As today is International Women’s Day, this week we’re joined by level 6 Fashion Design student and leader of the Stitch & Bitch society, Sara Rifat. Sara spoke to us about her time volunteering in Lebanon's refugee camps and how it inspired her work, her graduate collection, and giving people hope for peace through her work.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Hey Sara, lovely to be able to talk to you! Tell us a bit about you and the type of work you produce?
SARA RIFAT: I largely produce delicate and detailed pieces inspired by my surroundings and culture.
STUDENTS’ UNION: That’s great. Could you maybe tell us a bit about how they inspire you to study fashion?
SARA RIFAT: I’d say that I was first inspired to study fashion and do what I do by designers like Ellie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Lorenzo Caprile, but then I found that I had a shift in mentality towards my work after volunteering in Lebanon’s refugee camps in 2018.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Wow, that must have been a really inspiring and humbling experience. How did that go on to further influence your work?
SARA RIFAT: It taught me about the true meaning of perseverance and fighting for your dreams. It really made me realise my level of privilege, and how because of that I shouldn’t take it for granted.
STUDENTS’ UNION: I imagine that’s definitely had a positive impact on your work?
SARA RIFAT: I’d definitely say so. For my dissertation and graduate collection, I’m looking at the fashion industry alongside political and social matters, with a focus on the Syrian conflict and refugees.
STUDENTS’ UNION: That sounds like it’s going to be a powerful piece. What message do you want that piece and your work, in general, to convey to your audience?
SARA RIFAT: I want each piece I create to convey peace and help people either feel truly themselves and represented.
STUDENTS’ UNION: That’s a super positive message to try and get across. Everyone deserves to feel like they are represented in society in some way, so it’s great that you’re trying to get that across in your work.
STUDENTS’ UNION: When would you say you feel like you’re at your most creative and how does that play into your creative process?
SARA RIFAT: It's hard saying when creativity comes. As someone with a chronic illness I go through moments of ups and lows, but once I get into "the zone" there's a snowball effect (that I can't seem to explain or stop), which ends up with me creating nonstop. As my work is concept based, when I’m trying to translate my ideas into garments, I often prefer designing on paper as it means I can spend hours playing with watercolours and seeing where my vision takes me.
STUDENTS’ UNION: I’m sure we can all relate to that moment of getting into the zone. It always seems to come at the strangest of times, but when it does, it’s definitely a full steam ahead kind of moment.
STUDENTS’ UNION: With you being in your final year, I imagine that you’ve learnt a lot about yourself and how you work, but do you ever feel that the relationship between working for pleasure and working for a grade ever gets blurred?
SARA RIFAT: Having a small business and a true "passion for fashion", I do sometimes feel like I really do spend my whole day sewing. I wake up, do uni work, complete any orders I’ve received, and then when I get round to sewing anything for myself I realise that I've been sat at my machine the whole day. That's why I really try to differentiate between projects and not sell or make things for myself that I know I won't hand into university.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Finding that separation between the two can definitely be difficult so it really is a working process to find that differentiation. At the end of the day, you don’t want your passion to start feeling like a chore. With that in mind, if you weren’t an artist, what would you see yourself doing?
SARA RIFAT: Something completely opposite and very academic like global studies & conflict resolution, which ties in with the volunteering work I started at a very young age and my own Kurdish Iraqi roots; but fashion will always be the one thing I always come back to.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Well from what you’ve already told us, it seems like that’s already filtering into your work so it doesn’t look like it’s too far removed from you.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Well, it’s been great speaking to you today Sara. One last thing, what are your plans for the future?
SARA RIFAT: I want to get a PhD, but further on I would love to have a tiny atelier where I make unique, bride specific wedding gowns. It’s been a dream of mine since I was 8!
STUDENTS’ UNION: Here’s hoping that the universe is listening!
If you would like to see more of Sara’s work, you can find her here on Instagram, @lastnightonpluto and @sara.rifatb. Also, don’t forget to sign up to the Stitch & Bitch society where Sara will take care of all your crafting needs!