Oula Yassine '20 and the Advent of the Culture Collection

Fashion alum Oula Yassine discusses how her time at Columbia helped her develop her unique style and advance her career.

Oula Yassine, Fashion Studies ’20, loves summer, except for one thing. Trying to update her wardrobe. As a Muslim woman, it’s almost impossible to find items that are acceptable and also stylish: loose-fitting, floor-length, long-sleeve, high-neck, with a hair covering. It’s always problem. But for Yassine, it also became an opportunity to create the Culture Collection, a line of modest-wear clothing for all women who are interested in the aesthetic, whether it is for religious, cultural, or personal reasons.

Yassine is a force of nature. She is an inspiring personality who has displayed exceptional dedication and drive in achieving her goals of creating a fashion line for women like her, who aren’t always able to find accessible shopping options but who are also interested in creating opportunities for cross-cultural cohesion. As she describes her collection, “it’s East meets West.”

The passion behind her Culture Collection stems from a long love of Fashion. Even in high school, Yassine was starting to look at sewing as a career path. But it wasn’t until she visited Columbia that her goals solidified into the kind of deep-seated knowing that informs the kind of risk-taking that almost always pays off. She says, “I took a tour of Columbia through my high school and I just fell in love with the school. And I knew this was where I had to go, and this was gonna be my career.”

Coming to Columbia was a breath of fresh air for Yassine, who did not grow up in a community of artists. But visiting Columbia provided Yassine with the support she craved. She remembers, “It was just such an open environment. Everyone there is from the arts, and so it was really accepting. I feel like in my high school and within my house, no one really represented the arts. And so, me going into the arts was a little bit controversial, and I didn't really have that many people to back me up and support me.” Columbia was different. She says, “When I was at Columbia, I saw everyone supporting each other and everyone was in it for the art. And I just love the facility, I loved the educators, and everyone in Fashion was just so nice. SoI just knew I had to go there.”

Upon her arrival, Yassine found mentors and support that allowed her to take the kinds of entrepreneurial risks that have provided the foundations for her forthcoming line. Fashion Studies Instructor Jerome Svec was one of those mentors, showing interest in Yassine’s modest-clothing designs and asking to see them. After seeing her work, he expressed even more interest, partnering with her on an independent study. Yassine says, “He's helped me so much along the way in teaching me how to design and how to design collections.”

For Yassine, this was the introduction to developing collections rooted in cultural intersectionality. After a positive presentation for Fashion Studies leadership, Yassine says “I'm excited to keep going with future collections.” For now, Yassine is interested in continuing to work on her Cultural Collection and plans for a release sometime later in 2020.

Through it all, she remains grateful for her time at Columbia. And to future students, she has a message: don’t be scared. She says, “I was definitely scared going into Columbia, but it’s really worth it. It's worth it to put your dreams out there, because even if they seem so big, they can be attainable.”

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