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tart with a little rock ‘n’ roll, mix in a few bold colors, add Middle Eastern and South Asian flair and a pinch of urban style, and what you get is fashion designer Samia Mahmood’s eponymous high-end clothing line, touted by many as “Persian punk.”

“I like the contrast between traditional clothing and urban chic coming together,” Mahmood says. “We live in the West and are constantly assimilating, so the idea behind my line is to keep your identity but also go forward from there.”

Mahmood is far from new to the designing world. After graduating from New York City’s Parsons School of Design—breeding ground for the likes of Isaac Mizrahi, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs—she jumped right into designing and doing shows. In 2001, with her partner, Petra Langerova, she came out with a clothing line that reflected a combination of their backgrounds: Eastern European and South Asian. But then came September 11, and buyers began canceling their orders almost as soon as they’d made them, fearful of latching on to any foreign-looking trend.

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Models walk for Samia’s Spring 2007 Show.

“I knew I wanted to try a clothing line again,” Mahmood said. “I thought right then would be a good time to work more in the industry and learn the business.”

So Samia landed a design assistant position at Kenneth Cole, then honed her craft at Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor, Swiss Army and New York & Company. But Mahmood also wanted to learn the other craft necessary for designers—how to put on a show—so she moved over to People’s Revolution, a fashion PR company.

Thoroughly prepped, the 28-year-old designer traveled abroad to complete her colorful 69-piece collection in only two weeks—just in time for the fashion show last September. Mahmood picked Katra, a Persian-inspired lounge, for the show. “It’s a new place and it fit well with the idea of my design.”

“It’s amazing that she was able to put together such an elaborate collection in such a short amount of time,” says Paul Pendleton, director of operations for Samia Productions. “She has so much drive, and it just tells me that there are great things in store for her.”

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More Spring 2007 looks from Samia.

Arranging a fashion show in two weeks is no easy task, but Mahmood did it by first convincing herself that it could be done. “I think you just have to be yourself and stick with what you believe,” Mahmood says. “It’s like spreading a rumor. Eventually everyone starts to believe it too, and things will start happening.”

Branching Out

Mahmood’s company, Samia Productions, is a full circle organization she hopes to expand into other projects, such as home décor and her newest project for 2007: surf wear. Look for more next year along with her new fashion collection for the Spring 2007 New York Fashion Week shows.

So what inspires this young, rising designer? Mahmood looks to those pushing the envelope for design inspiration: “When Alexander McQueen came out, he brought something fresh to the fashion scene,” she says. “Even outside of fashion, I like how Madonna can push the standard. It’s just about living up to your fullest potential. When someone is able to do that, it’s really inspiring.”

And while Mahmood finds inspiration in the new, she also has the ability to inspire others herself. Langerova comments on Mahmood’s own style: “I like her sophisticated taste in her own cultural clothing,” she says. “Samia always manages to dig up something new. Even though we can see some style of clothing a million times, she can still really bring out a cultural part out in her clothes in a different way that people have never seen, but can still understand. I think that’s always valid.”

Part of Mahmood’s newness comes from her use of her cultural fabric. One example? Her craving for color. “Samia’s sense of color really stands out,” Langerova says. “She designs clothes in a way that you can hardly tell where if it’s Western or Eastern, but brings it together nicely to create a whole new look.”

Mahmood (who visits Pakistan every year) is definitely influenced by her Kashmiri/Pathan-Hyderabadi background. “I’m not trying to exploit my culture, but the styles and colors come very naturally to me,” she says. “I try to relate my two separate lives [as a New Yorker and being of South Asian descent] into my design.”

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One example of that integration is her Sam:1 T-shirt line, which is screen-printed with unique designs—including Urdu script and images relating to Pakistani culture. “All the T-shirts in my line are made by hand, so no two are alike,” she says.

But culture plays a role in other decisions as well. A Muslim, Mahmood struggles with balancing religious expectations and designer creativity, even though her family has been hugely supportive.

“The hardest part was figuring out how to balance making what I want with what was religious and appropriate enough,” Mahmood says. “I decided to follow my artistic integrity, but I still sometimes struggle with it.”

“What can I say? The world is her oyster,” Pendleton says. “She’s going to be the hottest designer in the next five years. I’ll put that on everything.”n

Shyema Azam loves fashion and wishes she, too, had some designing talent.
Published on December 20, 2006.
Photography: By Khayman Photography. Last photo courtesy of Samia Mahmood.

More Information

Samia’s Official Web Site

Comments are closed.
  1. December 21, 2006, 2:45 pm Sarah

    I’ve seen some of Samia’s designs and they are totally amazing, she has a bright future – I’m so glad you guys are spotlighting her! Good stuff.

  2. May 18, 2007, 3:20 pm shadab khan

    hey i like your style …bring our culture to america…