Where you always attracted to fashion and design?
I grew up in my mother’s dressmaking business. She served a lot of the Asian community in Birmingham and everything tended to be sparkly and bright. There were always many teenagers around helping her, cutting garments, running errands and occasionally sewing. My mother never let anything pile up and was always in a hurry. Starting out on my own after a few stints at other design houses, I myself rejected the gaudy and shiny and built a focus on tailoring. When my mum saw some of my first work she would say it was very plain and needed some embroidery.
For me it was always about making a woman feel beautiful, a better version of herself when she wore my clothes. Cut, craftsmanship and quality are fundamental to my work. Now I feel I can let go a little bit and have some fun yet tailoring is still the cornerstone of everything I do.
It seems like you’re working with a huge range of references in every single collection, whether that’s art and literature or history and geography. How do you come across these references?
I’m like a magpie. My phone explodes quite regularly. I keep too many photos. I currently have around 20,000 references on this phone and it’s only 14 months old! The trick is focusing on a few themes in order to deliver a unified message. It is easy to get carried away so I have to be disciplined.
The poppy seems to take centre stage in your FW16 collection. What does this represent?
The poppy is my hand drawn motif for FW16. I always hand draw collection motifs and then have them developed into print, brocade or textured fabric. The brocade was made for us in Lyon on hand looms that are over 100 years old.
I’ve never done florals before so after avoiding something for so long, I finally embraced it. Not only does the poppy have an Afghan connection to the poppy fields there, it is also a symbol of remembrance. Although none of this crossed my mind initially, I had recently rediscovered Irving Penn’s poppies. The decay in his pictures is extraordinary. These images stayed with me so strongly that on New Years Eve in Morocco this year, I painted poppies.
What was the inspiration behind this collection?
Similar to what I mentioned about Irving Penn’s poppies, decay and beauty. The cycles of life. How you can take something so abundant and make it stand in time. My mum is happy though she likes big flowers.
Fashion seems to be going through some turmoil, with seasons being disregarded and social media coming to the forefront. What is your take on the new way fashion needs to interact with the customer? The requirement to be a social media star and design genius?
I think if you make great clothes, you will always be able to sell them at the right price point. Social media is one way of getting the message out there. Some people are better and some need to get better, it’s all about how you market yourself. Of course I mean you must be media savvy in today’s day and age and social media allows a more direct connection with the customer. You do need a following because social media is a way to show customers your world and what they are buying in to.
How do you feel about entering India? What do you think about the sense of fashion here? Indian women and their sensibilities?
I love India. The women, the food, the style, the culture, the grace of the women, the love of colour- honestly my list is endless. I have a natural affinity to India because I grew up watching Bollywood movies! I feel very much at home in India and am super excited to be launching at Le Mill.