Interview: Menzer Hajiyeva
How was your idea born to design art scarves?
In my teen years I started painting on silk. These silk pieces because scarves that I gifted to my family and friends. I personalized the scarf to suit the personality of the person through form and color. Not only did I really enjoy painting, the process of giving was extremely gratifying so I wanted my business to reflect that aspect of being able to give someone a unique gift. Scarves are also a ‘democratic’ fashion item because as a consumer your choices are not limited by size, shape, body form and age. I also love how luxurious fabrics feel and therefore felt like it was a good segment to start with. In the future I hope to expand our range of products.
What is your connection to art?
I think that fine arts is a great foundation to study for all design forms. I have a background in painting and was considering becoming a painter. I do a lot of drawing and painting for my current collections. I see fabrics as a white canvas to create art on rather than a print. All designs are first developed by hand. I love that fashion involves ‘wearing beautiful things’ as opposed to looking at them in a gallery – which is why I call our scarves wearable art.
Please tell us something about your career.
Before starting my own line I had the opportunity to spend sometime in the design studios of Zac Posen, Narciso Rodriguez, Michael Kors and Lanvin in New York and Paris. That was a really great experience that I use as a foundation for my own brand. It allows me to set out clear guidelines and expectations on what it is that we want to develop and how.
What do you like the most about your job?
I love that I do not feel like I’m at work when I’m working. It is much more personal. I love being involved in the different processes and wearing several hats. Most of all I enjoy the product development part. It is rewarding to see an idea turn into a beautiful accessory for people to enjoy.
How does a day of yours starts and ends?
The day goes by very fast! I like to start my day early. I try to get to the office before everyone else to have time to organize myself. On any given day there are a million things to do from emailing, working with my team, marketing, clients, calls, design development and production. I try to prioritize what needs to be finished today and what can wait. It’s all about multitasking and planning what needs your attention more than something else because there is always something that needs improvement. I prefer to have quiet time in the morning to focus on things that need my utmost attention and then schedule meetings and more ‘light’ activities for the afternoon. I spend more time at my computer than I would like and hope that as the brand develops I will have more time for creativity.
What makes your designs so special?
Our collections are inspired by the rich cultural heritage of Azerbaijan, but they are designed to suit the tastes of the modern consumer so they are not ethnic in nature. We put a great emphasis on detailed workmanship, high quality fabrics and dyes. We have a special line of scarves handmade in Azerbaijan using ancient techniques of printing. I think luxury brands today need to be ethically responsible since that is the true luxury of life and is reflected in the price. All our scarves are produced in good working conditions using safe printing methods and high quality dyes. All items in the collection come in limited quantities.
How would you describe the fashion scene in Baku?
People in Baku love fashion! Imported fashion and luxury goods have been on the market for some time but our own fashion scene is still in its early stages of development in regards to fashion weeks, bloggers, street fashion, stylists and designers. There has been a lot of interest in local fashion designers and creations inspired by our own heritage lately. This is really encouraging.
Do you have a favorite designer?
There are several designers whose work I respect and love. Stella McCartney, Lanvin, Marni, Celine to name a few. I think they design for the modern women and create beautiful and wearable fashion!
How would you describe your personal style?
I have an active lifestyle and therefore prefer light and comfortable clothing. I like wearing color and prefer a feminine style. I wear flowy fabrics and have a lot of clothes with drapes and irregular shapes. For my daily life I love wearing jeans and comfortable shoes. For special occasions I like to go all out – long evening gown and heels. I find it quite romantic. I don’t like wearing all black.
What do you expect from the fashion industry in Baku? Are their facts that should be improved?
Like all fields- a lot is changing in Baku. Even when you look at the fashion scene four years ago it was in a completely different stage. The biggest challenge right now is having professionals in different areas such as stylists, graphic designers, models, photographers, people that know about manufacturing. All these things bring a brand together. Fashion is about teamwork and therefore we rely on other professionals to create a solid brand and collections. Right now we manage a lot of things ourselves but I would like to rely on professionals in the future.
What is your opinion concerning influencers? Do you work with them?
The role that influencers play today is fascinating, especially with direct contact through social media. Although personally I find it a bit bizarre that we as people can be so dependant and influenced by people we have never met or seen but know through a lens, their role in helping new designers surface is immense, so we try to work with influencers when we can, but we do not focus on this. At the core of our values is the high quality of the products and client satisfaction.
What are your plans for the future?
We are working on growing the brand both by increasing our distribution channels and by expanding the range of products we offer. At the same time we are developing our own in-house atelier for making scarves. This will help us develop our own unique techniques and create more experimental pieces. Our team is invested in products that are ‘handmade in Azerbaijan’ and for them to be easily available on the international market. We believe in fashion without borders.
To view their collections please visit www.menzerhajiyeva.com