Student Spotlight: Ibtisam G. Younis
Ibtisam G. Younis
Major: Fashion Studies
Ibtisam Younis earned her fashion design certification in Iraq before the war.
“When I was 10 years old, I started developing my talent in sewing, embroidery and knitting,” she said. “I loved designing, following the new fashions, creating complete looks with accessories, working with the wonderful fabrics and textures, and working with customers of all ages.”
However, she left everything behind when she and her husband, Ali, made the decision to escape to Jordan.
“We were forced to leave Iraq to save our lives,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy decision for us to leave our beautiful family and friends behind.”
But life in Jordan was difficult without a suitable job, accommodations and health care. They lost their 2-year-old son after a battle with kidney cancer. Then came word that Younis’ brothers and relatives, as well as several friends, had been killed.
“At that time, I felt I had lost my life and my future,” she said. “But within all this great pain there was a glimpse of light and hope. In 2008, our case was considered by the U.N. and we were finally approved for resettlement in the U.S. It was hard for me to imagine starting over again from scratch in a foreign country, with a different culture and language. Fortunately, we were resettled by World Relief DuPage and assisted by their wonderful staff. They provided emotional support, cultural orientation, English language classes, health care, accommodations and all the basic needs.”
She began making new friends who stood by her through difficult times, and she enjoyed the fact that her friends came from all backgrounds.
“I felt that this circle of friends surrounded me like a bouquet of beautiful flowers,” she said.
With the support of her husband, who is a photographer and graphic designer, and the encouragement from friends, Younis decided to return to school and chose the Fashion Studies program at College of DuPage. This has rekindled her desire to become a well-known designer.
In fall 2016, Younis and her fellow students had the opportunity to work with College of DuPage alumna Peach Carr, who was featured on the hit reality TV show “Project Runway” during Season 8 and All Stars Season 2. Carr worked with students and then headed a jury that selected items from submitted work to be shown during the annual student fashion show. Younis’ work was selected to be shown.
In 2017, she was named the Most Outstanding Freshman Designer after her designs were featured in the annual fashion show. One of her specialties is bridal gowns.
“I use the British technique of layering that I learned from my Bridal Couture instructor here at COD,” she said. “It took one week to make the dress that was showcased at the fashion show. It was a lot of 12-hour days! Two full days were spent hand-sewing the beading.”
Younis also enjoys creating business wear for women, using the same fabrics in the purse that can be found in the suit or dress. She has developed a line of purses and tote bags using techniques learned at Re:New Project, a non-profit organization that helps teach sewing to women refugees.
In gratitude of World Relief DuPage, Younis took part in a fundraiser and donated one of her design ensembles. It helped raise $2,500 that benefitted other refugees.
After earning her Fashion Design certificate in 2018, Younis would like to work with large international fashion houses and travel to such cities as London, Dubai and Paris.
“I want to learn the business, increase my experience and develop my own designs,” she said. “I love to include Arabic influences with American styles to make something unique. Ultimately, I would like to run my own fashion house.”
Younis encourages prospective students to enroll in the Fashion Studies program at College of DuPage and be prepared to work.
“The program is not easy, but you will learn so much and enjoy the teamwork,” she said. “The instructors are generous with their time and talents. The collaboration with other students makes all of us stronger. Even with my prior experience, I have learned a number of new techniques, met industry leaders and been able to share my unique designs with the public through the annual fashion show.
“I loved and was influenced by famous fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Roberto Cavalli, Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad. I love this industry because you can see new and beautiful things in the world of fashion.”
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