Growing up in Iran, Naza Yousefi was fascinated by the passion and effort Middle Eastern women would put into their fashion choices. After training in made-to-measure in her home country, the young designer moved to London to study fashion where she was introduced to leather molding and bonding techniques usually used in furniture design. Using these skills, Yousefi launched her handbag label, Yuzefi in 2016 offering bags featuring industrial-inspired bolts in unique shapes without any conventional joints, gussets, or stitching. Her first collection sold out at Browns and Farfetch within three days of launch.
Currently stocking across the Middle East as well as at almost 70 retailers worldwide, the label with its minimalist approach and boxy aesthetic is fast becoming a contender for cult-status.
We spoke to the Yousefi, who is also a lecturer at Instituto Marangoni London, on how a handbag brand remains relevant and her advice for young designers in the Middle East.
What led you to start a career in fashion?
I was born and raised in Iran. From custom made dresses to hunting down one of a kind pieces, Middle Eastern women have impeccable taste and insatiable appreciation for fashion, some part of this has been ingrained in me and the rest has served as a source of inspiration in my career.
In a previous interview, you mentioned that you like to learn a lot from your students, tell us about the one thing you learned from them that has impacted your brand in a positive way.
One of the biggest challenges for every brand out there is to remain relevant and continue to resonate with the younger generations. I always found reviewing my student’s work fascinating as it gave me a glimpse into their world and what resonated with them.You launched your brand in 2016. In the last few years, what are the lessons you have learned and incorporated in your brand?
To not rest our laurels. Consumers have so much to choose from and trend lifespan is shorter than ever before. We invest a great deal of creative effort into designing pieces that have an aesthetically strong point of difference and longevity.
Mansur Gavriel and Wandler both started off as handbag brands and have now expanded into clothing and shoes respectively. Where do you see the future of your label?
Expanding into other product categories is absolutely crucial in building longevity for young brands. We are currently working on introducing a new product line which will be unveiled towards the end of the year, with the long term aim of offering a complete wardrobe further down the line.
What’s your advice to young designers from the Middle East?
To build a strong following in their home market before launching their brand internationally, to have a global outlook but stay true to their roots, and to build a strong supply from the start.