Private Opening and Exhibition
Shahla Dorriz, haute couture fashion designer to international superstars has, after 15 years of creating private collections, opened her pieces to the public for the first time.
Masa Zokaei: Tell me a little bit about the evolution of your own collection, with respect to aesthetics and runway shows, since we first spoke a couple of years ago.
Alexandre Dorriz: The main difference between my debut collection and my most recent collection was the slight withdrawal of Rumi Couture. Whilst working on my first collection I was really trying to stay loyal to Shahla’s Rumi fabrics and modernize its ideas. Essentially, I was trying to fabricate a younger line that would accept Iranian culture with arms wide open. My latest collection was nothing like my first because I abandoned all restrictions I set myself up for. The only theme I thought of was beauty: of femininity, of masculinity, of nature and its mathematics. There was no ‘young’ or ‘old’ ring to it. What I focused most on was an almost androgynous feel with much of my women’s wear – I was trying to blend femininity AND power to a lot of these pieces. Practically any piece from this collection becomes the centerpiece of any event. My menswear was more masculine, more powerful, and generally more strong as well.
Most importantly what I had focused on was a feeling. I wanted to project a feeling upon my audience – this time I actually wanted to capture the essence of why I was doing this [Persian American Cancer Institute fundraiser/fashion show] event. I didn’t want to entertain the audience with songs and dance away the show. It wasn’t about that for me this time. It was understanding. It was feeling.
I think it hit me the hardest when absolute strangers approached me after the show telling me they hadn’t been moved to tears like that in a very long time – how they had lost a loved one to cancer … how they knew. They understood me.
Between my two shows this has been my growth. A feeling.
MZ: In previous projects we’ve seen you combine multimedia and you drew from documentaries as your inspiration. What made you to want to create the marriage of art exhibition and fashion at your private opening reception?
AZ: Simply put, Shahla’s work has never been made for a mere quick glance. There’s this sort of lost beauty with each outfit. You can only capture so much detail when a model struts up and down a runway; but as soon as you have the piece within arms length, whether mannequin or humane, you have the opportunity to pause this lost beauty – then sink in it like something cryptic is worn into the fibers. I’ve grown up with that passion to detail my mother has to each and individual piece and what I have projected upon my work is exactly that. So you see, it’s not just an outfit or garment we make. It’s art. And hence the conception of ‘Fashion as Art.’ Shahla had worked closely with Ostad Nasser Ovissi in the past, as had I with my first collection – so it truly was a perfect marriage. Most importantly, both artists, Ovissi and Shahla are known to epitomize Iranian culture in their work.
MZ: Although the designs in your collection are influenced by your mother’s designs, how would you say that they differ?
AZ: Everything I know is influenced by my mother; I was classically trained by her. I’m in love with haute couture, with the idea of a timeless piece that can last a lifetime. I’ve almost come to loathe the idea of fast fashion, mainly because of how uneconomical it can be. I read a statistic a while back ranking the textile industry as one of the top 10 global industries responsible for global warming. This was stifling; but, this is exactly why my mother does what she does.
Shahla has a daunting archive of vintage fabrics – most of which have been handmade and hand dyed with natural resources – literally, a lot of the reds you see in our work comes from pomegranates. It’s only until I began working on my own collections that I understood why my mother had been doing this. My mother’s side of the family comes from a lineage of textile designers – sartorial perfection is sort of in my blood. But, I think almost any bystander can see that the differences between my mother’s and my designs lie within the structure of a dress. When you look deep into a dress you see fabrics that both her and I usually use. When you look objectively – far, far away – you see a purely unique piece of art. I think those are our only two similarities: textile design and the sheer fact we both do haute couture – aside from that there’s an ocean of difference. Before I started my own collection I learned to compromise because my designs were usually too farfetched for her clientele; that’s one of the reasons why I started my own collection, to make my imagination of the too farfetched come to life. People often generalize and say the difference between our work is that hers is more conservative but I don’t think that’s the least bit true. Shahla’s work has been extraordinarily provocative at times – which makes her work all the more intriguing, having that flow between the provocative and the conservative. I find it beautiful.
MZ: How have your travels in the last year or so impacted your creative work at Maison and also your growth as an artist?
AZ: There’s a quote from Rumi that’s recently become my mantra: “It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.”
That’s what traveling does for me.
Every time I land back into LAX it’s a new feeling, whether it’s contempt or not. You see your own city in a different light. You ask yourself why you don’t treat your own city as if you were a tourist. I’m still dying to take one of those Hollywood tours in the double-decker buses I always see on Wilshire on my way to the Maison some days. Basically, traveling to me isn’t about the venture itself. It’s what you bring back; it’s what it makes you. Traveling is a growing experience. It not only contributes to our worldview, but it contributes to the way we see ourselves.
By: Masa Zokaei