third grade), he introduced me to Adobe Illustrator and taught me how I can make easily make a flower by copying an oval shape, rotating it and pasting it several times to draw a daisy. I started to practice, creating daisies to cartoon characters then finally when I discovered my interest for fashion I started to look at becoming a digital fashion illustration artist and became inspired by the French artist Malika Favre; her bold and minimalistic style inspires me.
What were the obstacles you faced while trying to pursue a profession in fashion designing?
I am a recent graduate from Heriot Watt University. It is not easy to break through in this industry and the fashion industry in Dubai is not as big as it is in Asia or Europe. Employment opportunities are also quite limited for designers and when you are a fresh graduate you are vulnerable. Most companies I encountered asked me to develop a collection free of charge for them as I did not have prior experience. Nobody asks an engineer to build a house or design a house free of charge because he or she is a fresh graduate. Some companies do not see it as intellectual property—they think it’s just 18 outfit sketches but fail to understand the design process and time designers take to come up with the 18 sketches. Artists and designers have bills to pay as well. It took me a good year before I found a decent job.
Who is your role model in the fashion industry?
I have many role models in the industry, I see Stella McCartney as my role model, and also my previous boss, Mr Alloua Gaham, founder and owner of Cute Edition by Edition Limitee. I did my first fashion internship with him and it was the best experience ever—he was more like a mentor than a boss. I still remember the things he taught me and use them in my life. I hope I can help and inspire someone the way he helped me.
What words of advice would you give to people who would like
to pursue a career in fashion designing?
Don’t be afraid to start small; you really have to work extra hard to prove you’ve got what it takes before people start to believe in you. Designers don’t sleep. I am not trying to scare anyone but I think that’s the amount of work you have to do. Anyone who wants to pursue a career in fashion first should prepare themselves mentally so they are not shocked. It is not always glitter and glamour. It is obviously fun and creative but only when you learn to handle the pressure. It took me quite some time to learn to handle it. Work hard and be true to your inner
artist and you will do just fine.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
It is every designer’s dream to have their own label, I am no different; I would like to be the creative director of my own label in five years’ time.
What makes your designs more unique and different than others?
My designs are usually straightforward. I like to design more commercial pieces mostly but I try to add a unique print or illustration to make a statement. I grew up in Dubai and this city has a big influence on my designs, so I try to add a cultural touch in an innovative and modern way because I feel that is a unique part of my design. I can only speak for myself and say how my own designs are unique because I feel every designer’s designs are unique and no two heads are the same.