Princess of Luxury – Mia Jafari

Mia Jafari is another of my Twitter finds in the world of home grown Brit fashion. I’m instantly drawn to her bold, bright, colourful world, where fashion and fantasy collide.

We meet in the centre of Roman Road Markets, East London. I arrive later than expected after running into a barrage of Tube closures. I bear gifts of Ikea wood hangers – too cumbersome for my limited wardrobe space, so I thought Mia might like them to display her garments. She is over the moon! It’s the little things.

We soon settle into conversation about the state of the emerging British fashion industry, and the role of education and internships in setting young designers up on their way to success. For Mia it’s been an interesting road to where she is today with her first 2012 ready-to-wear collection, the start of her vision to where she is determined to be in the
next two years.

I instantly fell in love with Mia’s simply beautiful fabric, which she designs using digital print techniques here in the UK. It’s over coffee that it all falls into place as to why I love her fabric designs so much. As a child I was mesmerized by fantasy tales of the Prince of Persia, Ali Baba, and the Forty Thieves.

Mia is originally from Iran, and her Persian roots strongly connect the fantasy world of flying carpets, rich colours, and divine craftsmanship, which Mia attributes to her Iranian heritage, to which she is still strongly associated.

Like so many designers, Mia is faced with the problem of high manufacturing costs in the UK, and is forced to look outside this country to have her garments made. For this, Mia chooses her home country, where each garment is meticulously cut to her pattern and hand finished to ensure her attention to detail is adhered to. Mia regularly travels to Iran to oversee the completion of her first collection.

Always striving to learn new skills, Mia even returned to Iran to undertake an intense pattern cutting course, so that she could be entirely devoted to the design and production of her first collection. This is dedication and investment, both in time and money, which a lot of young designers are doing in order to make themselves as versatile and marketable as possible.

It’s the exceptional craftsmanship in Mia’s work that captures my attention. From the meticulous paintings which fill her sketch books, to the final finishing stitches on the inside pockets, or the lining of a garment – everything has to be perfect in its finish and detail. And rightly so.

This current 2012 ready-to-wear collection features structured and neat tailoring, finished with details such as capped sleeves, floaty layering for the dresses, deep pockets and wide box pleats on the skirts.

Each garment is lined with silk, and each has been designed around Mia’s rich fabric, bearing monikers such as “Serenade in Blue”.

I’ve chosen to name this item in particular because this is my favourite, which Mia kindly allows me to try on (cue shrieks of excitement!).

Serenade in Blue is a skirt and matching blouse combination. Structured because the blouse with its capped sleeves neatly tucks into a rather daringly short skirt finished with a traditional waist band. The peacock blues used in the fabric print is intense, and again, the inside lining is silk with perfect stitching.

This collection of fabrics is based on her study of Claude Monet’s Waterlillies, replicating the rich purples, greens and blues, with flickerings of fuchsia. Romantic, captivating, and stunning from every angle.

Mia’s first collection is finished and ready to be showcased – she has just applied for a place at the 2012 London Fashion Week this coming February. In the mean time, Mia will be focusing on brand awareness for her luxury-inspired label. But Mia’s designs are by no means new to the luxury market – it’s not her clothing, but her designer silk scarves which are draping the necks of cash-rich shoppers in New York, Dubai and Bahrain. Her scarves are also available to purchase from her online store.

Mia has seductively named each of her scarf designs, emulating the sophistication of ordering a cocktail at a chic New York style bar. The rich colours of Berrypolitan, Strawberry Cosmos, Asian Manhattan, or Bombay Sapphire (to name but a few), have put her designs in the same league as the likes of Hermes, or even Louis Vuitton.

Her silk scarf designs are inspired by vintage Cartier or Tiffanys. On closer look I see images of Christian Louboutin inspired heels, decadent cupcakes, Jean-Paul Gaultier style perfume  bottles, glitzy clutches, miniature handbags, even bright lady-bugs. My eyes are alight with everything that a girl wants in life. This is exactly what Mia has capitalized on in creating these print designs – everything a girl wants illustrated on a scarf.

I’ve already painted a picture of an exceptionally talented artist and designer, and as the afternoon continues, what becomes evident is that Mia is also a business-savvy young woman. Confident in her design talent, she now plans to focus on creating brand awareness for her label.

And like the clothing range, her attention to detail spills over into every aspect of her business, from packaging, to label design, to creating and nurturing business associations – even down to how her designs are displayed in exclusive boutiques.

Mia will often be found toiling in her studio until the early hours, on both her designs and her business plan, surrounded by beautiful beads and buttons for inspiration under the watchful eye of her rescue cat Notchie.

Mia is mindful that she may be perceived as ‘fussy’. Not so – Mia is neat and petite and her attention to the finest detail is captivating.

In these uncertain economic times with not only the individual watching their pennies, big business is also pulling in the reigns. Some might assume that the life-span of the luxury brand industry is limited. However this appears not to be the case. Luxury brands are going from strength to strength. For example, the most valuable brand is France’s Louis Vuitton, worth nearly $19.8 billion. Hermès, Gucci, Chanel, and Hennessy also topped the list for most valuable luxury brands (source of information: Luxury Society online, 2011).

Mia sees her brand glistening amid the gloom by creating desirable investment pieces.

With so much on her plate already, you would think that Mia would be planning a well-deserved break. Well, that’s just not on her to do list (for now at least). Instead, Mia’s next project is the launch of a luxury printed knitwear range using yarn sourced from Florence.

This will be a design collaboration with her Uncle based in Iran, who already has a thriving knitwear design and manufacturing business. Mia intends her knitwear range to be as bright and bold as her scarves and garments.

It’s an exciting and interesting time for our British fashion and textiles industry with our young designers forging ahead amidst a difficult financial meltdown. While scholarships, grants and internships are on offer for fashion students and designers, it’s an expensive industry to get established in when branching out on your own. To see a young, designer like Mia Jafari so focussed on developing her own unique luxury brand is inspirational.

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