Paria Farzaneh is having a pretty good 2018. Despite only graduating from Ravensbourne University, where she studied Fashion & Menswear, a year ago, the Yorkshire-born, South-London based 24-year-old has already made a name for herself in the fashion world.
Frank Ocean wore one of her printed designs to headline last year’s Lovebox Festival, and since then the British-Iranian menswear designer has released four collections. Farzaneh’s shoe design for Converse’s One Star Hotel, featuring her trademark red, blue and white paisley print, was arguably the most highly sought of the collaborations on offer at the event, which also included shoes by Yung Lean and A$AP Nast. Farzaneh’s marriage of her Iranian heritage with her British identity has resulted in menswear that is both beautiful, genuinely exciting, and functional.
Farzaneh’s designs have become synonymous with a blend of pattern, style, and influence: oversized jackets and long, flowing silhouettes featuring traditional Iranian prints. It feels trite to refer to her design as a meeting of East and West, but the designer’s Iranian heritage is ubiquitous in her work, even as she makes clothes created for the streets of London.
“I want my garments to tie together the West and the East; two places which are typically pitted against each other in today’s media,” she says when asked what message she hopes to communicate through her designs. In her lookbooks, minimalist tailoring, cargo trousers featuring embroidered detailing and bold, printed puffers in rich Iranian fabric with its heavy use of reds and blues are juxtaposed against the bleak, grey concrete puddles of the city she now calls home.
Although she says that she is not directly influenced by any other designers – “my design process and inspirations are pretty unique to me” – she looks up to the work of Massimo Osti, Rei Kawakubo, and Jun Takahashi, all designers with an expert eye for simple, classic tailoring with just the right amount of embellishment. Her main inspirations, however, are closer to home: her mum and dad.
Her dad was even one of the models for her SS18 lookbook, wearing a clean shirt with an asymmetric collar paired with a beige baseball cap. “I take a lot of inspiration from my surroundings, as well as initially looking at a lot of photographs from my family in Iran – what they wore etc,” she says of her design process, “I tend to design as I go, nothing is ever definitive and I am always adapting pieces as I go”.
Farzaneh’s love for her motherland is evident not only in her designs but also on her Instagram feed which features a mixture of her designs, old family photographs, and other images of Iran both taken by herself and others that often present a side of Iran that is rarely seen. “The family photos are from personal albums, and the other images are found photographs from a huge archive I have. I never say who or what they are from – it leaves a sense of mystery and makes people actually get off Instagram and research to find out the original source. Plus when you look into something further yourself you always find something more,” she says about her reasons not to provide credit for the images which can include anything from Bahman cigarettes to an Iranian woman in all black with a pair of red boxing gloves.
Farzaneh tries to go back to Iran to visit family and find inspiration at least once a year, and has managed to do so for most of her life. This may seem surprising for those who think the majority of Iranians are either in exile or too scared to return to the country, but is in fact a common practice for many dual-national Iranians brought up in the West. While there, Farzaneh tries to spend her time “absorbing the people and the culture as a whole, particularly in the more rural areas. The regular people in the bazaars and shops is what inspires me more than anything.”
This is evident in both the traditional Iranian paisley print and the workwear styling of the clothes, loose-fitting, comfortable “schoolboy” tracksuits, and boxy, tailored “older man” suit jackets. The fabric itself is hand-printed in the historic Northern-Iranian city of Isfahan, famous for both its history – it was the former capital of Iran before Tehran – and its iconic ancient architecture and designs, including the print Farzaneh employs in her work.
As for what’s next, the designer has been listed as one of the NewGen committee’s One To Watch, and recently revealed her much-anticipated SS19 collection based on Norooz, the Iranian New Year. Unveiled via a truck installation on the Southbank, the collection presented seven “rooms” signifying the seven essential symbols that come together to help celebrate the New Year, and featured a new iteration of the classic Isfahan print on khaki uniform fabric she has become known for. Norooz itself means “new day,” a theme that seems particularly befitting of what Pariah Farzaneh is bringing to the menswear table.