By Masa Zokaei

San Francisco based fashion designer Nima Shiraz debuted his anticipated Autumn/Winter 2016-17 Ready-to-Wear and couture collection at San Francisco’s SOMArts cultural center on February 25.
Shiraz, who works in the business world and started in design after his curiosity got the best of him a few years ago, created this collection “for the hip sophisticated woman who is strong and confident,” he says. “She combines elegance with a streak of playfulness.”
Proceeds from the show benefited Global Fund for Women, a San Francisco based non-profit that funds human rights initiatives for women and girls.
I was able to catch up with Shiraz briefly after the event to find out more about what inspired this long awaited debut, and what is yet to come for the talented designer.
Masa Zokaei: How and when did you get starting designing?
Nima Shiraz: Fashion design began as a hobby/curiosity for me a few years back. I had been a model for about two years, and during that time, participating in creative projects as a model and working with inspiring artists began to awaken the creative side of me that I had sort of intentionally forgotten about since my move to the United States in 2003. When I migrated here, I was compelled to pursue the American dream in the business world, which is what I did for several years. But being exposed to all the wonderful creativity and talent as a model, I began to have creative visions of my own; and the rest is history.
 MZ: Who are some fashion icons that influence you?
NS: Alexander McQueen, Elie Saab, Jean Paul Gaultier, Madonna, and Grace Kelly, to name a few.
MZ: You’ve said that you have “created this collection for the hip sophisticated woman who is strong and confident”. What inspired you to design for this kind of woman? Who is this woman?
NS: When I think of a hip sophisticated woman who is strong and confident, I think of the women who raised me while growing up in Iran. I think of my mother, my aunts, my grandmother. They are some of the women who inspire me every day. They are educated and in charge of their lives. And their generation has empowered young Iranian women today to boldly and creatively express themselves through fashion despite conservative laws and practices. Another source of inspiration for me are the strong, confident and diverse group of women who have supported me and fueled my growth as a human being and a designer since my move to the United States.


MZ: What inspired this show? 
NS: It all began with Breathless, my first fashion film. We did that project over a year ago in Napa Valley’s beautiful Castello di Amorosa. The film is directed by the talented Behnam Mokri, who is based in Los Angeles. The star of the film is the Oakland-based singer and longtime David Lynch collaborator, Chrysta Bell. The gowns that we created for Chrysta to wear in the film inspired my new collection, which then lead to the show. And so we premiered Breathless for the first time as the opening of my show.
  MZ: What are some of the hardest things about putting a show like this together?
NS: A show like this can be quite a production. There are many layers and details involved. There is sound, light, set design, hair, make up, the chronology of the garments and making sure that each look fits model assigned to it flawlessly, synchronizing the timing of each walk with the progression of the music and so on. It all comes down to one story that you are trying to portray. And making sure that everything comes together beautifully in one perfectly timed cohesive presentation, is not an easy task.
 MZ: Tell me about your involvement with Global Fund for Women? 
NS: We structured my show as a fundraiser benefiting Global Fund for Women. They are a non-profit that envision a world in which every woman and girl is strong, safe, powerful, and heard. They are a global champion for the human rights of women and girls. I was raised in Iran where women’s rights have been and are at the front and center of social issues. So I feel passionate about their mission. They are also San Francisco based and tied to the Global community. So partnering with them reflects my own roots and illuminates my ties to the rest of the world while further strengthening and demonstrating my commitment to San Francisco as a local designer.
 MZ: I’ve seen your designs over the years and love how your style has evolved. What’s next for you?
NS: We have just launched my Autumn Winter 2016 Ready-to-Wear collection. So the plan for the near future is to focus on the ready to wear side of the business and to get the collection in the hands of hip sophisticated women in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. I am also looking at a few exciting couture projects that likely won’t come to fruition before the end of the year. And eventually, I hope to do a couture show.  I have never done one. It’s been a mixture of ready to wear and couture in the past. I’d like to that next. I think I’m ready for it.
Photo Credits:
Images by Bahara Emami
Make up by Bara K.
Hair by Bobbie Chavarria
Chrysta Bell’s hair by Adrian Elwell