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Armenian Lebanese designer Talar Malkadjian supports Lebanon with her first ever collection inspired by Armenia

15:05, August 27

Armenian Lebanese designer Talar Malkadjian has released her first collection, which is inspired by her homeland Armenia. The 20-year-old designer says her Collection I: Street Style EVN line showcases her love towards street fashion and Yerevan on the whole. Talar plans to donate a percentage of the proceeds from Collection I to the Armenian Relief Society to help Lebanon relief efforts. STYLE has had an interesting interview with Talar about her path, Armenian roots and inspirations from Armenian culture.

Talar, how your career as a designer began?

Growing up as a jeweler's daughter has been one of my largest influences. I've been watching my father create for years and wanted to follow his footsteps in my own perspective. Nonetheless, everyone who knows my mom's youth says I am her twin. She would design and sew her clothes, alongside her sisters' clothes, all the time, when she was my age. I'm extremely grateful that my parents emphasized importance on academics, but also extra curricular activities that brought out mine and my sister's creativity. What surprises many is that I'm a full-time business student at University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. I applied to business school because I knew I wanted to step into the fashion industry with coherent extreprenrutial skills and perspectives. I found my passion for fashion design in the beginning of my sophomore (second) year in university. I applied to Parsons School of Design | The New School in December 2019 to dual enroll in fashion design and received my admittance letter in March. Due to the pandemic, my courses are held online. 

Tell about your path and interests, please.

As of right now, I am technically only a fashion designer, but I hope to expand my designing skills. I hope to follow in my father's footsteps and learn jewelry design. The projects on my Instagram showcase my work I completed during quarantine. I designed designer inspired coffee cups and fashion illustrations during my time at home.

What about your roots? How did your family remove from Armenia? 

I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. My parents are Lebanese-Armenian immigrants and were born and raised in Anjar, Lebanon. I have spent consecutive summers in Anjar with family and friends and call it my second home. My paternal and maternal ancestral roots trace back to Mousa Ler. My great-grandparents and nearly 6,800 others (more than two-thirds of the population) refused deportation from Mousa Ler and successfully resisted the Ottoman oppression for 40 consecutive days. My great-grandparents were among the estimated 4,200 people rescued by the French navy and taken to Port Said, Egypt. After the end of World War I and the Ottoman Empire, the Armenians of Mousa Ler returned to Mousa Ler. It was the eve of World War II when the people of Mousa Ler were forced to leave the region in another chapter of exile that took them to eastern Lebanon, in the Bekaa Valley. In 1939, those rescued by the French navy, including my maternal and paternal great-grandparents, emigrated to Lebanon and settled in Bekaa Valley, Anjar. Growing up, I have preserved my Armenian roots while living in America by attending Armenian youth groups like the Armenian Youth Federation, becoming a senior dancer for the Detroit Arax Hamazkayin Dance Ensemble, participating and leading in Homenetmen of Detroit Scouts, and attending Sunday School at St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church. Although these are the extra curriculars I did to preserve my culture, I attended the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian school for the entirety of my schooling. AGBU Manoogian, my alma mater, has helped me reach my academic goals until this day. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to attend an Armenian school that was very focused on Armenian culture and rigorous academics. 

Do you have any relatives in Beirut? How the terrible blast affected on their lives? 

Although most of my family and friends live in Anjar, Lebanon, some work in the city and were affected by the blast. Luckily, no one was hurt, however, the event was beyond traumatic for them to experience. My initial launch date was on August 4th, however, due to the explosion that occurred in Beirut, it was only appropriate for me to postpone the launch. It still shocks me that I was supposed to be there this summer, but due to the pandemic I wasn't. I had applied to internships to work in Beirut at fashion houses with a business perspective. Some designers I applied to were Krikor Jabotian, Zuhair Murad, and Elie Saab. Most importantly, Lebanon has endured a lot this past year with their economic crisis, wildfires, pandemic, revolution, political instability, and now this destructive explosion. I wanted to dedicate my first and Armenian-inspired collection to the Armeninan diaspora's largest home. Therefore, I am donating a percentage of my proceeds from Collection I to the Armenian Relief Society to help Lebanon relief efforts. 

You mention that your collection is inspired by Armenia. How often do you visit here?  

I have been to Armenian three times. My first time was in 2017 during the Homenetmen World Games. My second time in Armenia was with AGBU Manoogian (my senior class trip) in April 2018 where we got to experience the revolution and the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan. My third time was last summer with my family!

What kind of impact do your Armenian roots have on your works? 

When I was applying to business school, my essay talked about how I want my very first collection to be inspired by my culture. I really wanted to stick to my word and begin my fashion career with something that has helped shape me into the person I am today. 

How this pandemic, on the whole, affects on your work and plans? 

I began to design and gather my ideas for Collection I during my winter break. However, I held off on production due to the pandemic. I wanted my products to be produced in a safe environment. I also wanted to produce my products in my hometown, Detroit, to help my own city from the economic crisis we are all experiencing. I was able to find the perfect place in downtown Detroit to produce my four pieces safely.  

Have you worked with Armenian celebrities? 

I have not worked with Armenian celebrities yet! I hope to do so in the near future. 

Syune Arakelyan

Photos from Talar Malkadjian’s personal achieve

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