Fresh Meat: Salma Rorke

22-year old fashion designer, Salma Rorke, was discovered last year by the 10and5 team after attending LISOF’s student showcase. The student showcase, which took place late last year treated attendees to an array of designs by a group of highly talented students.

The then third-year student’s striking designs included a mixture of elements – one of these being cultural Islamic/Muslim pieces, such as the hijab worn by Muslim women. Through her self-titled collection, Rorke aims to change society’s stereotypical views on Islamic dressing. She shared that her hijab played an important role in her creative journey. She combines her love and interest in day-to-day street style with her Muslim culture.

Tell us about your creative background – when and how did it begin?

My creativity has always been apart of my life ever since I was 5-6 or younger and I taught myself how to create clothes out of anything for my dolls. It took me a while to realize that my creativity could be turned into a career. While growing up, I never heard anyone mention that being in the creative industry could be a career path, it was not encouraged, I’d only heard about doctors, lawyers etc. I honestly just thought being creative and artistic was something to keep to myself until I experienced my first failure in life and through that, I rediscovered what I enjoyed doing and I came to a point where I had to figure out what I wanted for my future career and I decided that being creative was what I loved. I’ve always enjoyed designing clothes, drawing, painting, doing creative, practical activities and just overall creativity and art.

I recently read this quote on Business of Fashion; “The Fashion world has been an industry that has not made people feel welcome or that they belong. I think it’s really important that we continue to push the fact that it is open to everybody” – Lewis Hamilton; this quote relates to my background so much as I’m the first to study something creative such as Fashion Design in my family, the first to take something creative as a serious career path. It was honestly a risk and many have had their doubts but I’ve opened my family and friends’ minds to how Fashion Design can be a successful career path.

Briefly tell us about your designs – how would you describe them?

My designs cannot be described as one style, there are layers to them. The garments layered in designs can each be worn on their own or combined with your everyday style. In my designs, there’s evidence of street style elements, tailoring elements and modest elements, each of the layers represents a different style element and together, they create a combination of these elements.

The concept that I chose to design my collection RORKE in is very personal to me as I have the hijab in this collection and the hijab has been apart of my life for a long time. I’ve noticed many people tend to put a stereotypical view on what Islamic clothing is or what the hijab is and it honestly is not as complicated as some may portray it to be, it’s simply just covering your body in a modest form in whichever style you choose to do that in, it’s your own choice. That’s why my designs allow so much freedom for styling and have so many layers and combinations, to allow the wearer to explore their style.

Where do you draw inspiration from and who are some of your influences in the fashion and design industry?

I draw my inspiration from social media, reality, amazing hijabi influencers like Rawdah and Hodan Yousuf, designers like Yohji Yamamoto & Olivier Rousteing, my everyday experiences, my past, my roots, my siblings, my parents & their past. It all depends on what’s happening around me at that moment and the message I’d like to convey through my designs. Inspiration can be found anywhere, it’s the little simple things in life that inspire one the most.

What are some of your favourite fashion trends?

I love a good classic fashion trend like an oversized White T-Shirt, this could simply never go out of style, it can be layered in so many ways, paired with a corset or a simple black dress worn over it. It can be worn as is depending on your style preference and it can be designed in so many different ways with multiple panel lines and structured sleeves, puffy sleeves, kimono sleeves or as a shirt dress – there are just endless possibilities to this fashion trend.

Can you share some of the projects you have worked on? Which one was your favourite and why?

From my first year at LISOF, I’ve worked on individual & team designing projects, I’ve designed a colour blocking outfit, deconstructed white shirt and a garment part of a spice market themed collection. My favourite project has to be my Collection RORKE because it’s a collection that represented me, my story and my concept was inspired by my hijab, the Nike street hijab and designers like Yohji Yamamoto & Olivier Rousteing; RORKE is a transitional collection both A/W & S/S depending on your choice of styling. It has both men’s and woman’s clothing wear. It’s designed to challenge the stereotypical views some may place on Islamic clothing, it challenges this by the combination of clothing styles that would not normally be combined together in a modest form. The stereotypical view many have of Islamic clothing is that of an oppressed female in black clothing and I wanted to challenge this stereotypical view and show the different ways the hijab can be styled with different clothing and still look modest, yet stylish.

What has your experience as a student has been like and what are some of the valuable lessons you learned along the way?

Being a student is always a mixed feeling, you put yourself out there ready to learn and you don’t exactly know the outcome, but you try your best and you learn. It’s honestly amazing what I have learned, I never knew much about the fashion industry, what it meant coming into this industry and I didn’t expect it to be as tough as it was – especially my 3rd year. To be in this industry you really have to have a passion for it; it’s tough but if you’re passionate about it the creativity becomes something so beautiful.

What is it that excites you about the South African creative and fashion industry?

The people! Especially the different types of individuals we have in our beautiful country and how we all manage to just come together as one. The South African creative and fashion industry has so much room to grow and it’s still developing, it can become so much more than what it is right now with all the unique individuals we have.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

I hope to be happy with who I am as always and still aiming high and still have the same creative energy. I never want to feel like I should stop my creative drive ever. I hope to have achieved what my heart desires and still aiming higher and never giving up. I hope to have made a few collections by then too.

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