Fashion Q&A: Sabi Sohrabi
(success coach, fashion marketer, educator, mentor)
CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
I currently work as a success coach for Laureate International Universities in Australia where I help their designers make a smooth transition from education into industry, helping them with their aspirations and setting up their own businesses (among other things). Prior to this I developed and managed a fashion marketing degree. I was originally a designer working in Europe and then transitioned into fashion marketing and branding. I call myself a bit of a hybrid – going from designer to marketer, to educator and now coach. With coaching I don’t tell people what to do. I ask them who are you? Where are you? Where are you going? And then we figure out how to get there. I use the metaphor that designers are the drivers and I am only the GPS that makes them navigate the road. What I can offer is sharing my own experiences, successes and failures.
YOUR ASSOCIATION WITH FIJIAN FASHION?
It’s exciting to be part of the Bottega Gold Fijian Fashion Festival, to see where Fiji fashion goes and where the designers are going. People seem to have hope, designers see opportunities and the Fashion Council of Fiji is hopeful. Everyone should see this event as a beginning of a new shift in Fiji’s fashion industry. I’ve seen some photos from back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and fashion here is incredibly progressive, incredibly stylish and expressive. So fashion is definitely not a new thing to Fiji but it is a progression. It changes and shifts but it’s truly embedded in your culture. There is a true appreciation for the craft.
WE DON’T HAVE A FASHION SCHOOL. HOW IMPORTANT IS EDUCATION FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE INDUSTRY?
Education is important for any industry. It develops the skills, knowledge and capabilities within the industry. If you are building a fashion industry and you are saying we are shifting from a manufacturing focus into a creation space, you must recognise the need to also build infrastructure to improve opportunities for designers, no matter the level they are at. You have the raw talent in Fiji and education is absolutely important to develop that talent.
WE HAVE A LOT OF YOUNG DESIGNERS. HOW IMPORTANT IS MENTORSHIP FOR FIJI’S MANY YOUNG DESIGNERS?
It is incredibly important and reciprocal in nature. It is there for emerging designers but it is also for the more established designers who want to give back. It allows them to stop, reflect and review their own processes and how these have gotten them to where they are. It’s important to give back and allow the next generation of designers to have the knowledge to be able to be successful. By supporting the next generation of designers you are not really creating more competition. Competition is healthy for business and growth and the more you have in terms of players in the design space, the industry grows and is legitimised. Which means you can then get government support, funding, external assistance and media support. I’ve been encouraged by the investment and commitment of time and resources of everyone involved in the local fashion industry. There are really interesting ideas coming from emerging designers that are pushing the boundaries and are very proud of their culture and history. They also bring their own original ideas and internal expressions. They are limited sometimes by accessibility to resources like textiles, printing facilities, which can limit creative expressions. There are no lack of ideas and talent in Fiji, but at this point there is a lack of resources. I was so pleased to do one on one coaching with local designers because it got me to understand them. My general observation is they have talent, creativity and ideas. You just have to channel that in a format that can produce an outcome. We have been designing our traditional costumes for thousands of years. How important is paying attention to our culture and tradition? As an educator one of the first subjects we do is we look at fashion history and history in general. Effective change is made from the point of understanding who you are, where you came from and where you want to go. I had the privilege to work for an international heritage brand. I was quite young then and I think working for Chanel was an experience for me to understand how you take elements of codes, history and culture that has been embedded in your tradition and make it still relevant today and desirable by all ages.