‘The world is small and life is short so always be true to yourself.” — Tara Sillery.
A potent combination of enthusiasm and single-minded determination are the most evident characteristics in Tara Sillery’s personality. Now considered to be part of an elite in the design world within the Middle East, Sillery has stormed the local and regional fashion scene, trading in her career in investment banking to a far more glamourous Boutique Relations and Media Company. From bank notes to blusher, Sillery is also no stranger to the camera, with regular appearances on local television channels as well as a regular segment on MTV Lebanon and other international channels.
Sillery’s experience coupled with her expertise allows her to easily recognize and cultivate local talent in the fields of art, fashion, and design, into young prodigies in their respective fields to push further the boundaries of Kuwait’s fashion, introducing the Khaleej-esque style to the international arena.
Question: Can you tell me a bit about yourself — who you are and what you do?
Answer: First and foremost, I am a proud Irish person residing in beautiful Kuwait. What I do for my career is sometimes what people judge me on, when I believe firmly that what a person does should not be the most important question you ask (and sadly in today’s society this is what happens!). Yes, I work in a very glam world of fashion and have the huge honour of working alongside many celebrities and well known figures, but this is not what molds me into the person that I am. What many fail to realize in this society is that glam lives and careers, especially in fashion and TV can are very much “here today BUT can be gone tomorrow”. So most importantly I want to be known for being grounded, true to myself and a firm believer in reality and never thinking I am something that I am not.
Q: You are the proud owner of Boutique PR and Media Company PR Passion. How did you achieve this?
A: Through many years of hard work and lots of determination. In an ever changing and cyclical society and region, I am very proud of what I have achieved from starting up my own charity, to working with highly talented designers and working on local and international TV Networks. However, I never take anything for granted and work around the clock to ensure I am consistent and I plan on being bigger and better in what I do daily. Every day I learn something new and having an open mind has helped me grow my career and business.
Q: What interested you in fashion in the first place?
A: Ever since I was a young girl I was obsessed with everything fashion orientated! My mom was a huge vintage fashion lover and I think her passion filtered down to me. I actually used to steal, I called it ‘borrow’, some of her pieces and restyle them from probably the age of 13!
Q: How did you reach the point of becoming such a prominent fashion figure?
A: That’s a huge compliment to be even thought of in this way — thank you! I can honestly say that sheer hard work and complete honesty has helped a lot. I can be rather vocal on my thoughts on certain aspects of the industry and think this has helped too. I am very honest with myself too and I have a firm set of beliefs and won’t ever deviate away from them in order to have what some people desperately crave like for example ‘5 minutes of fame’. I want to be in the industry I am so passionate about for many years to come so I am very conscious about being true to myself and honest with those around me.
Q: Why did you decide to be situated within the Middle East?
A: What can I say … I am Irish and we don’t have much sun and I love the weather here! Also, I wanted to expand my skill set and I honestly love everything about the Middle Eastern culture and way of life. It’s very similar to my Irish upbringing in many ways as we are very family orientated too.
Q: How do you describe to the people back home in Ireland or in the US. What life is like living in the Middle East in contrast to what they’ve seen and heard on the media?
A: Funny you ask this as I am viewed as somewhat a Middle Eastern Ambassador when I travel to do TV and Fashion shows in the USA. Especially in regards to educating people on our culture and the very sensitive issues of recent terrorism. Many people abroad believe a lot of what they see in the Media about Muslims and ISIS, but I am passionate about educating such people on what an amazing country Kuwait is and how it is totally contrary to what they believe. I actually work closely with networks in LA and Fashion weeks in the States and over the past few weeks have been doing boot camps with Phoenix Fashion Week educating American Designers on what an amazing country and region I live in and what they can do to enter our markets. It really amuses me when people think I walk around in an Abaya and can’t sit with nor talk to men!
Q: Tell us about Phoenix Fashion Week.
A: I am truly honoured and excited to be part of such a growing and powerful event in the US. I am also going to be involving some regional designers for their input on helping me choose the winner of America’s Next Emerging Designer. I am passionate about educating the world on the wonderful region in which I live so will most definitely use my voice to ensure the Middle Eastern culture, markets and highly successful group of nationals are portrayed in a very positive light. I am also excited to have some Middle Eastern designers participating in the catwalk shows, which will add a touch of Eastern Culture to Phoenix Fashion Week!
Q: What is the fashion climate like in Kuwait?
A: Very bi-polar! In Kuwait, we have a society where at times people aren’t actually educated on global trends but believe they know everything! Whilst we have some major talented designers in Kuwait — Mashael Al-Mutawa of DESIGNME being one of my favourites as well as NJ Designs for handbags, sometimes their talent is sadly unappreciated. It is my passion to find this talent and help them grow and expand and give them confidence in what they are doing. These two Kuwaiti ladies are very talented and will be doing a lot with me in the next few months to help put Kuwaiti talent on the global map! I can honestly say I get so excited when I sit with such local talent that it re-instills in me that my job is worth all the hard work. Sadly, people think Social Media is the way forward in fashion, however outside of our little country of Kuwait, many people don’t care about Instagram followers or ridiculous Snapchat nonsense posts. Raw talent is paramount!
Q: What’s the latest beauty project you are excited about in Kuwait?
A: I am honoured and proud to be the Brand Ambassador for the hugely successful group “N Bar”. Whilst the market is a very competitive one, “N Bar” have proven their success by being one of the lead brands in the market having had a successful 10 year record. Being part of this Brand on their continued pathway to success is a huge deal for me and I am massively excited about the next 12 months of continued growth and expansion plans they have implemented.
Whilst I am massively particular about what I associate my brand and face with I am also excited to be working with ORO Gold Cosmetics in Kuwait and their makeup concept called Lionesse. The teams are so amazingly educated on every product it makes me feel like I have to get an “Oro Gold Degree!” This brand is taking beauty and cosmetics to a whole new level in Kuwait and I am very proud to be associated with them and involved in this Beauty takeover.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about doing the television programme “Am A Woman”?
A: I worked a lot with MTV doing live “fashion police” reports from the red carpet and the wonderful team at Am A Woman asked me to be their Fashion Advisor for our weekly “Glam Me Up” Segment which is a lot of fun indeed! It’s a fashion and lifestyle show which is a huge hit and we have already done Two Seasons. Season 3 is in the making so stay tuned for lots of more fun fashion episodes.
Q: How can you manage juggling so many things? What’s your secret?
A: Sometimes I crave sleep so much I want to cry … however, my strong personality and determination to succeed is what keeps me going. Also I get so many messages from amazing students and upcoming designers it gives me the drive to continue. I absolutely cannot bear to let people down and I guess when you are passionate about what you do, multi-tasking becomes a skill you are grateful for! I also have an amazing circle of friends here in Kuwait who continuously encourage and support me as well as my family in Ireland so I am blessed, truly. Insider secrets include: chocolate and lots of loving friends and loyalty.
Q: What advice could you give for people who want to follow in your fashionable footsteps?
A: My main piece of advice is to always ALWAYS stay real to yourself and your beliefs. Be open to learning new things, be honest always and realistic. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and never feel under peer pressure to be a certain way. Only have a close circle of trusted people around you and never EVER think you are something you are not! Remember those who stick beside you during the good and the bad. This is my recipe for success!
Q: Aside from fashion, what are your other interests and passions?
A: Fashion and TV are my career but one should never judge a book by its cover. I am massively a home person and not into glamming up all the time! Spending time with my friends is paramount in my life here in Kuwait (sadly never enough hours in the day though). My Diwaniya girls keep me sane, trust me! I have also recently become addicted to the gym but most important to my heart is my Charity for Syrian refugees and Lebanese homeless children.
Q: What inspired you to go to Syrian refugee camps?
A: I am really a big fan of “if you talk the talk, walk the walk”. It is something I wanted to do for some time to experience hands-on what these unfortunate people were going through. You could say, my life has become more complete since the very first day I walked into a camp and UNICEF in May 2014. I want to utilize my position in society to raise awareness. I know some people think I am insane to go there, and yes the situation at times is rather scary but when you have these children in your heart nothing stops you from going to the camps. The children are my inspiration, that’s the honest truth. They have inspired me to become a better person and to re-evaluate a lot of things in my life.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about your charity and how it’s doing?
A: My charity is called HOPE (Happiness of Positive Education). I want to educate the world on the sad reality of what is going on and I want to educate these children and adults on basic life skills as well as basics such as reading and writing. The volumes of victims of the Syrian war and amount of Lebanese homeless is something beyond my comprehension. I under no circumstances believe I am Mother Theresa, but these children have actually given me MORE than I could ever have given them! The love they have to offer and the reality of how cruel the world can be, made me decide to set up my own charity. Honestly, it has been a struggle to get everything sorted from the legal aspect to many people criticizing me, but the love and support, once again from friends and family has made me more determined than ever.
Irish national Tara Sillery has resided in the Middle East between Kuwait, Lebanon and the UAE since 2009. She is the owner of Boutique Public Relations and Media Company ‘PR Passion’ as a Fashion and Media Specialist. She has recently set up a charity for Syrian refugee children and Lebanese homeless called HOPE. Tara has previously worked in investment banking and headed the Corporate Commu-nications department at a high end Kuwaiti development company.
By Dina Naser
Arab Times Staff