WALKING ON THE RUNWAY - THE ALCHEMIST DESIGNER MOMENT
This last weekend was that moment for designer Ashraf Valliani - getting into NYFW, being able to share her story with the world through art and embracing it all, this moment was more than a validation, it was truly a dream come true. She vividly remembers the day when her acceptance for the show came - ‘I was not only humbled but grateful too. I had a mission to accomplish - I had a representation to do of all the hard work that my artisans had put in struggling through the most devastating floods in Pakistan and they still delivered. This collection was a tribute to them, and it was a victory for all women entrepreneurs making it big and leaving a mark!’
The collection “Zimra modernista” is all about modern fusion chic statement pieces for the women who are living and thriving in the West but still holding on to the rich cultural elements of the East. Brilliantly hand embroidered and handcrafted, every piece in the collection had a deep story to tell the world.
From the breast cancer ribbon 'Hope' jacket to the iconic statement blazers/jackets, from the quintessential kaftan to the fabulous Pakistani flag clutch, Ashraf showed a range of pieces to ensure they resonate with the crowd and the world. Not just a cultural clothing line, this collection is fashion-forward with a strong contemporary vibe.
‘Every outfit in the collection took months, from vision to details to reality representing a journey of labour of love. For the first time this year, I also showcased a collection of accessories with outfits that are a representation of elements from Pakistan - inspired by our pop artists like Madam Noor Jahan and Nazia Hassan, the chokers and the clutches created quite a stir!
All in all, I’m still taking it all in - the experience, the attention and most importantly the shout-out that I got from the crowd and from the media who appreciated the handmade and slow /sustainable fashion concept of the brand and the ethics associated with it.’
This year marks 17 years for the brand and they are happy to put NYFW in the books after thriving at DCFWs in the past.
Here is to a strong beginning, to many more fashion weeks to come and here is to their brilliantly talented artisans. The journey has only just begun!
Please introduce yourself and your brand.
My name is Ashraf Valliani and I am the designer behind “Heritage Collection by Ashraf Valliani”.
What inspired you to start your brand?
There were many inspirations that led me to start Heritage but the most important one was my first trip to the Northern Valleys of Pakistan when I was 10-years-old. I vividly remember the women of the valleys adorned in their colourful and beautifully handcrafted outfits while manoeuvring a challenging and difficult lifestyle. They smiled, they had confidence and there was something voguish about it all. Exquisite yet powerful. It was then that I understood the power of an artistically crafted garment and that’s when I decided to come up with my own brand.
The idea of “Heritage” is synonymous to a well-crafted modern fusion line of clothing that resonates with the women of today who live in the West but still wants to hold on to the roots of the East. The rich heirloom embroideries mixed in with the contemporary cuts and style, the design philosophy is anchored in the values of cutting-edge design techniques, superb quality clothing and freedom of creative expression.
Who is your ideal customer?
A woman who is confident, smart, unique, feminine, and a risk taker - Someone who is worldly yet connected to her roots and appreciates her Heritage. Flawlessly dressed yet comfortable in her skin and proud of it. Self-aware and talented, trendsetter and confident, she believes in the power of clothing to be more than just a sartorial choice. She believes in making a style statement that is versatile, chic, and elegant. Someone with good taste and an authentic fashion sense.
What is the best thing about your upcoming collection?
The collection is called “Zimra Mordernista”- The Art of poetry in design. This season my overarching focus is embroidery with pattern and texture. Every piece tells a story of craftsmanship and labour of love while staying true to our heritage roots. The pieces are fluid that can easily move with time encompassing many varieties of pairings and combinations while staying “Timeless classic.”
What are the top 3 skills that fashion entrepreneurs need to have?
1. Resilience to get up and get moving after each fall.
2. Perseverance to never give up and;
3. Vigilance to keep a close eye on market trends and inspirations.
What is your advice for those who want to start their own fashion brand?
For those looking to start their own fashion brand, it’s very important to identify your niche and stick to it. This will not only help you come up with designs that resonate but will also help you build a solid brand. There are many fashion designers around but only the ones who have built a strong bond with their customers have stayed in business and they continue to thrive. Just like any other business, it will not be easy, but the journey will definitely be worth it.
Tell us a bit about Harpers Bazaar.
Harpers Bazaar ES recently featured looks from NYFW that showcased inclusiveness, high impact Art and the culture in the modern era. I’m humbled and grateful to mention that all my looks were part of that feature.
Here is what the feedback was:
"What you showed and what I saw was pure glamor”
“After waiting for so long to see some drama on the runway, there it was! From jewels to accessories to the fabulous quintessential clothing that strutted through, it left us all mesmerized” - fashion mag USA
“It was a dream wearing that piece of art for you! My imagination already styled and adapted to the street of NY in these beautiful creation”- Alisa on the runway
“Is that a sari? On NYFW runway? YES! I had always hope that would happen but this happened big”!
“ I want those pants!!!! I want that choker!”
“ you brought color to the runway! It was refreshing and I was delighted! “
“ NYFW is all about taking risks and chances- what you put forward was a style statement, a representation and I’m thrilled for you!”
PICTURES: COURTESY ASHRAF VALLIANI