Fashion Designer, Ruba Idris brings Africa into the Fashion Industry

(Photo received from Ruba Idris)

(Photo received from Ruba Idris)

Being a black creative is super difficult. It’s not too different from being a black fashion business owner in a way. We struggle to find visibility within the fashion industry while maintaining true to ourselves. Which is why we should support designers like Ruba Idris. 

.I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with 21-year-old Ruba Idris; a young women of Sudanese descent. Idris is a part-time fashion designer and University of Pittsburgh student. Idris’ career choice puts her at an odd intersection between artistry and entrepreneurship; thus why I felt drawn to her and wanted to pick her brain about this topic. Also I’m a bit of a fashion lover myself, so yeah. That’s a thing.

Most of the people who I know that dabble or work full time in the fashion world draw their inspiration from similar places.

These folks are no strangers to Paris Fashion Week and are more than willing to peruse the pages of Vogue, Elle, Glamour, and others.

Though these are all great muses, their content is still mostly geared toward western audiences.

(Photo received from Ruba Idris)

(Photo received from Ruba Idris)

Idris differentiates herself from her peers by blending both Western and West African styles to create her own brand of casual wear, Unity Shirts. This brand is sold through her Etsy Store: Yours Truly Ruba.

Idris briefly explained what specific part of Africa influences her designs.

“It’s crazy because even though I’m Sudanese, a lot of the stuff I designed focuses on West African print... Sudan is predominantly a conservative Muslim country and most of the women are covered from head to toe...”

Idris then talked about events from her early years that spurred her interest in fashion design.

“I learned how to sew at 5 years old… I used to hand sew my dolls clothes… it was a means of self-expression for me… I love the idea of having a vision of something and creating that vision.”

              (Photo received from Ruba Idris)

              (Photo received from Ruba Idris)

Idris began to speak about specifics as it relates to her Unity Shirts line.

“America has had some influence on both my personal style and the clothes I design. As I mentioned before, in Sudan, women are usually covered and it’s rare to see them with skin showing. In America, it’s pretty much the opposite- even when it comes to what’s considered conservative here. I think it's fair to say that this has caused the clothing I create to be conservative as it relates to America but casual as it relates to Sudan. The items I create usually have African print but are based on Western designs. My process typically involves cutting out the pockets on the left side of a shirt and replacing the pocket with a piece of cotton fabric cut in the shape of the continent of Africa. This cutout will either be solid colored or have traditional  West African print. I also line the sleeves and the bottom of the shirt with West African print.”

Idris stated that her Western influences for her personal style come from  a number of celebrities such as Tracee Ellis Ross, Tiffany Haddish, and Zendaya.

When it comes to her future aspirations, Idris admitted that she is unsure of the future for Unity Shirts but would like to focus on her career as an educator for now.

Despite this, Idris stated that she’s received many positive reviews with a number of people loving the fit and style of her clothing.

People like Idris are why I feel the phrase “support your own” was invented. As Africans from all over the diaspora, it’s important to support designers like Idris who is in the process of changing how we buy fashion. Creating a micro-economy in our communities is important and certainly an opportunity we can’t pass up. In a way, this makes the name of Idris’ brand quite fitting because it’s only through unity that we can achieve this.

Article by Rovelle Vialva 

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