When Sara Umar was just five years old, she would rip small swatches of upholstery fabric from an old car her father kept in their garage. She would then stow away to her bedroom where she would, under the shroud of her bed linens, create intricately embroidered scenes on the fabric.
She was too young to use a needle, but once her father uncovered Umar’s secret stitches he started to encourage her and buy her fabrics and threads, all she needed to foster her art. By the age of eight, she started doing embroideries on her dresses and enhancing her grandmother’s garments.
Fast-forward nearly 30 years, and not only has Umar realized her dreams of becoming a fashion designer, but she is a recent graduate of the Toronto Film School’s Fashion Design Diploma and recently showed her capstone collection on two major runways in Toronto.
Umar, now 37-years-old, wanted to study fashion design but because of non-availability of fashion schools in her hometown, she joined Textile design course. She established a home-based business of custom made clothing, which was a success. Originally from Pakistan, Sara immigrated to Canada in 2012, and she now lives north of the city with her family. It was only after she immigrated to Canada, she decided to follow her passion for fashion design and she enrolled in the Toronto Film School Fashion Design Diploma.
Her line uses ancient embroidery techniques and blending them with modern western cuts. Umar explained her clothing caters women who are strong, elegant, romantic, feminine and modern. Perhaps as an example to her two young daughters. In fact her oldest, just 15-years-old has a keen interest in fashion and exhibits tremendous talent, Umar said.
“Who knows maybe she will be there to study Fashion Design in a few years and then we will be a team of two,” Umar said. “She is another thing that motivated me is that she is so talented and I can help her to learn.”
Umar’s work is inspired by beauty, history and traditions of her rich culture. She is trying to revive the age-old techniques of embroidery that are no longer available in the market. Her mission is to spread awareness about slow fashion and advantages of buying quality over quantity. In March, Umar, along with 17 of her fellow Toronto Film School graduates, had the unprecedented opportunity to show her collection during Toronto Women’s Fashion Week in a show titled EMERGENCE. Then in April, her line was featured in a show at Fashion Art Toronto (FAT), where it was met with a standing ovation.
“The experience was simply fantastic. I learned a lot during the whole process and got to experience everything physically whatever I learned from the school,” Umar said. “From sending media invitations to making line sheets for the show, on every step, the education I got from the school helped me sail smoothly throughout the process.”
Now, having successfully graduated with Fashion Design Diploma and having participated in two major shows, Umar said one of the greatest things she is taking away from her education at Toronto Film School is confidence.
“After the show EMERGENCE I was so confident,” Umar said.”After studying here for 18 months I think I have changed a lot. I am more confident now, I know what I am doing, I know I am in the right direction.”
Since showing Umar was mentioned in Real Life Magazine’s Spring 2017 issue.
Photos by Jonathan Hooper