BokaStar on the highs and lows of life as a creative in London (The Fuse)

Interview with BokaStar for 2nd year online platform

BokaStar on the highs and lows of life as a creative in London
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The Fuse speaks to costume designer BokaStar as he lifts the lid on what it’s like to be a young creative.

Costume designer BokaStar truly knows what it means to be a creative in London. Moving from Kurdistan, Syria to attend London College of Fashion, he originally spent a year studying fashion illustration before taking the leap to a degree in costume design for performance instead. Although creativity surrounds the designer in his life now, it wasn’t always an easy journey. His flair for fashion started at a young age and back home was entirely self-encouraged.


Boka explains “I’ve always been addicted to drawing and always kind of escaped through just using that pen and paper and to express how I feel but that was not really taken seriously. I was always searching for opportunities back home but nobody really cared about what I was drawing or what I was doing. I was really misunderstood by the society and by my family because no one really believed in me, no one gave me any chance so I always had to be the teacher for myself. I always had to educate myself. take the pen and paper and draw and do something and be creative.”


He goes on to expand on just how restricted he felt with no encouragement in a background where his creativity couldn’t flourish: “I came from a really rough, tough place where there was not really any chance of me being creative at school. There was an art class but the teacher would just sit around the table. There was no education for art, there was no education to do anything creative so although I did not have any creative education from school or at home with my family, I always had pen and paper and that was the cheapest thing for me to buy and draw.”


Moving to London was a stark change for the young designer with a new-found freedom of expression, describing London as “a free space, I get to wear whatever I want, I get to wear anything and so there’s definitely more freedom and more energy.”


Although Boka left most of his creative struggles back in Syria, he expresses the challenges that come with living in London and finding the balance between dealing with London’s rising expenses and finding time to create. “it’s difficult on the other side because with living in a city like London, it’s very stressful. You have to keep up with uni, with a job, with rent, with bills and sometimes when you work a 12 hour shift, you get home and you don’t really have a lot of energy to do what you’re supposed to do as a creative in this industry so I always try and balance, so I always have pen and paper in my bag and I always write my ideas down.”


He pinpoints comparison and competition as the biggest challenges in a creative industry and can recount the times of doubt and insecurity when he first started his degree and “didn’t even know how to thread the industrial machine but everyone else in the class knew what they were doing, they were very ahead of me.”


In an environment where comparison is so easy to fall into, Boka steers from the black hole of doubt by remaining focused on himself and himself only. “I think it’s all about your rules, it’s all about telling yourself you can do it and trying not to look at others to make you feel low, focus on yourself and what you can do (…) I think (the industry) is very competitive but I think it’s all about you (…) focus on yourself and focus on what you have to learn and what you have to do.” he explains.


His best advice for getting your work out there and a foot in the door? Creating as many links in your industry as possible. Taking a chance and going direct to the source, although daunting, is what Boka recommends as he retells a story of when he emailed the head designer for the Dream Girls theatre production at The Savoy theatre and connected over potential opportunities in the future.


On a broader scale, Boka feels attending as many social events as possible has been a huge stepping stone for him as he tells that “the best way to make contacts is to attend as many social events as you can. I try myself even if it is a store opening. Especially if you are at uni, I think they offer you a lot, a lot of time they will email us if there is a new opportunity coming out. So, I think attend social events and be alert of what’s going on. Be a part of anything that’s to do with your industry even if it’s not exactly what you study, I think be involved in everything and that will help you to know more people and be more noticed in the industry.”


With all the setbacks and challenges of being in a creative industry its easy to get somewhat lost in your reasons for being there. But for Boka it’s the flame ignited way back in Kurdistan that keeps him going. He says “I’ve always had the joy to make other people happy with what I create, especially doing costume now I feel like everything I make it needs to fit this person well and if they feel empowered, if they feel very beautiful. So, I feel like my job is to make others feel very happy, and I feel like it’s the greatest thing you can do for someone.”


See BokaStar’s work @bokastar on Instagram


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