Sara Emami: designer, storyteller, mother & fellow lover of blue.
"My parents fled Tehran, Iran in the 1980s shortly after I was born. They settled in the Netherlands and I grew up in the dreamy town of Delft. My two children were born in Amsterdam, where my family and I now live."
Sara studied Industrial Design and now works as a User Experience Lead at Philips Beauty. In her spare time, she make visual stories for the Dutch online magazine @Lilith_mag.
What makes you feel empowered?
I feel empowered by seeing other women in the Iranian and Afghan diaspora achieving their goals. Sevdaliza started her unique and successful music career without any prior experience; Gisele Azad started her own inclusive skin care brand SKON; and Maryam Keyhani’s hats and paintings take us to her dream world. Moshtari Hilal’s amazing portraits and illustrations of body hair among Middle Eastern woman influenced me in a positive way, helping me to see the beauty of body hair.
What elements of your upbringing do you incorporate into your daily life?
I have learnt to take nothing for granted.
How have you carried your heritage with you?
There are things of heritage that people literally carry with them - for example, living in a house without a Persian carpet is unimaginable to me. Another example is my husband’s and my daughter’s unibrow, which gives them a characteristic Iranian appearance. But I also love setting up a “Haft-Sin” every year, which is an arrangement of seven symbolic items displayed at Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, which is celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox.
What was the moment when you realized that being a designer & creative was your "calling"?
I was always doing something with my hands, either decorating my teenage bedroom with a clear vision, doing a photography course when I was 16, embroidering on shirts for friends, or drawing in my notebooks during class. I literally couldn’t keep my hands still.
In hindsight, I see these activities as different ways of being focused on color, form, and the quality of materials. If I was going to purchase a shoe or a desk, I had to closely investigate the materials, understand its qualities, etc. I guess it all led to my decision to study industrial design.
How do you want people to feel when they experience your work?
In the end I hope that whatever I design or make can help remind people of the beauty of little things. If people read my visual stories, I hope they will spark both joy and melancholy.
Can you take us with you to your hometown? What are the sounds, sights, and smells that resonate with you?
I grew up in Delft, a university town and the city of Vermeer and Delft Blue. My parents were students, which influenced my upbringing. We weren’t wealthy but I remember having a safe and quiet childhood surrounded by the city’s beauty. Education was always important in our family but I was also always a dreamer, immersing myself in drawing.
My favourite painting is Vermeer’s “View of Delft” and thus also my favourite sight, because even though that view no longer exists today, the painting still shows the elements that I admire about Delft: the (medieval) New Church, the Eastern Gate, the clear blue sky and clouds and a reassuring sense of tranquillity.
How does your heritage/where you are from impact your work as a designer?
Those who grow up in a bicultural environment learn from a young age to automatically consider multiple contexts. I remember some other kids would be laughed at when they spoke in their native tongue, but I always knew that it was enriching to speak another language, which brought with it another world. My heritage plays an indirect role in my daily professional work. The importance of my cultural background is far more visible in my visual stories, which often revolve around the theme of belonging.
How do you define success?
As a child of refugee parents, success starts with having an education and achieving stability. Thinking that freedom is merely following whatever feels pleasant is irrelevant or even something to feel judgmental about. True happiness is far more than enjoying yourself. To me, success is a matter of finding happiness in the right balance between stability and a pleasant living standard, on the one side, and a little bit of anxiety and insecurity about whatever it is that you’re doing, on the other. It’s this balance between pleasure and insecurity that can help one explore new avenues.
What have been your biggest learnings in life so far?
My biggest lesson has been that there’s a lot happening in life outside my control, and that I should focus on those things that are within the reach of my power. That can be as simple as taking pleasure in decorating our house, drinking tea from a pretty cup, and in general appreciating every little moment of tranquillity because all these “small” things matter. My biggest challenges are having two small kids (and a lack of sleep) with a fulltime job and simultaneously trying to be productive making visual stories at night. As a creative, I get a sense of fulfilment when there is a “finished end product” that people actually use or read. Ideally, they’re also moved by what you made and it leaves a trace of what once was.
Have you had any pivotal life changing moments?
When I finally visited my family in Iran for the first time when I was 12 and, of course, when I became a mother.
What is your manifesto to being in charge of your life?
Life can take unexpected turns and is often beyond our control, so focus on what you can have a positive impact on, even if it’s buying flowers for your house
What is your favourite piece from Indoi?
I am in love with the Rimi Silk Ecru Tunic Dress. I love its simple and classic shape with the balloon sleeves and raw fabric.
I also love all the pieces in the new collection: The Language of Stone. I really like that the designs are simple, timeless and are inspired by the shared heritage between Pakistan and Afghanistan. As an Iranian, I also feel connected with the shapes and fabrics of West- and South-Asia.
Find Sara on Instagram at @saraemamii
Sara is wearing the Rimi Tunic Dress. SHOP the look here.