Career Code: Meet the Woman Who Transformed C/MEO Collective

In honour of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s new book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($22), we’re kicking off an interview series featuring 17 questions (in honour of the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of the most inspirational female leaders in the fashion industry. So far, we’ve tapped Rebecca MinkoffSally SingerRachel Zoe, and more. Up next? Siham Elmawey.

Every Australian girl has come across C/MEO Collective at least once—whether you own a piece from the label, or you’ve spotted it on Instagram or a celeb (Kourtney Kardashian is a huge fan), there’s no denying it’s everywhere.

Established in 2010, the Adelaide-based label has cemented its spot in the industry as a go-to for its unique aesthetic—experimental shapes, unique and directional prints, and premium fabrics—all for an affordable price. The creative eye behind all the clothes you want to wear? Head designer Siham Elmawey. In April 2015, the label evolved from Cameo The Label, to C/MEO Collective, and with Elmawey at the creative helm, it took on a more premium, directional feel.

Desperate to know more about the woman behind the label’s covetable designs, we sat down with Siham to find out more. Keep scrolling!

"A typical day doesn’t exist for me—every day is an adventure and there’s always something new to do on my list. My role is fast paced, involved, creative, challenging but very rewarding—there’s never a dull moment!"

"People don’t realise we design monthly collections—they’re often surprised when I tell them we design 40 pieces each month and we design for both Northern and Southern hemisphere!

When you see a collection in store, we started designing it a year before. So at any point in time we are working on 12 collections at different stages of their development. As well as designing and fabricating a collection together, we also conceptualise and style photo shoots, develop prints, aid in fittings, manage social media etc."

Photo:

@SihamElmawey

"Funnily enough I didn’t have an interview—lucky me the pressure was off! I was three days into my work experience when I was offered the design assistant role. I remember wearing a C/MEO Collection dress to my first day of work experience—I loved the brand prior to working for it."

"Leandra Medine of Man Repeller—she has such a quirky, funny personality."

"As a designer, I find inspiration comes in many shapes and forms. Many of our collections are inspired around a common thread or theme, this helps give each collection its own ‘identity’. Often we use elements of modern life such as architecture, fine art, and literature as inspiration.

In saying that, we keep a sharp eye on what’s happening in the fashion world globally through Instagram and Pinterest—these are great sources to keep up to date with bloggers, runways, and other brands around the world."

Photo:

@SihamElmawey

"I don’t really have any regrets—I’m a true believer everything happens for a reason and you learn from making mistakes. So make sure you learn from your mistakes! That’s how you grow not only as a person but also in your role.

Though… One regret or you could say embarrassing moment was when I waved like the Queen at the end of our MBFWA show in 2014—I was excited and high on adrenaline… Never again ha-ha!"

"Drive, honestly, positivity, skills, and design aesthetic—they need to have a good eye for fashion and design."

"I don’t believe wearing an outfit should make you feel less or more powerful—BUT, I do believe an outfit can change your mood. I think if you’re comfortable in what you wear, this can definitely drive confidence rather than power."

Photo:

@SihamElmawey

"I have two assistants—so I asked them! They described me as a passionate and complex creative who not only has an incredible eye for design and style, but a beautiful and caring soul to match.

Team spirit and dynamic is super important to me as a manager. You and your team need to be on the same level, understand one another, and all be working towards to same goal. We are all contributors of the brands’ achievements and successes, and without each team member—these simply wouldn’t be achievable."

"Sometimes you need to just step away and let the inspiration come naturally —if you can, that is. Some of my ideas are generated in the weirdest places or at the weirdest times—like in the shower or the middle of the night.

If I’m at work, I hop onto the usual—Instagram, Pinterest or WGSN (WGSN is a forecasting website we use), this really helps me generate and develop ideas—sometimes too many ideas, and then it becomes confusing."

Photo:

@SihamElmawey

"Be professional! You will always be remembered for how you left a company, so make sure it is a positive one no matter how bad the situation is."

"I usually try to be prepared with a healthy go-to option, which is the usual tuna mixed salad (but I add olives… Lots of them).  But on the days when I’m not prepared—my quick go-to is a delicious lamb and spinach gozleme from this little Turkish restaurant behind the office—so delicious and cheesy and BAD!"

Photo:

@SihamElmawey

"I don’t know if it’s necessarily a mistake or more of a misconception—but being a designer is not only about drawing and being creative, there’s a lot more to the role. You are constantly in correspondence with the vendors so it’s important you have clear communicating skills."

Photo:

@SihamElmawey

"Morning: A shot of apple cider vinegar

Night: Herbal tea"    

"Always be relevant, be one step ahead! Build strong relationships with everyone you work with in all departments. It’s a small industry and you will cross paths with people at different times in your career.

My advice would be to work incredibly hard—being successful in the fashion industry today is part design and part business. Practice your time management skills, use a diary religiously, and write yourself lists. The longer you give yourself to work on a design the closer to perfection it will be.  Lastly, be sure to set yourself goals; it gives you something to work towards."

Multiple things! We’re in the middle of conceptualising our March 2017 photo shoot, which is my favourite stage out of the design process. You get to see all your hard work come together. We also just finished designing our July 2017 collection—lots of new exciting fabrications and colours coming through.

Photo:

@SihamElmawey

Shop C/MEO Collective.

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