By: Shilo Urban
Double-faced cashmere shaped into a delicate and powerful statement cape. Detailed beadwork that takes three weeks to produce by a Parisian craftsman. Patterned silk inspired by one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. Like a fly on the wall, I sit at the back of an internal meeting with the staff of Neiman Marcus Fort Worth as they are quickly briefed about the unique creations from one of the retailer’s top designer lines -- Eskandar. Listening to the warm and charismatic tales from the creator himself, Eskandar Nabavi, I am instantly excited about the collection and the man behind the work. The line’s 2015 fall collection has been brought to the store for a one-day trunk show event. From traveling around the world as a child to his humble beginnings in knitwear, I had a chance to sit with the designer and chat with him about what For Worth shoppers can expect to add to their wardrobe this fall.
Holland: I would love to know about your travels as a child and how seeing different places has shaped your work.
Eskandar: Travels always inspire me; even now when I go around to stores. When I was a child, I was brought up in the Middle East when it was a very cosmopolitan place to be before the whole world changed, and I think becoming familiar with clothes from different cultures really stayed in my memory and clothes from different tribes. The Middle East and Eastern Europe from Turkey all the way through Iran, Southern Russian, Afghanistan through India and even further have an unbelievable wealth of costumes and shapes. That’s what I use in my collection.
Holland: For this particular collection, is there something in your recent travels like a specific town or a specific moment that generated inspiration?
Eskandar: I have a couple of prints for fall that come from Alhambra palace in Spain, which I went to a couple of years ago and took loads of pictures. That’s something that has finally come out because it was right, and the colors work for this season. As that started to work, I started researching other tile designs from old cultures that acted as a spring board and took me into other things.
Holland: You began your work in fashion with hand-knitting. From this early passion of hand working, how will people see that skill evolved in your line?
Eskandar: My grandmother taught me how to knit. When I was young, I had typhoid and was in bed for a month in Iran, so she taught me how to knit. I was always making things growing up, painting, and I had my own darkroom, which I used to take pictures of the winning race horses at the track. When I started knitting (as a designer), I started off just with hand knits – this is going back 23 years. I had a whole team of hand knitters all over the South of England that I used to visit and work with. Now I work with a factory in Scotland that does hand-loomed pieces that look hand knitted – so I still try to put pieces in the collection that have that hand-knitted feel. The other thing, when I use fabrics and print, I like them to feel artisan and handmade. I also do loads of hand embroidery and beading all by hand. It’s really important to have that hand element in my designs.
Holland: If someone isn’t familiar with your work, how would you define your signature style?
Eskandar: It’s really about being true to myself and what’s in my DNA – what comes naturally to me. So if I change shapes, I still want people to look at them and say that’s an Eskandar piece. I think it is about the flow, about being true to the fabrics, being unconstrained and comfortable but being luxurious at the same time. More than anything, I want to bring out the person’s character – the person wearing it and making them feel good.
Holland: What is your favorite or “must-have” piece from the Neiman Marcus Fort Worth 2015 fall collection?
Eskandar: There is a dressy piece that is a burn out velvet – a sheer and not sheer pattern – with grey/black hand-embroidered beads. So it is a very special dressy piece. Then on the other end, a more casual piece is the double-faced cashmere jersey edged with suede cape, which I think for the Texas fall is a great layering piece. My third favorite piece is from the Alhambra palace inspiration, which is a huge scarf with hand rolled edges and a tile design. Beautiful turquoise tiles from the palace that has also been made into a caftan. It’s a great piece for Fort Worth because it’s light, silk and all year round.
Holland: For people who already know and love your designs, what is new or unexpected about the fall 2015 collection?
Eskandar: Two main things. One, I’ve added in a series of much smaller body shapes to try and help those much smaller lines find pieces in my line. They still get the flow and volume, just for a small body in proportion for them. And then the other element is adding in fine detailing that I normally don’t do because for me simplicity is the key. It’s all about the beautiful flow of the fabrics. But I am taking those beautiful fabrics and edging them in suede or a tiny bit of silk that blends in but gives an extra dimension to the piece.
For more information about Eskandar’s current Neiman Marcus collection and his upcoming work, visit www.neimanmarcus.com.
Photography by Angie Garcia.
By: Shilo Urban