Project Mirro Founder, Miriam Omar On Why It’s Never Too Late To Chase Your Dream

In commemoration of Urbanscapes, we’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate Malaysia’s creative scene by highlighting on Project Mirro, an inspiring local brand which puts sustainability over mass-production and trends. The team consists of one textile designer who is also the founder, Miriam Omar, with another part-timer and freelancers who would help out whenever necessary.

As a trained marketer who majored in both Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing, Miriam did not always imagine that she would lead her own ethical lifestyle brand. The 30-year-old artist started off working in various marketing roles in big companies namely Urbanscapes, where her main task include collecting funds for the event and the featured musicians.

However, after working for a few years, Miriam realized that her actual interests were print making and textile design, so she continued her studies to focus on Textile Design in London 2 years ago (2016).

Hi Miriam, how do you feel to be a part of Urbanscapes 2018?

As someone who has been part of the organizing team in the past Urbanscapes, it’s a breath of fresh air to finally be part of it myself, but as a participant, not an organizer. It feels good to give back to the creative community in this capacity – I play a completely different role now. Instead of gathering creatives together for a festival, I have become one of the creatives!

Tell us about when you first started Project Mirro.

It all started with a drawing that I posted on Instagram, which led me to do custom orders for anyone that were interested. Then, these art-based projects became my part time job, where I designed for a lot of cool brands and magazines. Since I am passionate about art and design, every time I’m working on a new design project or collection, I feel at home and I feel excited. When I get feedback from others about how they like my work and enjoy it, it propels me even further to work harder.

So I do what I do because it makes me feel good, and it makes others feel good too! We spend most of our lives in the office, working, from Mondays to Fridays, sometimes weekends – it’s important that we do something that fulfils us, excites us, and also excites others.

“Seriously, this mak cik bawang thing is so real”

Basically before I started Project Mirro, for two years, I was just thinking about it. I don’t want it to be a one time thing, like ‘hangat-hangat tahi ayam’ because I had a comfortable job. I mean, what would the mak cik bawangs say, right? But as I couldn’t get this project off of my mind, I knew that I have to make this a reality.

Every collection I produce for Project Mirro is inspired by an idea, a cause or a community – that’s the whole idea behind Project Mirro. My first collection – The Curiosity Collection is about promoting curiosity and reading as a habit through my #MIRROBookDrive.

My goal in life is to design and give back, so at the end of the day, I know that somebody is going to get new books. Perhaps, if I work really hard, I’ll be able to provide books to under privileged kids and they’re gonna grow up to be someone prominent. Who knows? So if anyone wants to donate books or be part of the project, drop us a message!

For Project Mirro, you enrolled in Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. How did that opportunity come about?

I was looking everywhere for a study grant or scholarship to fund my studies, because I had no money, and no one wanted to help me.

I was so desperate that I sent thick proposals to the top 10 wealthiest people in Malaysia, including Dato’ Vida.

Luckily, I found out about The Global Study Awards, which is the only study grant that was open to students from all backgrounds, including art and design. I wrote my business plan for Project Mirro for that application, and they believed in me. I am so lucky and grateful to have had this opportunity as there were 100,000 applicants and only 6 spots! This experience made me re-think my position in society – I started to believe that my ideas, my vision, and voice was valid. It was a very memorable, educational experience and I urge everyone to study abroad at least once in their life.

Can you walk us through the process of crafting your beautiful artworks? Do you have a specific workflow?

I work in phases.The first phase is ideation and inspiration which is the most essential part of my process. I spend months looking at nature, people, patterns, watching movies, reading books, talking to people to get inspiration for my collection. Next, I work on my mood boards, and start drawing out ideas and exploring. Sometimes I can start with something completely different and end up doing something different. That’s the best part about experimentation and exploration, you never know where it will take you.

Once I’m happy with a few key themes/ideas for my prints, I start painting/creating as much as I can, for weeks. Then I would have a cut off date where I would look at all the material and decide which one goes into the collection, and which ones I will keep for the future. Next, I start designing the products that go with the prints. It’s really a long process, and it can be very stressful, but always worth it in the end. I find it helpful to create loose guidelines instead of something so rigid so I can allow all ideas to flow naturally.

Even if I don’t use 90% of my ideas, I keep them around for future projects.

Is your home filled with colourful furnitures such as those available on Project Mirro?

I actually gave up all my possessions to start Project Mirro — apartment, car, furniture. Now I am temporarily living at my parents, while I prepare to move out to my own place, an office with a home studio, that of course will be decked out in Project Mirro. That’s happening early next year. I did design a few pieces for my parents home, sofa’s and armchairs, and I also have my paintings there – but my parents have their own style, so I designed it to their taste.

When talking about personal style, Miriam explained:

Actually, I am always in t-shirts and jeans in black, white or grey. But I do love colorful tote bags and chunky earrings. Plain, comfy clothes with colorful accessories is what I usually go for.

I’d say my personal style is colorful, eclectic and cultural. I like collecting objects from my travels and displaying them. I also like quirky looking rugs and large abstract paintings. You’ll get to see all of this soon in my studio!

Do you design/decorate your family members’ houses?

Not actually, I have received offers to do this, but have not been able to do it just yet as Project Mirro can be a handful sometimes. To be honest, working for family members can be tricky. Haha.

Opting for ethically sourced, small batch production, instead of mass-produced trend-driven pieces, Project Mirro stands out as a brand that cares not just about the product, but also the cycle of the whole process. Tell us, why is creating biodegradable eco-friendly textile important to you?

Fashion and textiles are the second most biggest pollutant in the world. These textile wastes are filling up all the landfills and releasing toxic chemicals into the air, and into the soil. It is my responsibility as an artist and designer to take this issue into consideration in my production. All my prints are digitally printed on fabric, and I only print what I need, with no wastage or excess fabric.

When I have more resources and a bigger team, I aspire to use only recycled fabrics for my products.

Currently, I’m having difficulty finding the right suppliers for biodegradable and eco-friendly fabrics that can work with my factories, but I’m sure i’ll find one soon. I only make small batches for my products, and there are all also made to order. I don’t use plastic bags for my packaging — I use non-woven recycled bags so they can be reused.

For my price tags I use a bookmark, that goes hand in hand with the #MIRROBookDrive I’m running for my first collection.

What other roles do you aim to have in the society?

In this current digital fast paced landscape, we tend to forget what really makes us human. In fact, people who can work non-stop like machines, who can completely detach their emotions to their work, are regarded as the “best workers”, as they have the highest productivity and contribute most to the economy. Which is not such a good thing – that’s why we have irresponsible politicians and business owners driven by power and greed, who obviously lack empathy, and cause so much distress and damage to society.

I believe my role is to look at the community as a whole, see how I can help in any way, with the skills that I have, to help ease the pain, remind us of our humanity, and create beautiful things.

Do you have any advice for young talents or upcoming artists who are struggling to get their work noticed?

Listen, your biggest enemy is yourself. Don’t compare yourself to other people and just focus on what you can do to improve yourself. Have a vision with clear goals – and then work backwards. If you want to be a successful designer or artist in your field, read books on other designers and artists who have made it, look at the LinkedIn profiles – look at their trajectory and analyze their strategies. Where did they study? Where did they work, as what? What type of projects did they do when they first started out? How has their work progressed over the years? Learn from these people and plot out a plan for yourself.

If you don’t have enough skills, or you don’t feel like you’re good enough, then practice more ’till you get to that level.

Take on jobs/projects that will enable to learn all these skills. Once you’re happy, go out there and promote yourself. You must have a website and social media. Start emailing and writing to people. It doesn’t matter if you get rejected, it’s about exposing yourself to as many people as possible. The more people you contact, the more likely it is for you to get projects and opportunities. If you don’t know how to market yourself, invest some money in taking up marketing courses.

“Don’t listen to people who put you down”

Only listen to constructive criticism. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and make you want to do better. A lot of people actually said that I wouldn’t be able to get a scholarship. If I believed them, then I would have never gotten my chance to go to London.

So, if you really believe in your brand and your product, don’t listen to these people because they might be projecting their insecurities onto you. Maybe they have a dream, but they’re not doing anything about it so when they see other people living their dream, they wanna make you feel bad. Like my parents, because they’re scared that I might be disappointed. Call these people out, and tell them that instead of putting your hopes down, perhaps it’s better if they could encourage and pray for you instead.

To know more about Project Mirro, simply make your way to the official website where you can purchase cool abstract furniture textiles as well as participate in the #MIRROBookDrive. Alternatively, you can also get in touch with Miriam Omar via her Instagram account for collaboration purposes.