Facebook Watch: Sudanese American designer Eilaf Osman featured as the artist of the month
The British Council in Sudan Facebook Page in the June edition of the artist of the month featured the Sudanese American designer Eilaf Osman, founder of her own brand ‘EILAF’ that specializes in designing Sudanese leather bags as the artist of the month.
Below is an extract from the interview with Eilaf Osman:
My name is Eilaf Osman, and I grew up between the US and Sudan. Although I have a mixed identity of being Sudanese-American as I formed my identity in my young adulthood, I found myself identifying more and more with my Sudanese roots through inspiration and love.
I was fortunate to spend my early 20s between studying International Relations at Stanford University and traveling back and forth to Sudan. While on my trips to Sudan, I was always drawn to the leather shops at Souk Omdurman. I marveled over the beautiful leather craftsmanship of Sudanese artisans and I wished that the rest of the world could experience it too.
From there I started my eponymous brand, EILAF, to create leather handbags that showcased Sudanese heritage through minimalist silhouettes. I recently came back to Khartoum for what was supposed to be a short trip.
Instead I found myself connected to an art centre focused on Sudanese heritage art preservation called Sobajo. With Sobajo I created a “all made in Sudan” collection celebrating Sudanese sa’f and leather craftsmanship. I am continuing my work at Sobajo now as their communications director and running a program to provide free training in craftsmanship skills to women from IDP or disadvantaged backgrounds.
I hope to further my work in Sudan by opening up an incubator workshop for advanced craftsmen that will provide them with resources to create high-quality art and products.
How did your brand EILAF start, and what does it do?
My brand concept has been rummaging through my mind for years, but I finally made my first prototypes and samples over a year ago during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was furloughed from my job in NYC at the time and returned to my parent’s home in rural Pennsylvania. With the views of the Appalachian Mountains in the distance, I knew I would never find such a quiet time in my life to start designing.
At first, I was incredibly daunted by the task. I felt underqualified and inexperienced to call myself a designer and entrepreneur. Still, I took it step by step, and old pictures of my mom in the 80s and 90s inspired me to design my first bags. I wanted to design for the woman I saw in those pictures—young, ambitious, beautiful, and resilient. She had some serious kandaka vibes. So I continued to design and I hope the message that my work shows is that Sudan is a country full of rich heritage and art history through its tribal roots.
That to design for the Sudanese woman is to design for the modern woman in general because she is a woman that with little resources can always express herself regardless of circumstances.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when you were establishing your brand?
What is one piece of advice you will give to someone looking to start their own brand?
At times, you will feel like a major imposter because to establish a brand you have to wear many different hats-creative directors, designers, accountants, office managers, etc. Just remember that for any task that you might have trouble understanding, you can always find someone with expertise to usually help you for free in the early days of your brand. Also, try to find a mentor or many mentors! A mentor might not give you exactly all the answers that you are looking for, but they can help direct you to resources that are vital!
My email is email@example.com, and you can always ask me any questions you have. To learn more about EILAF, visit her website(eliaf.co) and follow her Instagram page (@eilafofficial)