“Success is being content and fulfilled by what you do; quality over quantity, always!”.
Based in Dubai, she launched her prestigious luxury label just two years ago. Her box clutches, made of marble, crystal, slate and plexi have been celebrated internationally by the likes of Vogue, The Cut, Harper’s Bazaar, Fashionista, The Sartorialist and the New York Magazine.
Today you’ll find the iconic insect-adorned clutches all over the world including London, New York, Texas, Sydney, Georgia, the Emirates and Shanghai. She’s a designer, an entrepreneur excéllence and the face behind L’Afshar. Curious and a fan of her work, I got in touch with British Iranian Lilian Afshar to talk about life, running a successful business, Iran and what it means to be a designer in the current economy.
Our woman-to- woman conversation reveals a creative visionair with an empowering voice.
How does a day in the life of Lilian Afshar look like?
My day cannot start without my fresh brewed early morning cup of coffee. After that I get dressed pretty quickly and head to the factory to check up on production and new prototypes. After a lunch meeting or two I head to the office, right now I’m working on my new collection and planning the creative direction for our upcoming shoot. It’s a busy season with the new collection preparations and FW16 deliveries and also my wedding that is coming up right after fashion week, so working out is a must! After an intensive session at Physique 57, I head back home to unwind and spend time with my family and the dog!
Waw! That is exciting news. On behalf of the entire TTT team; congratulations on your wedding!
You graduated from ESMOD in 2012 and shortly after that your clutches went viral on the global fashion map. How did you do that?
There was no set formula. The growth was purely organic from the start. If I had to choose one thing or name one thing that has truly helped putting me on the map, it’s social media, and specifically Instagram. After graduating I uploaded one of my clutches on to Instagram and it immediately received a lot attention. That’s how it started.’
Do you think that young fashion designers need endorsements from editors to get visibility for their work?
In the beginning- yes. That is one of the main ways to start getting recognized but it’s vital to keep this consistent from there on and Instagram for example, is a great tool for that.
What is key to running a successful fashion label in times where styles and designers are fleeting and economies are fragile?
Keep it simple and accessible- and it is important to offer a unique product in today’s oversaturated market. With the latter I am talking about customizations of products, which I cannot express enough- is absolutely vital today. Consumers of now are constantly looking to express their individuality and they want to have a unique product, so it’s good to keep that in mind and enable them in that.
And within all of this, how do you balance the creative side of the job and the business part? Is there symbiosis between the two realms?
There are no set rules on how to balance the two. You just have to do it and to take it day by day. I think that’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur. Luckily I have my mother who I run the brand with, she deals with most business aspects of the company.
Your bags and clutches are truly unique, in concept and materials. Where do you find inspiration to feed your creativity?
Anywhere and everywhere really. I am always on the look for new textures to incorporate in my designs. To give an example, recently I’ve really been drawn to vintage perfume bottles especially the Art Nouveau ones. It’s the color and the intricate techniques on the bottle that inspire me.
Tell me about your beautiful Logo. What’s the story behind it?
The logo is actually a mixture of a dragonfly and a scarab beetle that I drew while I was finishing my BA. The dragonfly aspect is very symbolic. It symbolizes growth, adaptability, power and poise. I added the beetle aspects to add some depth.
You are Iranian and Middle Eastern. What would you say our culture has to offer the world of fashion and arts?
Our culture is an endless source of inspiration. You can be inspired by Iran’s rich history, literature, arts, nature, architecture etc…there is just so much to discover. I visited Golestan Palace for the first time back in March. I was in awe by the sheer beauty and grandeur of it. The palace left such a huge impression on me that I decided that one of the techniques for SS17 collection will be mirrors, inspired by the mirror work in the diamond hall (Talare Almas) of the Golestan palace.
Success is being content and fulfilled by what you do: quality over quantity, always!
And what advice would you give aspiring young Iranian creative and designers in their careers?
Be open to positive criticism, it’s a learning process, let the obstacles you face be a lesson and learn from it. AND: there is no need to rush! Rome wasn’t built in a day.