Lilian Afshar is describing her current lifesaver – meditation. “I found a really good energy healer in Portugal through a friend of a friend. When she first saw me, she said that from our conversation, she was expecting a 40-year-old woman. I’m an old soul. I also like to play the piano – Beethoven or Chopin. I’m a Gemini and I think each composer treats one side of me. Or, I’ll paint – just get a canvas and put colors together; it’s fun and therapeutic. Not that I have time for any of that anymore.” The 28-year-old Dubai based designer behind cult bag brand L’Afshar is a workaholic. “I’d say I spend 99% of my time working,” she offers in her typically calm and quiet voice that disguises any sign of her frenetic pace.
L’Afshar first came to light four years ago, when Afshar showcased her graduation fashion collection to a jury at Esmod Dubai. “I thought there was something missing, and I had the idea to make a clutch. I went to Al Quoz to source the material – to an industrial factory that makes swimming pools and aquariums. I went in with my idea and they didn’t even know what a clutch was! It turned out to be a hit – no one focused on the clothes.” Afshar didn’t miss a beat. “I launched my brand straight out of university,” she says.
Originally published in May 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia
Celebrities and their stylists took note. Beyoncé, Gabrielle Union, Heidi Klum, Kylie Jenner, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley have all carried L’Afshar and the brand’s reach has consequently skyrocketed. “I think the bags are unexpected,” muses the designer. “There’s nothing quite like them. Luxurious yet industrial. The clear ones especially. Even though the leather is actually doing the best.” First launching in black, the calf-leather crock-embossed bags come in five punchy colors for SS19.
The structured bags – like the woman behind them – appear compact and tiny. Named after women and artists who inspire her (Diba, named after Empress Farah Pahlavi, has a rhodonite clasp, while the Miró features a statement gold handle), they fit a standard iPhone. “I don’t see the necessity of carrying around anything other than a phone, card holder, and lipstick,” comments Afshar. “Some women are scared to not have a big bag but it’s more organized if you go small. I’ve also had a problem with muscle shoulder pain.”
She does envision eventually catering to the working woman with a laptop case but considers expansion with trepidation. “I want to take it slow. We’re going to get an actual showroom this year – ideally in Dubai Design District. It’s crazy how many times I get asked where my shop is. I want to strengthen what I already have.”
Afshar extends her passion for accessories to her own wardrobe. “Shoes and bags excite me. The rest just happens.” When she does suit up, it’s in Prada or Chanel. “I found a good vintage find in Tokyo,” she says, winking. “Once upon a time, when I was free and used to travel.” Lafshar.com