The Art Institute of Vancouver - Bahareh Memarian, EXTINCT

The Art Institute of Vancouver (AI) let me know a while back that one of their talented students had been invited to show at New York Fashion Week (NYFW). Would I like to interview her? YES! Most assuredly. But life has a way of interfering. My schedule filled up with deadlines and this interview somehow slipped through the cracks.

On April 12th, AI held its annual show - Atelier 2016 - at their Refrew Street campus. Here 23 talented students graduating from their Fashion Design program offered two looks each from their portfolio in a runway setting. The exception was the final designer - Bahareh Memarian - this very same student. It was time to reach out for an interview.

Memarian presented her entire seven look NYFW collection titled EXTINCT. It was stunning. High end, luxurious silhouettes in deep blue and black.  As there was only a single row of seating along each side of the U-shaped runway, everyone could see the beautiful tailoring up close.  It was obvious from the audience's response that this collection was special. Everyone sat a little taller, many leaned in as models walked by for a closer look and murmurs of appreciation filled the venue.

While the designer's favourite look is the black lace and tulle number shown above, I think mine is the one featured in the program. The dress is fashioned out of a beautiful deep blue lace lined with nude fabric. There is a high slit detail offering red carpet sex appeal. Lastly, the faux fur trim placed around the bottom not only finishes off the look elegantly, but adds a touch of weight. This weight keeps the train from floating randomly. It glided effortlessly along the runway behind the model while keeping it's shape.

This is one new designer who I will be keeping my eye on.

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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Tehran, Iran and lived there until about age 19.

What you like when you were young? 

I loved colours and I loved drawing and painting.

What were your interests in High School?

I studied biology in high school, trying to become a doctor like my father. But I knew deep down that I was not going to be one. I always loved so many different things, but at the same time I wasn't super passionate about any of them. My heart was in the arts because that was the area I was always more confident in.

Looking back, can you remember any signs that you would end up in fashion? A personal story would be great here.

I’ve always had my own way of putting my clothes together and was known as a very colourful person. Birthdays were my favourite because my parents would throw my brother and I the most colourful party.

As a kid I loved to find some alone time. I would go into my mom’s closet and play around with her stuff. My other favourite thing was to colour the Disney princesses my dad used to draw for me. Those were happy times as a child.

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was your family supportive?

I ended up going into architecture after high school. I learned a lot, but I think it was limiting my creativity more than I wanted it to. It was not the right career path for me. I started to think about the things that make me happy and decided I'm the happiest in my closet. I talked about it with my parents and they encouraged me to go for Fashion Design -- more than they’ve ever done in the past. I’m very lucky to have parents that literally always trust and support me. 

Why did you choose to study at The Art Institute of Vancouver?

I talked about fashion schools in Vancouver to a few people and read about the program on the Internet. I booked an appointment with an adviser at the Art Institute and went for a tour at the school. When I saw everyone working in the labs, I couldn't wait to start my classes there.

Talk about your time studying Fashion Design. What was hard for you? What came easy? Are there any high, low or funny moments you can share?

I think it was harder for me when I first started because I didn't know the technical vocabulary or how to sew at all. I definitely frustrated my instructors a few times for sure. But after a few quarters I started getting the hang of everything and it all started to make more sense. I was finally able to pull off making what I had in my mind and that’s where I started actually believing that I could become a fashion designer. There were (and still are) so many long sleepless nights, but you could easily forget about them when you finished sewing the last hem and saw the garment hanging perfectly. 

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? Share anything you'd like readers to know?

I love old Hollywood glamour and the sensuality of its women. It was kind of my fantasy to use that as the inspiration for my first collection and go extravagant. More importantly, I love animals and wanted to bring more depth into my fashion so I used faux fur and all cruelty free fabrics to make this collection. 

Describe your collection.

"Walk like you have three men walking behind you." —Oscar de la Renta. This is how I wanted women who wear my pieces to feel and walk. This collection is called Extinct. It’s sultry and voluptuous yet elegant and very unique. Women similar to Sophia Loren inspired the collection. One reason I chose this name was that sensuality and ways of dressing up in old times has been fading away with modern fashion. Additionally, I wanted to remember those innocent animals that go through so much suffering while living, and their painful deaths to become a third of a purse or a shoe or a piece of a person’s coat. I made a 100% cruelty free collection, which consisted of high-end women’s eveningwear. I wanted to prove that a compassionate luxury fashion is possible. 

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

Lots and lots of marvelous beaded lace, faux fur and Peau De Soie in black and dark shades of blue. Pieces included tops and bottoms, a ball gown, a tuxedo and very unique faux fur coats.

Do you have a favourite look?

It’s very hard to choose but I think the black lace bodysuit with the tulle skirt would be the one for me.

Your collection was chosen to showcase at New York Fashion Week in February 2016. Can you share a bit about being chosen and what the experience was like? 

The first thing that comes to my head is “ surreal”. It was a moment I would see in my dreams. Looking at how everyone reacted to my designs and actually seeing that I'm not the only one loving them was a very fantastic feeling. It gave me more confidence and encouragement to do what I love in the future. I’m so happy and grateful to The Art Institutes for having had such a wonderful opportunity.

What was your hands-down favourite moment from your trip to NY?

When the music changed and it was time for my designs to hit the runway. I literally can’t put in words how I felt in those few minutes.

What do you think you can bring to the fashion world that is new?

I love modernity, but I think there a few factors of femininity and womanly power that can be incorporated into designs. It’s mostly going towards the more manly looking forms and styles which I love. But I want to keep the old day’s femininity and sensuality more and combine that with the comfortable and functional beautiful modern styles to create pieces that make women feel beautiful, confident and elegant.

Where do you go from here – are you going to work for others for awhile, launch your own line, take a break and travel?

No breaks for me at this point. I do sometimes make individual pieces and try to sell them if I can. I would love to have my own line eventually and that’s a work in progress until I have more experience in everything. Right now I’m looking to work for an independent designer or company so I can have guidance but still am able to be creative, get experience and go from there.

Please share a quote on what fashion design means to you.

"Luxury is the ease of a t-shirt in a very expensive dress." ―Karl Lagerfeld 
"In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different." —Coco Chanel

 Is there anything else I didn't ask you want mentioned?

Maybe just one thing to keep in mind; although nothing can ever be a good excuse to bring pain and misery to a living creature, some think that real fur is more environmental friendly. That is the logic they go with it over using faux fur. However, the fact is that the process that the animal’s skin and fur go through until they become something wearable is more damaging and harmful for the planet earth than making faux fur with synthetic materials. 

Links - 

For information on the Fashion Design program at The Art Institute of Vancouver go to -