Cancer survivor wins top award
Yali Derman of Highland Park was named one of Glamour magazines Top 10 college women of the year.
Updated: July 9, 2012 3:46PM
There’s a popular British wartime phrase that has been revived and plastered on coffee mugs.
“Keep calm and carry on.”
That’s certainly a fitting sentiment for Highland Park native and University of Pennsylvania nursing student Yali Derman.
In addition to her studies — which currently have Derman interning overseas at a hospital in Israel — the gal is a celebrated handbag designer who turns her fashionable carry-ons into charitable contributions to Children’s Memorial Hospital.
Her efforts earned the college junior honors from Glamour magazine earlier this spring. Glamour named Derman one of the Top 10 college women in its annual campaign.
In addition, Derman, 21, also received a $2,500 Beauty of Giving Award from sponsor L’Oreal Paris. The prize, earmarked for the winner’s charity, is given to the “woman who exemplifies the strongest charitable spirit.”
“It’s empowering to be recognized so highly,” Derman said during an interview while waiting for a return flight to Tel Aviv last month. “Glamour is both a hip and fashionable icon — these awards both acknowledge that fashion speaks to leadership and acts of kindness. I’m honored to be recognized.”
It’s been a long road for Derman. She is a cancer survivor who was diagnosed at age 4. She credits the creative arts therapy and the KIDSS for Kids programs at Children’s as being integral to her arduous treatments and ultimate survival.
While in the hospital, Derman fashioned handkerchiefs into totes. From her initial creations, the emerging fashionista paired up with Kate Spade to create a signature bag — when she was only 16.
“Children’s is an important place. I was treated there and it’s the place where I found my voice. I learned to be a designer, a nurse and I learned to be a patient there,” Derman said. “I really had the creative arts that shines through with all my life. They fostered my ability to really be me, even in that state of illness.”
And she is truly a handbag gal.
“I identify with bags. They’re a powerful statement,” Derman said. “Because handbags parallel to what women are doing in their lives and are their voice. That’s what speaks to me.”
She showed her line at Sak’s Fifth Avenue in Highland Park last year and has plans to expand — perhaps create two bags a year — but she’s a college student first.
“I’d like to do one every year, and there’s a new one in the works,” she said. “When you are producing in great volumes of 3,000, they don’t appear like magic.”
Find her bags at yaliscarryon.com.