Representing the creative future

Fidan Novruzova: The argument for starting your brand back home

Speaking to us from Moldova, the CSM graduate spills the beans about working away from London

Fidan Novruzova: The argument for starting your brand back home

The newest collection of Fidan Novruzova combines futuristic and experimental silhouettes filled with nostalgia, and draws inspiration from Azerbaijani culture whilst collaborating with global talent. The recent graduate from the Central Saint Martins BA Fashion Design and Marketing degree shares with us what aspirations she has for her brand, which she launched in Moldova, and gives advice to young designers on a myriad of ways they can start out in a competitive industry.

Thank you for taking some time to speak with us Fidan. Could you tell us a bit about your journey after you graduated from Central Saint Martins? 

I got the opportunity to finally take a deep breath and put my mind at rest. I didn’t have a chance to take any time off between placement and final years, so it felt very nice to be able to recharge. I moved to Paris for a couple of months, before moving back home where I later started my brand, which has been an amazing journey so far.

How do you think your BA in Fashion Design and Marketing helped you in developing as a fashion creator?

I’m glad I ended up applying to FDM since I feel like we’ve been taught in-depth how to build an entire world around the pieces we created, rather than just making clothes. I do think that the word ‘Marketing’ in the course title is a little misleading since what we studied apart from fashion design has been more art direction rather than marketing in its traditional sense. I think FDM students get a slightly more advanced learning experience when it comes to gaining knowledge in branding, creative direction, and developing general presentation skills, which altogether create a great foundation for those who want to start their own brand.

“I am happy I had a chance to launch my brand at home in Moldova, since it gave me an opportunity to explore the possibilities of local production, where I got a chance to meet and work with some incredibly skilled industry specialists and artisans. ” – Fidan Novruzova

What are the pros and cons of going back home?

I am happy I had a chance to launch my brand at home in Moldova, since it gave me an opportunity to explore the possibilities of local production, where I got a chance to meet and work with some incredibly skilled industry specialists and artisans. Being so close to production facilities has been very helpful, especially since I’m at the earlier stages of building my brand, where I can communicate every little detail with the manufacturers on the spot. It also expanded my possibilities as a designer, where I have the facilities to design and make technically unconventional pieces, knowing that I can later launch them into production in-house at our studio.

The cons would probably be the fact the great resources in this country have been used for many years as a tool for mass production. So in the process I happened to meet some highly skilled specialists in the field who had different views than mine on, let’s say, how much time should be spent on sampling. For instance, it took us over four months to develop the AW21 Boa bag since there are so many elements to it that only could’ve been figured out via continuous trials. These situations happen rarely, but I’m trying to be always prepared for this potential challenge.

Fidan Novruzova: The argument for starting your brand back home
Fidan Novruzova AW 21 Photography by Olya Ilasco Styling Francois Gravel
Fidan Novruzova: The argument for starting your brand back home
Fidan Novruzova: The argument for starting your brand back home
Fidan Novruzova AW21
Fidan Novruzova AW21
Fidan Novruzova AW21

How did you decide to start your own brand? 

Starting my brand felt like a natural continuation to my design practice. It’s something I wanted to do ever since I decided to study fashion, but I thought initially that maybe I should wait for some time after graduation. At times I tend to romanticize the future in my mind and imagine it as this time where “I have it all figured out”, when in reality it’s always a process and rarely an easy one. So after some thinking and planning I came to a decision that there is no better time to start than now.

What elements do you think define your brand?

Giving new meanings to modern nostalgia has been one of the key parts for my brand’s DNA. It’s a fusion of cultural references clashed with experimental silhouettes and cuts, where I like to exaggerate and play around with shapes and proportions of classic wardrobe staples while trying to keep the garment identity familiar to the eye, and giving the pieces a retro-futuristic feeling. Focusing on the quality of each piece and storytelling through my designs, while discovering the craftsmanship of local artisans in the process, as well as collaborating with talents globally – these are all the key elements that together define my brand.

What was your inspiration for your first collection?

During my time at home, I discovered images and video recordings of these beautiful  Azerbaijani singers from the late ’70s, and I was so mesmerised by their grace, hairstyles, outfits, sets, the instrumental music within their performances and just the general entourage, which heavily inspired my first collection. I’ve incorporated these star necklines into tops and corsets, which is my quite literal interpretation of the notion of stardom. The earrings for the collection were inspired by Ghaval, a traditional instrument, where the pieces were complemented with a black enamel-like surface that was an ode to the Naftalan crude oil baths in Azerbaijan.

For the textiles, I envisioned a garden filled with various fruits and berries, such as pomegranates, grapes, raspberries, and cherries, that would in a way bloom on the garment itself. I wanted to bring those elements to life via using artisanal techniques. I loved the idea that all different types of berries would be shown on the same garment; it’s not possible in nature, to have raspberries and cherries growing on the same tree or bush. So it created an interesting visual collage that was hand-crocheted and executed in collaboration with my friend Julide Denktasli. The berries and fruits of choice are once again tied to the traditional symbolisms, where pomegranates and grapes are commonly used as symbols of Azerbaijan and Moldova.

“Elements from my cultural background tend to be very present in my research and it usually happens in a very organic way since my heritage is such a big part of who I am.” – Fidan Novruzova

Can you walk us through your design process? Were there any challenges you faced and had to overcome?

The starting point for my design process is always quite open. It can be a piece of clothing or an object from the past, a movie, an overheard story from one of my relatives or imagery from my family archive that I rediscovered during my final year. Most of the photos in the archive are taken by my father when he was still a teenager, he documented his family members, friends, and neighbours, and later developed the images in his own bedroom, which I thought was very impressive for a small-town teenager in the Soviet 1970s.

Elements from my cultural background tend to be very present in my research and it usually happens in a very organic way since my heritage is such a big part of who I am. My favourite medium for developing designs has been collage ever since I was a foundation student, whether it’s collaging manually, digitally, or creating ‘3D collages’ on the stand via draping second-hand garments, fabrics, or experimenting with found objects and materials. For AW21 I also worked with my amazing friend and collaborator François Gravel who styled the collection and consulted me in the development process. It was a very special experience for me, where our hard work resulted in a super fun and productive collaboration. The challenge was us being in opposite time zones so the occasional 1am Zoom calls were probably on the less fun side of things.

Fidan Novruzova AW21
Fidan Novruzova AW 21 Photography by Olya Ilasco Styling Francois Gravel
Fidan Novruzova AW21
Fidan Novruzova: The argument for starting your brand back home
Fidan Novruzova: The argument for starting your brand back home
Fidan Novruzova: The argument for starting your brand back home
Fidan Novruzova: The argument for starting your brand back home

How did you decide to develop your footwear further?

After showcasing my graduate collection, I got quite a lot of requests from people wondering where they could purchase the footwear. So when I launched my brand in October of 2020, it was quite an organic decision for me to debut by presenting a shoe capsule where I also introduced a new style as well as different colourways – I was happy to finally be able to offer the shoes to a broader audience. Since launching the first samples during the final year, we improved the boots further by adding new heels in stainless steel and a leather base as well as slightly altering the shaft length to suit different heights, and we perfected the hand-dyeing techniques.

For both sampling and production, I work with a family run manufacturing studio that specialises in traditional made-to-order shoemaking. Despite my shoe designs being quite far from traditional, we use multiple classic shoe-making techniques in the manufacturing such as hand-dying, patina, manual creasing, and welt stitching – all done by hand, which creates an organic collaboration between traditional craftsmanship and modernity.

“There is probably not enough conversation around the fact that running your brand means running your own business, and figuring the admin side of things has been quite challenging at the beginning.” – Fidan Novruzova

Has the pandemic affected the starting up stage of your brand? 

I think the fact that running my brand during the pandemic is the only way I know so far has been helpful as it enabled me to not overthink that part. We obviously had some Covid related disruptions such as travelling restrictions and mild delays but in the end, it was all manageable.

What has been your biggest struggle with running your own brand?

I would say the never-ending bureaucratic and logistical work can be a little hard to juggle at times. There is probably not enough conversation around the fact that running your brand means running your own business, and figuring the admin side of things has been quite challenging at the beginning. The good news is that it does get better with time, and finding the balance between the two worlds has become more manageable these days. At the end of the day, being able to express myself creatively as well as seeing the final outcomes and the positive reactions has all been so rewarding and helps a lot with overcoming some of those struggles that appear on the way.

Do you have any advice for someone who would like to do the same?

Despite the fact that the structure of running a brand is usually quite similar for most young designers, I think everyone has their own way of figuring it out and finding what works best for them. I am very much in the process of discovering my way since I launched the brand not a long time ago, so every day is a major learning experience.

My advice would be to keep an open mind for learning and experimenting while not compromising your values as a designer. It’s also very important to listen to feedback from clients and buyers since that’s how you can get the best practical knowledge on how to create a well-crafted strong product.

“It’s very important to listen to feedback from clients and buyers since that’s how you can get the best practical knowledge on how to create a well-crafted strong product.” – Fidan Novruzova

What are your future plans and aspirations for your line?

I’m currently working on a couple of exciting projects with some very talented friends and collaborators that I’m looking forward to presenting throughout this spring/summer.

In the long run, I am hoping to move the design studio to a different location, while keeping the production local in Moldova, but it’s a little hard to predict the timing for this at the moment, considering the current situation in the world. Generally speaking, I would love to follow the route of producing two collections a year alongside special projects where story-telling, sustainable approach, craftsmanship, and collaboration are at the core.

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