Yulia Teklu, born in 1997, studied at the Italian School in Eritrea till eighth grade then had an opportunity to continue her education abroad, in Australia. She finished the rest of her high school years there and then studied psychology in college. Now she is in Eritrea bringing a fresh perspective into our fashion shows. The following is a recap of an interview with her.
How did you get into fashion design?
As many designers claim, I wish I could say I had it in me since I was a child. However, when I was a kid I used to love making handcraft ornaments and I believe I was creative as a kid. The fortunate incident that pushed me to pursue designing is though when I was in high school I entered the wrong class and that class was a fashion design class. When I learned I was in the wrong class I freaked out and wanted to go out but the teacher advised me to try it out for this session. I did what she told me, I was so inspired by that class and decided to take a course called Fashion Design and Textile for the rest of my high school years.
After graduating high school, my teacher mentored me to study fashion full-time. However, for personal reasons, I diverted my attention to another subject that interested me which was psychology. Honestly speaking, I always wonder if I ever skipped from taking psychology, would I be able to identify the choices of people or would I fully understand the meaning of colors vis-a-vis emotions? Even though I decided to study psychology, I didn’t fully quit on designing. I was taking several private courses, and in order to pay for those classes I had to work different jobs. It was a bit hard to juggle everything but the passion I had kept me strong. Looking at the struggles I was overcoming just to study design enabled me to perceive that my heart is fully into it.
What happen after you were done with classes?
When I was assured that I learned all the basics of fashion design, I was ready to go to work, and that was very hard to accomplish hence job opportunity for start-uppers is out of question. I decided to come back to Eritrea and work as an intern and if the opportunity prevails I would showcase my design. When I arrived in Eritrea it did not go as I planned because Covid-19 hit the world. Fortunately, the lockdown helped me to illustrate and focus more on my design. So when things loosened up, I was prone to achieve my initial goal. I signed a contract with one talented photographer, Simon Jerry, I told him of my plan on preparing a fashion show video. He was very supportive and had a lot of ideas. I was determined that the models should walk down the streets of Asmara while showcasing the art deco buildings. We have faced a lot of difficulties in doing so. One of those challenges was because it was lockdown we could not get a changing room for the models, and transportation was restricted which was a great challenge in itself. By the way, I want to thank ERiWood entertainment, they allowed me to use their office as a changing room.
What happened after that?
Beyond my expectation, the video received good viewership and it earned coverage on Eri- TV. Teenagers who watched the show started approaching me to ask if I was going to open classes. All that attention pushed me to work more and encourage people to participate in my work. Since I started my work by street shoot video I continued to do that but I was on the search to do something out of the box. Hence when I was in Australia, I followed fashion shows staged in Eritrea, I wish not to undermine them but they all seem similar, especially the way they are organized and displayed. That is why I wanted to do fashion videos rather than a fixed runway in the first place. Inspired by some journey I planned a bigger project.
The show you did on the Misilam Dam is one of a kind, what was your inspiration and what was the process like?
I was invited by a group of professional women on a journey to witness the agricultural and infrastructural development programs achieved by the government. That journey inspired me to do a show and use the Dam as my runway. The theme was women empowerment. Indeed, the process was time consuming and exhausting since it was first of its kind for me. I wanted to bring out fresh faces that represent every aspect of our Eritrean beauty so I recruited 15 models that have never hit any runway. I want to thank the Harat Transportation Company; they helped me in transporting the guests and my team too. I also want to thank the several artists who participated.
What kind of style do you like to design?
I can’t really put a pin into the styles I design, however, I want to showcase women’s empowerment in most of them. The reason for this is my mother. She is the perfect model of a woman for me. She graduated with high distinction at the age of 42 studying political science. Besides, she was a single mother, yet a perfect businesswoman at the same time. So growing up with that kind of influence has made me to elevate myself in every situation.
Future plan or any last message?
Obviously, my plan is to do more in terms of fashion design and to incorporate our tradition more into my design. Another thing I want to say is thank you to everyone who participated in my projects especially my mother and my current husband Simon Jerry.
Thank you for your time!