Hemmy Darbani is graduating next month with her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Design. Her talent was recently recognized by the California Fashion Foundation (CFF) and Textile Association of Los Angeles (TALA) as they awarded her a scholarship, the Betty Baumgardner Award for Best Use of Textiles.
Tell us about the scholarship: Being surrounded in a room full of talent, I consider myself very lucky and blessed to have been chosen for this very special award. I was honored and honestly quite surprised when they called my name for winning the Betty Baumgardner Award for “Best Use of Textiles," especially since my project was very special and dear to my heart. The award is to Honor Betty Baumgardner since she is one of the founders of CFF and TALA. This award was the last one announced at the CFF event, being that it is extremely sentimental to the foundation. So I felt pretty lucky to have been chosen.
Describe your original prints inspired by your family's immigration from Iran: In my second apparel studio of the Bachelor of Arts in Design Program, our duty was “Civic Responsibility.” I chose the Refugee Crisis as my topic. As a storyteller, I wanted to emphasize the importance of bringing stories and memories to life through details of embellishments and appliqués. So I chose to design for autumn/winter, cape coats—for me, unhooking a cape coat is like unveiling a story.
My cape coat is like any regular cape coat on the outside, but once you unhook it, on the inside it is full of hand sewn appliqués with individual cultural meanings. Symbolically portraying a shield and how beneath all our shells there lies a story. Through this design process, I started to think about my family when they left Iran in the 1978 revolution. They left all of their precious memories and belongings behind. My mother always talks about how unfortunate it was to let go of things dear to her heart such as the letters my father wrote to her when they had just met, or things such as photos of her parents, etc., which is what inspired me to take my parents' hardships and turn them into something beautiful.
Tell us a little about yourself: I am a visual storyteller through bridal and evening wear. I bring memories and stories to life through apparel (specifically in bridal and evening wear). I strive to connect with my clients through their personal and unique stories. I have always been fascinated by a person's story; the singular and unique concept of each individual path in one's life has served as my muse throughout my work. My work encapsulates unique stories true to the individual, stitching memories in every garment and piece.
What you wear is more than just clothes on your back, every garment worn should be an extension of oneself, a piece of one's identity vibrantly projecting a story. I identify strongly as a designer, but at heart I see myself first as a storyteller. I tell not only my story but that of all who wear my pieces. I aspire to make every stitch pulsate with rich and vivid memories; with stories told and untold; with paths lived and ones yet to be. I aim to produce gowns that like all valuable artworks, are not simply reflections of beauty, but rather a projection of stories and memories that create depth within.
How did you hear about FIDM? When I was a freshman in high school I started to explore my creativity. I always knew I was artistic, but I never knew how to channel that energy. That is when I realized that my aunt, who is a fashion designer herself, has always been my source of inspiration throughout my childhood. I started to research fashion schools in California, and that is when I found FIDM and fell in love, and I have never looked back.
How did you choose your major? Once I realized my inspiration for fashion, I chose Fashion Design as my A.A. When I finished that degree, I knew I wanted to be a bridal and evening wear designer, but something was missing. I wanted to come back to school and try to find that missing piece, and that is when I decided to come back for the new Design Program for my Bachelor of Arts. Not only did I become more well rounded in design, but I realized I would create my gowns and my collections through storytelling throughout my career.
What are your next steps, after graduation this June? I am currently focusing on my brand and my private clients. Even right now I am designing my brother's finance's bridal gown for their wedding this summer! My dream job is to work for Monique Lhuillier as she has been one of my inspirations throughout my journey. I am a firm believer of what is meant to be, will be. That is why I am open to all possibilities. I even might go to Paris to join my aunt, or who knows!
What are your career goals? To be a designer who is a visual storyteller through evening wear and bridal. I do not want to design clothes just because they are pretty. I want to give depth to each gown that will be a capsule for every bride or client. After all, it is our stories and memories that live on as our legacies. Just thinking about how many stories I can bring to life and knowing that one day that dress could be passed down as an heirloom, is something very special and intimate that I would love to be a part of.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about going to FIDM? This might be considered as cliche, but my best advice is to be 100% you. Many people along the way will judge you and will enjoy putting you down because they envy you or don't understand your creativity. But believe in yourself and what your gut tells you, because at the end of the day, there is nothing stronger than your own strength and intuition! Even if your ideas might seem off, different, or strange, just go for it! No one will believe in you more than yourself!
Anything else you’d like to share? If there is one thing I have learned throughout my four years here at FIDM, it's to be kind, open to all possibilities, to be strong, and push yourself every single day. There will be many sleepless nights, but it will be so worth it. The moment your creations come to life, you will look back at all those times you had a meltdown and laugh. The moment you stand in front of your designs is the moment you should always look forward to as a source of inspiration.
I feel very lucky and blessed to have been a student here. Every professor, project, my peers, battles, and events have taught me different things. As much as I am sad that this chapter is coming to an end, I am very excited to embark on the new chapter in my life to focus on myself, and becoming the designer I have always wanted to be. I couldn't have made it without the support and love of my family and friends, and for that I feel very lucky and blessed. So thank you so much FIDM, for everything!