Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 19 - Interview with designer Fara Mas of FARAMAS


Please share a bit about your journey to embrace Fashion Design as a career?

As a child I grew up, in the middle of Tehran/Iran, as my parents had to move to Tehran, after my family had lost almost everything they possessed during the Iraq-Iran [Proxy-] War (1980-1988), due to the bombing of the house they lived in, in the south of Iran.

Tehran, the capital city and new home, with high-rise buildings and mainly grey, dull colours of people’s outfits, mostly in mourning of family members they lost during the war, were in strong contrast (to) the beauty, described in the Persian Literature of Rumi and Hafiz and the stories of the Boustan and Gulistan of Saadi, and especially, with Firdausi’s Shahmame, which I got told – and later read myself.

All books, of course, re-prints of lavishly illustrated originals. The Persian miniatures sowed beautiful, colourful dresses, of men and women – and what I could not see in real, in life. When age and time came to make a decision, what to study, it was clear --- something with theatre or fashion. I felt the urge of creating what is missing in real life. In theatre, it was possible to visualize dreams and let them become alive, on stage, even if it is only for a short time.

The first reaction of my parents was: “you study something with science or medicine…” and ---- so I ended up, in, high school, studying mathematics, in which I had a serious interest but no passion - and was awarded a high level diploma in this subject.

During my pre-university studies, in Iran, I focused on Visual Arts [Family comment: “… now that you insist, if something in the Arts, then you should become an actress, theatre or preferable Film” (based on a few roles at school theatre performances)]. I decided to go on in field I was passionate about, by obtaining my BA in Fashion and Textile Design, in Tehran/Iran.

The next step was a Masters, obtained in Kuala Lumpur/Malaysia, in Design Technology in Fashion.

... and this was just the beginning.

Designer Fara Mas

Where did you learn your skills?

I started studying BA. of Fashion and Textile Design at University of Science and Culture in Tehran, but it was not enough. I knew that there’s much more to learn in this field. I wanted to continue my education with a Master Degree from abroad. Therefore I started working, after my BA, in Tehran, as costume and wardrobe stylist for Theatre and TV productions, to make some additional money for coming closer to my dreams, [… and, of course, to gain more practical experience, for the next step -- going to Malaysia for my MA.

Arriving in Malaysia, I continued to top-up the small financial help my family could give me, by working, besides studying at the University Technology Mara (UiTM) Malaysia, as part-time wardrobe stylist for TV programmes. There I met the celebrities which formed later the first clients of my fashion brand, FARAMAS.

When it comes to Start-Up and Business Operations, I’m absolutely self-taught, since, neither in Iran nor in Malaysia, are students taught these skills. The countries universities are, obviously, only focusing on “supplying” the industry, with fresh designers, and not with entrepreneurs. Luckily, in Germany, where my fashion brand is registered, the chambers of commerce & trade, besides government institutions and NGO’s, are offering useful help and training for Start-Ups – for free.

Also the Fashion Camp, in connection with the Vancouver Fashion Week 2018, has proven to be a very helpful support, and it is highly recommendable as a source of “how-to-do”. Even for those who are already knowledgeable of the subject, there is always something new to find out or at least to get confirmation in the way they are doing things. Another aspect is to share ideas, methods, share experiences and discuss them with others.


What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

Getting ideas for new collections and single pieces is the “easiest” part. Life, nature, interacting with people [clients and non-clients], sometimes an interesting book or a good movie, triggers ideas and concepts -- and there are, more sources of inspirations.

Execution of a design, draping and preparing the prototype is already a more “labour-intensive” part of the process. I think it is natural, that the first draping on the dummy is not always exactly what the designer visualizes in mind. After finalizing the vision of a dress or dress set, comes another stage, which is the “testing” of the prototype on a live-model, to see the flow, the move of the material and apply necessary changes until the piece, in reality, matches what is in my mind.

The most challenging part, in my line of fashion design and production, is to get the right person[s] for the right job and working as a team together, like a good clockwork. Not every tailor is able to work with every kind of material and technique required.

Since we are not doing mass-production, another problem is to keep the prices affordable, while the raw materials and the workmanship is kept at its highest quality. The solution, for this, we found in networking and outsourcing with different small workshops, crafts people and textile experts, joining-up and joining-in in the team, for a collection – like a “movie on demand”- but are otherwise their own independent masters.

The most disappointing or “hardest” experience is when people, even friends and relatives, envy you and comment: “… what a lavish luxury life, all this travelling, the different exciting countries and places, the Fashion Shows …. And the limelight, the fame ...” and completely overlook the heart, mind - and body stressing work. Every new collection is like a childbirth – healthy pregnancy, labour, giving birth --- and then the “child-rearing” of your babies, till “they are mature – and leave the house”.


Where do you find inspiration for new collections?

My birth country Persia/Iran is a rich pool of inspiration, its history, its culture, poetry and literature, and its tremendous variety of historic clothing, of the different peoples and ethnicities, as well as the colours of the landscapes and seasons of Iran.

Another source is the clothing history of Central Asia and the Middle East. The strongest features of the designs of the past are comfort, and minimum waste. Long before environment- and resource scarcity-considerations became a public theme, they have been designed, with the optimum use of available size of material, for their time, in the context of their time; -- often full of, now forgotten, meanings and symbolism – reflecting professions, function, role and social status.

I started, some time ago, to look into the possibilities of bringing the beauty of the past back to life, by giving them a modern interpretation and “makeover”, for our time and a different clientele --- and have, by now developed my own individual signature style.

Since I’m scouting for new raw materials myself, sometimes the texture of a textile, the pattern, and the “feel” of a material is triggering the idea, what to do with it, what to make out of it, and it becomes the start of a full new collection.

My Husband, full time life-partner and part-time business partner is, occasionally, another source of inspiration. Being a Museologist, Archaeologist and Conservator by profession, with a special interest in Textile and Clothing History shares with me, his researches and findings. There, sometimes, by one term, one remark, I get a new inspiration, a new idea or consolidate, in dialogue, an already existing design or collection concept.


Further sources of inspiration are horrible designs, sloppy execution of designs and “wardrobe failures”.

As an old and wise woman in our family once said: “…nothing is so useless, that it can’t be used, at least, as a bad example ― and to learn from it to make it better.

How important is colour to your design process?

My relationship to colours is strongly shaped by the fact that my second passion, next to fashion design, is painting.

In the recent past I had Painting Exhibitions in Malaysia and the opportunity, by invitation, to exhibit my works in Galleries in Florence and Milan/Italy.

When it comes to importance of colours in fashion, I think all my previous and present collections are reflecting the essential role of colours, for me and the collections.

Everybody is nowadays talking about the importance of colours in offices, to enhance the productivity. Almost everybody knows that colours of dressing can be [and often are] an expression of mood, feeling; and can be used, in fashion design, to influence and change “a bad-mood-day” into a better one.


Readers would love to know more about the collection you showcased at Vancouver Fashion Week S/S19. 


The name of the spring/summer collection 2019 is “SHADES OF TERRA COTTA”.

The title terracotta (Baked Earth) refers to the results of backing earth; by the heat of the sun or man-made fire. According to the temperature and the air circulation, the earth develops into different shades of mature colours.

The title is also a homage to Ibn Batutta – the 14th century Muslim scholar, explorer, geographer and traveller from Tangier, in today’s Morocco.

Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited most of the Islamic World and many non-Muslim lands, including North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and China.

Near the end of his life, he dictated an account of his journeys, titled A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling.

Inspired by Ibn Batutta’s travel log and the backed earth of this world FARAMAS created this collection with the title “SHADES OF TERRA COTTA”.

Drawn from the colours of my native country Iran, and its colours, the lands along the travel route of the North African traveller I got inspired to select the colours of this collection. The observations and experiences of my own travels, from east to west, as well as the rich dressing heritage of my own and the visited countries, contributed to the final development of the collection.

SHADES OF TERRA COTTA takes up the colour pallet of creation and seasons. The colours of the desserts, the multi-coloured rock formations, the colour of the earth and soil at different seasons of the year – and not to forget another type of “backed earth”, the shades of terra cotta, which is in the different nations and skin tones of people.


Do you have a favourite look in this collection?

My favourite is the last look (No. 12) of the show at the Vancouver Fashion Week 2018, the closing piece of my show; the colours, carmine red and ebony black, of the long dress with side pockets and a semi-cape. This look allows the wearer, to be playful & flirty, or serious & official or elegant & glamorous – according to the occasion, the event or mood. Making use of different accessories, head covers or simply playing with the possibilities of the dress design; make each time a different look.

The bold colours of the flowing natural dress material create their own dynamic on different body types. Besides this, I think, that I developed, again, a design and dress-pattern, which combines comfort, gracefulness, elegance and glamour.

Like all pieces of my collections, also this one can be layered-over with pieces of other looks.

It is intended, that the owner and wearer of my designs is actively involved in the last and final design-process, the “styling it” and [re-] presenting it.

For me, this last look of the Shades of Terra Cotta Collection, is the essence of this collection – and has it all.

Where can readers purchase your designs?

FARAMAS designs are available at Malaysia department stores such as Metrojaya Midvalley; where they have “brick and mortar”, as well as online store:  http://www.metrojaya.com.my/

We also take online orders on our Instagram and Facebook page at https://www.instagram.com/faramasart/ and https://www.facebook.com/FaraMas


What's next for you as a designer and your brand?

Consolidating further the presence of FARAMAS Brand in Malaysia, Singapore and Germany; also we are looking to entering the North American market, with focus on Canada, after the positive reactions and responses at the recent 2018 Vancouver Fashion Show. Envisaged is the presence in well-established Boutiques, Fashion Malls and online platforms.

Besides this, the next year, FARAMAS is planning to start a “Prêt-à-Porter”, Ready-to-Wear line, slightly different from FARAMAS Exclusive, but with the same quality standards, concepts and style --- and produced in lager quantity.

FARAMAS Exclusive men’s-line will see, hopefully by end of 2019, the runway; maybe again in Vancouver. 

Anything else you'd like reader to know?

Often, being asked, where “… this restless search and passion for beauty is coming from”, I can only refer to what I said already, about my childhood and up-bringing. On a second thought, the fact, that during the first years of my life, the Iraq-Iran war was still raging – and the bombardments had reached also Tehran – may be another additional “triggering effect”, for what I’m passionate about. Sometimes a banging sound or a strong smell of burning wood or other materials, coming through the open window of my design studio, is kicking off the memories and vivid scary pictures of this time – destruction, suffering, chaos and other traumatic observations, a little child can’t be prevented from. But also the pictures of a half destroyed house, where the inhabitants had put up freshly planted Geranium in pots. I remember the little garden of my family, behind the house they lived in, after the others have been successively destroyed by bombing, with a garden for fresh vegetables, also a corner, where my mother grew “non- eatable stuff” flowers, just “for the sake of , some beauty”, in times and surroundings, which were, otherwise, the opposite of beautiful.

Maybe my search for and enhancement of natural beauty has also its beginnings in this un-conscious and, partly, conscious observations and experiences. Through my fashion designs I try to provide or offer help in self-improvement, supporting and/or enhancing something which is there, but not utilized for benefit of the wearer. I have encountered, throughout my career, so far, a number of women who are self-conscious about their body. The nature of my designs is, recognizing “beauty”, not in a flawless perfect image, but in embracing the reality of a person, regardless of age, size, race, nationality or religion. Art of Design & Beauty - and “enhancing natural beauty, which is in everyone and everywhere – and can be brought out of everybody and everything”, has become my passion.



What advice to you have for young fashion artists just beginning their journey to become designers?

Start small and grow, in the right pace. If you dream of quick fame and reaching the top in no time — wake up and get real. Fashion business is one of the toughest, most excluding, not easy to enter and closed trades of all — you’re either “in” or “out”.

Don’t forget that you should not imitate the big fashion houses and brands, which have already their market share and can afford to present at international fashion events, crazy, weird, extravaganza show-pieces, which are barely purchased. Study their designs and learn, but don’t copy them.

Have a concept, focus on carving your “niche” in the market and work on it. Be authentic, be you, but also be in dialogue with your clients, your buyers. Watch the market, the trends, and the forecasts Interpret them, incorporate them in your designs and themes, but stay the true you. Don’t compromise your values for the sake of short-lived fame. Be a Leader, not a Follower.

Finally, when you have your first success, don’t rest on it and copy yourself; there is always room for improvement, further development and progress. Learning is a lifelong process.

Last, but not least: don’t forget to be grateful, thankful to the ones who helped you, provided you with opportunities, encouraged and supported you, and stood by your side all the way.

Here, I would like not to miss the opportunity to thank Mr. Jamal Abdul Rahman (Founder and Organiser) and Mr. Samir Saab (Main Sponsor), who have made the Vancouver Fashion Week 2018, again, possible and successful; and Miss. Sarah Murray (Community Relations Manager) and all the others, “behind the scene”, who worked hard and successful to make the event memorable, for designers and guests of the shows.


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