With roots in Dakar, Senegal, and a global perspective cultivated through her experiences in France, designer Eliane Sarr brings a unique fusion of culture and contemporary fashion to life through her brand, Savanna.

She has a deep appreciation for the artistry of fabrics and a commitment to empowering local communities. Through Savanna, Eliane creates clothing that celebrates the beauty of her heritage and ethnicity.

In a detailed conversation with Emirates Woman, Eliane talks about the importance of championing artisans, inculcating culture in craft and designing from a place of honesty.

Eliane Sarr

Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind Savanna and how it combines the beauty of ethnicity with contemporary clothing design?

The inspiration behind Savanna lies in the fusion of the beauty of ethnicity, contemporary and bold clothing design. It’s about celebrating the traditional artistry of textiles from around the world while infusing them with modern aesthetics. Savanna’s aim is to create clothing that bridges cultural divides and offers a unique blend of heritage, modernity, and flair for cosmopolitan women around the world.

Savanna uses hand-picked, highest-grade fabrics like cotton, linen, and silk. How does the choice of fabric play a role in your designs, and what do you look for when selecting these materials?

The choice of fabric is vital in my designs. I meticulously handpick fabrics like cotton, linen, and silk for their quality, flow, and softness. I seek materials that not only feel luxurious against the skin but also complement our contemporary designs, enhancing the overall look and comfort of our outfits. My inspirations always start from the fabric.

Savanna emphasises empowering local communities by sourcing materials from West Africa, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. Could you elaborate on how this sourcing process works and the impact it has on these communities?

Our sourcing process is deeply rooted in empowerment. We collaborate with artisans and communities in West Africa, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia who possess traditional textile-making knowledge. By sourcing materials from these regions, we support local craftsmanship and contribute to sustainable economic development within these communities.

You have a diverse background, having been born in Dakar, Senegal, and lived in France before establishing Savanna in Dubai. How does your multicultural background influence your approach to fashion design?

I draw inspiration from the diverse cultures I’ve been exposed to. This background allows me to create fashion that transcends borders and celebrates the beauty of global diversity.

You start designing from the fabric itself. Can you walk us through your creative process and how you bring your visions to life through clothing?

I envision the outfit by understanding the fabric’s texture, colour, and patterns. From there, I craft designs that harmonise with the material, ensuring that the fabric’s innate beauty shines through in the final piece.

The term “Art-a-Porter” outfits is mentioned. Could you explain what this means and how it relates to the collections you create?

‘Art-a-porter’ is a blend of the word ‘art’ and ‘à porter’ which is French for ‘to wear’. It is used to describe fashion collections that incorporate elements of artistic expression. My outfits are designed with the idea that fashion can be a form of wearable art. They may feature unique African prints, patterns from around the world, or embroidered designs created by myself in my studio. My outfits are designed to make a statement and evoke emotions, bringing artistry to those special events, as well as everyday wear.

Eliane Sarr

As a designer, what aspects of textiles and patterns from different cultures around the world fascinate you the most, and how do you incorporate these elements into your designs?

I find the diversity of textiles and patterns from various cultures around the world incredibly fascinating. What captivates me the most is the rich history and storytelling embedded in these textiles, as well as the craftsmanship and techniques unique to each culture. Incorporating these elements into my designs is a journey of cultural appreciation and fusion created for the modern women. Of course my African heritage allows me to create garments that not only reflect my personal style but also serve as a tribute to the global tapestry of textile artistry.

Can you share some insights into the philosophy or message you aim to convey through Savanna’s clothing, particularly in terms of embracing the feminine self?

Through Savanna’s clothing, I aim to convey a message of self-expression and empowerment. I believe that clothing should not only enhance one’s outer beauty but also empower the inner self. Savanna’s designs embrace the feminine self by offering comfort, authenticity, and bold beauty.

Eliane Sarr

What challenges and rewards have you encountered in your journey of establishing and growing Savanna as a fashion brand with a unique cultural and ethical focus?

Establishing Savanna has been both challenging and rewarding. Challenges include navigating the fashion industry’s competitive landscape while staying true to our ethical sourcing principles. The rewards come from seeing the positive impact on local communities and the appreciation of our unique designs by women around the world.

How do you envision the future of Savanna and your role as a designer in the evolving world of fashion?

In the future, I envision Savanna continuing to be a bridge between tradition and modernity in the world of fashion. As a designer, my role will involve pushing the boundaries of creativity while maintaining a commitment to ethical practices. I hope to inspire a greater appreciation for the beauty of global textiles and cultures through our collections.

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Images: Supplied by Savanna