Sara Al Madani: The Quintessential Sharjah Girl
Sara Al Madani shows us the soul of Sharjah.
PASSIONATE IS THE perfect word to describe Sara Al Madani. Business, fashion, education, travel, life and of course her home town of Sharjah are all subjects that keep her driven. The well-known fashion designer, entrepreneur and founder of Sara Al Madani Fashion Design presents Rouge Couture has been hard at work since she was 15.
"I enjoy working hard and creating. To me success and business are not jut about money. What drives you is being passionate about other things. Money is important but it isn't everything. I believe a pocket full of hope can take you way further then a pocket full of money. I'm a person whose full of hope and very passionate about what I do."
And almost 15 years later her passion, creativity, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit left such an impression that she was selected as the youngest board member of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
City Times spoke to Sara Al Madani in the Heart of Sharjah, about renaming her fashion label, the importance of culture and some of her great plans for Sharjah.
Why did you want to start a fashion brand at 15?
What made me want to go into fashion is that I didn't like the way the abaya was. It was just a piece of black cloth without any details. I love the idea that it's a modest garment because that's what it's supposed to represent. But the way it looked on the outside . . . I felt there is a lot more that should be done. Because I feel that every woman who is conservative or into her modest fashion or garments should have the right to look fashionable even with her traditional wear.
Tell us about the name of your brand.
I've changed the brand name, it was Rouge Couture. I wanted a name that was catchy and I went for Rouge because it had a meaning in every country. So you'd never forget it. Rouge means lipstick, red, heart it means love in different languages. Couture is basically what I do, which is to tailor things to a certain size and body and I don't just sell ready to wear items. I just changed my name to Sara Al Madani Fashion Design presents Rouge Couture so I kept some of the old aspects of the name but I've added my name to it because it's all part of my personality. I can't hide behind a brand name. It's me now.
How would you describe Sharjah?
The city of soul. Everything in Sharjah is so real, everything is so original. Nothing is made up, nothing is created, everything is just there. Even the people in the city they are so soulful. Every Emirate has it's own characteristics. Each city has its traits and we have our own traits and we don't want to change. We want to celebrate them. We are all about culture, about arts, about education and we love these things.
How important do you think the role of women is to keep the UAE a progressive country?
When I first came out, it was a man's world. I was struggling to be who I am and start a business. Now, when I see all the opportunities, all the support the government is giving women, I think every woman should have a business! Money became the easiest aspect, the easiest thing you can get is a loan, anyone can fund you. But to have that support . . . that's something very genuine.
Do you think women need to be more involved in the arts and in business?
Of course and if you can see now, me for example, I'm a board member of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I'm the youngest board member there. When I first got chosen, I was so honoured. I was like 'Oh my God, they actually recognised my hard work'. This shows you how they believe in us, how they believe in our opinions, how they believe we can actually make a difference. Putting us in there between all these experienced people shows you that they believe in you. Honestly I believe that recently, the role of women has grown so much in society and it's very obvious.
Tell us about your role at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Basically the role of board members is to help improve the city, help make decisions for the city, within the premises of the Chamber of Commerce, under the authority of the chamber and just help it grow and we've been working on so many projects. We've been there for almost a year now as board members and the whole new batch are all young people, so it shows you the city wants young blood.
What do you want to add through your role?
I want to show people the real Sharjah, the true Sharjah, the soul of Sharjah. I feel that people know the surface but they've never dug deep. Some people also have bad impressions of Sharjah because of the traffic and all that. But honestly Sharjah has alot to offer. If you really knew what Sharjah had, the traffic would be worth it. There's traffic in Paris, there's traffic in New York, there's traffic to Dubai, so how come we are sitting down in this traffic and we are fine with it? It's because we are attached to something on the other side. I want to show the part of Sharjah they don't know so they can be attached to it.
Do you see yourself as a role model for young women here?
Definitely. Why not? Whenever I have free time I teach women, and sometimes the young men, around me how to do business, how to be in the fashion industry, sometimes how to even improve their time in managing business. I do see myself as a role model. I'm not going to brag about it but I do help people and I do want people to look up to me. Why? Because I can save you a trial and error phase in business, for example the young girls - I've done so many mistakes and it took me so many years to learn. I can take that knowledge and experience and share it. I do believe that knowledge and experience are for free so we should always share them with every one around.
What's your attitude towards mistakes?
Mistakes are the best. I've never met a person that's successful that hasn't hit rock bottom. When do you become a successful person? The minute you actually make mistakes and realise that something is wrong you build thicker skin. You become stronger. I know I've made so many mistakes, I can write a book about mistakes that's bigger than the book of success that I have. But if I gave up when I made those mistakes, I wouldn't be the Sara you are sitting with right now. So the mistakes made me who I am.
What is your definition of success?
There is no definition of success. If we put a definition it's like saying, 'what's the most perfect way?' There is no perfect way. When it comes to measuring success, you look at the goal and you look how far you are and then you look at the distance in between and what you've accomplished. To me that's success. Success is even taking a step out of your house that is success. Anything can be success as long as you feel that you've accomplished something.
Who has been a major influence on you growing up?
My parents. They taught us growing up that you need to work hard to get what you want. At the same time they've given us what we need, not what we want, what we need. For getting what we want, we had to work for it. I really appreciate that because now I understand. And I would do the same for my son. They have supported me so much.
How important is your culture to you and how has it shaped you?
To me culture identity is so important. I feel that people who don't have a culture don't have history, they basically don't have a future, they are lost. Change takes over no matter what you do. We change but it's so important to carry that backpack with us and carry it wherever we go and that's our culture. So whenever we go through change, we've got our culture carried on our backs and we carry it with us. Culture makes us who we are, what we are, it's our history, it's our identity. Culture is like the spices on our personalities; it's made us these kinds of people. I would never trade our culture for anything.
It's a new year. What can you tell us about anything exciting coming up?
On January 27 we are launching a project called Sharjah Scene. It's a project that's going to show the real Sharjah, bring communities together, make Sharjah worth coming to, explain Sharjah in a better way and at the same time promote the economy in Sharjah and show how the economy is changing and growing in terms of start-ups and small, medium and big businesses. It's also a project that's going to celebrate the existing businesses and promote them, because basically they are who made Sharjah. To sum it up for you I'll say it in a few words, we are going to show you the soul of Sharjah. And that's the project and you can check and follow up on the project with our hash tag, #shjsoul