Haute Culture

Haute Culture

Azhand Shokohi takes on the world of fashion

By Sara McKinniss

Samples from Shokohi’s latest collection featuring model Alyssa DeWitt. Photos courtesy of Dayton photographer Jon Morton.

Samples from Shokohi’s latest collection featuring model Alyssa DeWitt. Photos courtesy of Dayton photographer Jon Morton.

Cincinnati-based fashion designer Azhand Shokohi is one to watch. Though it is early in her career, Shokohi’s latest collections mimic those of industry veterans. Her sculptural designs, which exhibit hints of haute couture elements, reflect the unique approach she takes with each seasonal collection she produces. Shokohi’s latest collection for Fall/Winter 2011 contains silhouettes reminiscent of fashion powerhouses Elie Saab and Alexander McQueen, but it is Shokohi’s attention to detail that sets her apart not only in this latest collection, but past ones as well.

Shokohi is a Persian-born, U.S.-based designer. Her collections, self-described as “upscale, elegant, fashionable, luxurious and original,” are demonstrative of these adjectives. If the adage is true that people are born with a sense of style, then Shokohi truly inherited her fashion “jeans.” Her interest in fashion took off at an early age when, at 10 years old, her mother showed her how to knit and crochet, and she began a hobby of sewing projects.  Shokohi’s illustration skills came from her father, a civil engineer.
“I inherited my drawing ability from my very talented father,” said Shokohi. “He is an engineer but his ability to draw and write poems was absolutely extraordinary. He encouraged me to draw.”

As a teenager growing up in Frankfurt, Germany, Shokohi began designing clothes and accessories for herself. After convincing her parents to let her study fashion design, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design and product development. Since graduating, she has worked at well-known retail fashion companies like Rampage in Los Angeles and Ralph Lauren in New York City.

Shokohi’s professional experience in different roles works in concert with her current profession as a designer. It has helped her build her collections and position them appropriately within the industry. However, in order for her to build a collection, Shokohi must find inspiration.

“Sometimes I think about the colors I want to use for my collection,” said Shokohi. “Other times, I go fabric shopping and I let the fabric inspire my next collection. Also, my favorite channel is Turner Classic Movies. Old movies are also a source for my [ideas]. However, my [Persian] heritage plays a big role too.”

Shokohi’s Persian style influence is evident in the fabrics and trims she chooses to use and remains consistent from year to year.

“The designer that I am today is affected enormously by the richness of the Persian culture,” explained Shokohi. “I’m passionate about the lavish fabrics, exquisite jewels and ornate trims. My intent is to design beautiful accessories and garments with attention to detail.”

Though Shokohi’s pieces are glamorous, the industry she works isn’t always that way.

“I love a challenge and this is a challenging industry,” said Shokohi. “I like to push myself to be the best and this industry is the place to do this. However, it’s not as glamorous as it seems to most people. It can be harsh at times.”

Shokohi says the job comes with its share of challenges.

“The biggest drawback of being a designer is the budget,” said Shokohi. “When the budget is limited, so is the ability to accomplish more as a designer. A designer must love every aspect of [this job]. A designer does not only design, but he or she must know and love the process of designing: drawing, pattern making and sewing. But most of all, they have to love what they do. If a designer only likes part of designing, then it’s hard to be successful.”

Shokohi’s latest collection is currently available online at www.azhandshokohi.com and in select stores.

Reach DCP freelance writer Sara McKinniss at SaraMcKinniss@DaytonCityPaper.com

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