Jana Abou Zahra is a 20 year old fashion design student at the Lebanese American University of Beirut.
She practices fashion design as a mean of expressing herself and sharing with people the ideas that she believes in and fight for. In her latest fashion design project, she chose the subject of mental health disorders to shed light on.
Jana, please tell us a bit about yourself: How did you decide to study fashion?
I am a 20 year old fashion design student, and I decided to study fashion design 6 years ago since I was influenced by my parents who are clothing traders, and I always used to accompany my father to a factory that produces tailored coats as a child. That is how I knew that I was into tailoring and streetwear as well and not into evening wear and glamorous gowns.
Tell us about your collection on mental health disorders? Why was this subject your choice for this project and how did you translate the ideas you aim to defend into clothes?
My latest project “In My Head” tackled mental health disorders and it was based on a self-created storyline of a girl growing up in her dead sister’s personality and losing grip on her mental health. The collection explored the decay of a beautiful mind and the transformation of a stable personality into a mad one. The garments were inspired by the strait jacket which made me use a lot of belts on loose garments, and I was also inspired by the decay of nature, so I used shades of brown and embroidered dying daisies on the back of the tailored jacket that represented the decay of the girl’s mind (taken from the script of the concept video I made: “what was my favorite flower again? Right. Daisies. She liked daisies.” “I’ve forgotten myself… I became a mad version of you.”)
Mental health disorders was the subject of my choice because it is something that a lot of people have a misconception about. People always view individuals with mental health disorders as “crazy” or pity them. Having had a case of depression, I was always received with words like “it’s in your head” (which inspired the collection title “In My Head”), and “it’s up to you to change the way you feel and think”. Not many really understand that people who are diagnosed with certain mental issues or hardships have no control over how their brains function, and it’s definitely not a decision to have it or not.
How would you describe the young fashion scene in Lebanon? Do you want to stay here or travel abroad when you graduate?
The young fashion scene in Lebanon is very influenced by the western world, and I believe that the influence of the digital world that we live in today has enabled individuals to create their own styles where vintage, pop, modern, classic… are all in trend, and fashion styling has come a long way where everyone seems to put things together differently and still be fashionable.
As I am still a student, I have very little experience in the world of fashion design. Being on an internship in London at the time being has taught me that what we learn in fashion schools is very basic and little compared to the real fashion world and industry. My plan is to travel abroad after I graduate and work for designers I have always looked up to before I start my own career as an independent fashion designer. I always want to learn more and become better at what I do, and as soon as I feel that I have gained the experience and money I need to work on my own, I will go back to Lebanon to launch my career because it’s my home country, and I believe that the new generation of Lebanese designers are pushing the boundaries and causing an evolution in the fashion scene.
What other themes would you want to explore for your future collections?
I don’t practice fashion design for the sake of fashion. In fact, I use it as a means of expressing my beliefs and portraying messages that have to do with the human condition.
My first fashion project was about women rights (especially in Lebanon), my recent one is about mental health disorders, and my coming projects will also have to do with concepts that revolve around my take on humans and life experiences.
photo credits: Kareem Nakkash