Designer of the month : Ibrahim Shebani, founder of Born in Exile

By Yasmine Borghol

I started following this brand when i started noticing familiar models that i follow on instagram posting their shooting pictures while mentioning “BORN IN EXILE”. It’s name peaked my interest at that time and made me want to know more about this emerging brand. When i first checked the creations that this brand has to offer, it instantly gave me rebellious vibes.

And fortunately, a while ago, i had the chance to interview the founder of the brand, Ibrahim Shebani, since he’s been selected as our DOTM ( Designer of the month ).

We first scheduled a meeting in a beautiful cozy space where we would eat something delicious, feel the breeze and discuss fashion and get to know this rising man more.

Then the meeting got reported due to some incidents and we decided instead to hold the interview virtually which went pretty well and maybe even better than expected. Ibrahim was so down to earth and he had this kind of vibe and energy that made me feel like I was catching up with an old friend instead of interviewing a random fashion designer.


Who is Ibrahim Shebani ?

I am a fashion designer from Libya. I’m someone who is still new to the fashion industry because i worked in several fields in my life before turning to fashion.

I studied at first in the school of architecture in Libya and I had a career for over 15 years in advertising and marketing. Currently I have a day job in communication for NGOs in Libya and at the same time I have my own brand “Born in Exile”.

Born in Exile is famous for embracing the rich culture of Libya and its history with unique craftsmanship, how did the idea come up? Why “Born in Exile”?

The idea came from my culture and most specifically, Libya’s culture, and it is by far one of the most underrated cultures that only locals know about it well enough despite the fact that it’s a very rich culture, full of details and full of art. That’s what I wanted to showcase through my brand. You probably noticed that I use a lot of traditional embroidery that is ancient and put on modern garments. The idea came from me noticing a certain gap and lack of Libya's cultural presence in the market. There were no brands from Libya and representation of Libya's art and culture. I wanted to always work in fashion and finally managed to while representing Libya's art.

If you had to choose two or one word to describe “Born in Exile”, what would it be?

Ethical and bold. 

What sparked your interest to work in the fashion industry?

My mom is a self-taught artist and designer. She always loved design, art and fashion. She was usually painting and creating unique clothing pieces. I was always glued to my mother and I remember her going to her tailorist or buying fabric. There was this incident, I was probably 8 years old when I traveled to Istanbul with my mother, we went to this Bazar shop and she bought a lot of the same design leather jackets.When we went home, she painted all these jackets, put studs on them and stones. She turned them from basic and plain leather jackets to statement and artistic pieces. That stayed in my mind until I grew up and I always wanted to do something similar: simple, stylish and with a lot of details.

Modern-Heritage-New-Lookbook_4BORN IN EXILE F/W 2020 collection

How was your experience being one of the finalists of the Vogue Arabia fashion prize and Fashion Trust Arabia?

I was over the moon to be selected and being one of the finalists. Things like that make you feel like all the hard work you put paid off, things are going well. I wanted to win but unfortunately i didn”t. But to me, it was a milestone, it gave me validation and made me sure that I was going through the right path.

Does “Born in Exile” reflect a part of your personality?

When you design, it always showcases a part of you and reflects your experiences, your life, education and the day to day life,  the art you see and everything that amazes you and that stays in your mind. When you see all that information, process it and then get it out of your system and into your designs. Although when I dress myself, I’m pretty basic I like black and basic (minimalistic) colors and I’m not a big fan of mixed colors and embodiment on my clothes except on rare occasions. Born in Exile is more like the collection of my thoughts and aspirations that I put all together and create with a design.

download (8)BORN IN EXILE F/W 2020 collection

Can you tell us about the first clothing piece you ever designed?

I have been designing for a very long time, i was still in school when I started sketching, drawing clothes and models but I never really made any pieces at that time. But i do remember some of the first pieces that i ever made. When I was making one of my first prototypes, it was this jacket called “Sofia Jacket”. I still remember how it started from the sketch and then eventually managed to realise the actual design and turned it to a piece of garment that anyone can wear entitled “Sofia Jacket” that was inspired by Sofia Guellaty.

What are your next steps & objectives?

To grow the brand slowly but surely, be able to produce and sell in more than one country. The dream would be to sell in Europe and Dubai. To grow Born in Exile’s Team. My dream is also to have an atelier and a full team of designers and producers so i can turn the brand into not only ready to wear but also add accessories, shoes, menswear and perfume and turn Born in Exile into a lifestyle.

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BORN IN EXILE F/W 2020 collection

Do you have any message to young designers who aspire to create their own clothing brands?

I’m not professionally trained in the fashion field, i did not study fashion and I never did a fashion internship. I never had anything to do with clothing until I finally decided to do my own brand and I think the most useful thing that I learned is that you really need to spend time with people that make your clothes . If you are not the person who creates the clothes by themselves from A to Z, then you really need to spend time in Factories, understand the details and secrets on how production works, how to make and assemble garments. You need to see the factories where your clothes are made and how they operate,you need to see how garments are being made and which fabrics go well together.

Education is important in fashion but what is even more important is the experience and surrounding yourself with people who have long and rich experiences in the field. And I think the best place to learn is in factories.