Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla I Aki
Narula I Arshiya Fakih I
Anuradha Vakil I Anamika
Khanna I Anita Dongre I Anjana
Bhargav I Anshu Arora Sen
I Aparna Jagdhari I Arjun
Khanna I Ashima & Leena Singh
I Ashish Soni I Azeem Khan I
Deepika Govind I Hemant
Trivedi I Jattin Kochhar
I JJ Valaya I Kiran
Uttam Ghosh I Krishna Mehta
I Lalit & Sunita Jalan I Lina
Tipnis I Manish Malhotra
I Manoviraj Khosla I Meera
and Muzaffar Ali I Mona & Pali
I Monisha Bajaj I Monisha
Jaising I Niki Mahajan I Payal
Jain I Poonam Bhagat I Priyadarshini
Rao I Puja Nayyar I Ranna
Gill I Rina Dhaka I Ritu
Beri I Ritu Kumar I Rocky
S I Rohit Bal I Rohit
Gandhi and Rahul Khanna I Shahab
Durazi I Shantanu & Nikhil
I Sangeeta Chopra I Savio
Jon I Tarun Tahiliani I Vandana
Roy I Vijay & Shobna Arora
Mumbai designer Azeem Khan counts Hillary
Clinton and Naomi Cambell among his elite clientele. And why
not? His designs are top-of-the-line.
The area of Colaba at the Cathedral doted tip of Mumbai resembles
both a fishing village, a Navy installment from Rudyard Kipling
days and a burgeoning mix of fashion boutiques and art galleries.
Those who live there like to think of the neighborhood as
COHO-Colaba and Cuffe - Parade - similar to New York's trendy
but funky Soho area.
Fashion designer Azeem Khan is one of the innovators of Mumbai's
Coho, with his cool and snazzy boutique next to the Colaba
Post Office, and with his background of a being a real New
York City Soho inhabitant, living and working downtown.
"Our family S.U.Zariwala has had its operations here for three
generations. My grandmother started it off by selling embroidered
hankies door to door," laughs the charming 30 years-old designer,
sitting upstairs in the office of his boutique. "My grandfather
Shansheed Khan bought a paan-beedi shop in this very same
place and I have kept the same wooden and brass enhanced door."
While S.U.Shansheed Khan changed his name to the generic embroidery
and sequin Zariwala title, it sparked the neighborhood Zariwala
art, which thrives in nearby shops and studios. Azeem's father's
work is known in the Indian film industry with his famous
sequined sarees draping Nargis Dutt to every other heroine
in the movies.
"Our company S.U.Zariwala is currently India's number one
in exports to Italy, France and New York and every year, business
increases by 25 per cent," says Azeem. "Most of the companies
in the west don't want to deal with Indians, maybe because
they are so laid back and can't always deliver. My three brothers
carefully supervise all the work, one living in America, the
other in Europe and one is involved in the manufacturing unit."
Despite his illustrious family lineage, Azeem Khan was not
always going to be a designer. He originally studied medicine
and architecture, and said his father did not pressure him
to get in the family line but allowed him to "Find myself".
Azeem "found" himself going to New York City in 1989 and studying
at F.I.T. He received the "Design of the year" award there
in 1992 and got a scholarship to study at the prestigious
Parsons School of Design.
"I am basically not happy in one place, and I like to jump
from place to place," said Azeem. "Parsons is a private school.
The competition made me focus on what I'm good at. I got on
the Dean's list and then Geoffrey Beene offered me a job as
an Assistant Designer."
Azeem became totally 'down town" from going to school down
town and living the New York Soho life, as he worked for this
well known designer. He said that after two years working
for Beene, he considered staying back and getting U.S citizenship
but Mumbai beckoned. His father's store represented yet another
place for his restless creative spirit to flow.
"I wanted to make the store like downtown New York, a place
for art and fashion," said Azeem. "The architect Rahul Malhotra
worked with me on this project capturing a special look."
The designer's Miamoto sports coupe is parked in front, the
Kohli fisherwomen appear to float past this stone and brass
store, blending into the environment. In fact, the boutique
is so much in sync with COHO, that it is the only non-art
gallery participating in the monthly "COHO Art Night", where
everyone is invited to go gallery hopping. Azeem Khan's store
is a stop on the art journey.
"I like to work hard and I party hard also at night," laughs
Azeem, whose good nature is apparent through an exuberant
"Split personality of work and play"
Azeem's international designing skills were earlier demonstrated
on super model Naomi Campbell when he designed an elaborate
Indian bustier for her saree when she did a fashion shoot
in Dubai. He also designed the clothes for Italian jewelry
designer Marina Bulgari's launch at the Taj Hotel in October.
"Bulgari contacted me to be a partner and I was restricted
to five sets," said Azeem. "I did the show for fun and deigned
clothing that wouldn't be astonishing, to compliment the jewelry.
I was really surprised to later receive many calls and requests
to buy those clothes."
Azeem Khan's first show in India, the Diwali '98 Collection,
was held on October 10 in his boutique. It was in his words,
"Very casual, like Soho, where you don't sit on a chair -
He elaborates, "I started with ten outfits and in a burst
of creativity, designed 26 outfits for the two models, Jaswinder
Sachdev and Pooja Mishra," said Azeem. "I like doing things
like that, subtle and beautiful because it's just not a matter
of buying clothes."
It was a special "downtown" style, lounging on the stone slabs,
sipping foreign champagne and wines-to have what Azeem prefers,
"A happy buzz". His second show held at The Taj, was in general
opinion, "The show of the millenium".
"I wanted my show to be an experience and full of drama, with
the models draping the clothing differently, like wrapping
the materials around their head," said Azeem.
"Sarees are very sexy but don't show anything. I teach my
client how to wrap the saree. You must wear my clothes with
an attitude, and appreciate the bizarre. Sometimes at a party,
if I see a woman wearing one of my designs, she might apologize
that she has not worn it with the same flair that I intended.
My training with Geoffrey Beene taught me to mix all the styles
to one to make one statement."
The collection was a dazzling array of the glittering and
intricate Zariwala work and painted designs that are clearly
unique. The price range of Rs. 15000 to Rs. 40000 appeared
not too over the top.
Although Azeem has been asked to teach at NIFT, he has declined
the academic route. But he does offer some advice for new
designers. "My advice to young designers is to never copy.
Always be original. Everyone has a certain style and you must
bring that out."
That is the look - confident, different and full of style
that Azeem Khan has now bridged from downtown New York - to