Iran's designer Narguess Hatami storms Italian fashion
Narguess Hatami, born in 1981 in Tehran, is the co-founder of Miahatami, a creative brand of women clothing and accessories. She was the winner of Vogue Italia Talent Scouting competition ‘Who Is On Next’ in 2016, and now lives in Italy with her husband where she runs her own business. She has had a challenging path to the top, and her designs represent a fusion of Middle Eastern and European fashion. During lockdown, she has started working on a new project focused on a new way of doing fashion - more quality, less quantity, with a priority on eco-sustainability.
Parichehr Parsi: What made you think of moving to Italy?
Narguess Hatami: I grew up with the idea of Italy in my mind. During my childhood, my family and I vacationed in Italy almost every summer. My father lived and studied in Rome for about 10 years. Actually my parents got married in Rome. It was not a big surprise when I chose Italy for study.
PP: How did you adapt yourself to study in Bologna?
NH: To be honest it was not easy at all. At the beginning, I was not too familiar with the Italian language and I could not understand much. It was too difficult to study in a different language. I was lucky that I had couple of Italian roommates who were studying fashion in the same university so we would study together and that helped me a great deal to adapt myself to my new environment. I also think, my age at the time, had its part as well; I was too young and stubborn to give up and go back to my parents.
PP: When did you find yourself interested in the fashion industry? Is there any special memory to mention?
NH: My mother is a stylist. I grew up playing with fabrics watching my mum working with garments and making dresses. When I was a child, I used to make clothes for my barbies and maybe that was the moment when I realized this would be the path I would want to follow in the future.
PP: What characteristics are needed in order to be a fashion designer?
NH: Talent, passion, and a lot of perseverance. It’s an artistic work, just like a painter or sculptor. Talent is not enough; perseverance and desire to learn are also needed to straighten the path. Like all other artistic works, it is very difficult and tough to reach the goal and this is when the passion comes in and pushes you to continue and never stop.
PP: How did you motivate yourself to pursue a career in the fashion industry?
NH: I did not need to motivate myself. Fashion design has always been what I loved to do, it truly is my passion and that is the biggest motivation that can exist for me. I always wanted to have my own brand and I had a very clear plan. After I finished my studies, I worked for 10 years in the industry to gain enough experience and confidence. I finally decided to open my own company.
PP: What were the difficulties of creating your own brand in Italy?
NH: Italy is the world of fashion. It is full of talents and is considered to be the source of style. There are numerous obstacles, the greater one being the number of young amazing new talents and designers with wonderful and brilliant ideas trying to make their way into the industry. Also do not forget that this market is mostly led by the customers and shops; they basically tell the designers what to create. It is not an easy job at all, and that is why one needs to be very patient and filled with passion and love for it.
PP: In setting up your business, did you have to overcome any prejudice from the Italian fashion world against foreigners in general and against women from the Middle East and Iran in particular?
NH: Absolutely not. In fact, I was one of the winners of the Vogue Italia Talent Scouting competition ‘Who Is On Next’ in 2016, and the fact that I am originally Iranian didn't overshadow my professional life or my work.
PP: Is it easier for a woman to get into the fashion business in Italy than in Iran?
NH: Making fashion and working in this business in Italy is exactly like making carpets in Iran: Italy is the center of fashion as much as Iran can be called the center of carpet industry. It is not that easy to reach the high levels of fashion in Italy because the competition is extremely high. However, in any case, definitely doing fashion in Italy is much easier than doing it in Iran, for women designers, as well as men designers. There is not enough knowledge about fashion industry and business in Iran and it is almost impossible to reach high levels there. Exactly like carpet business in Italy: where is no knowledge either!
PP: How did you choose your brand? Is there a meaning for it or a concept behind it?
NH: Miahatami is a name made of ‘Mia’ (‘my’ in Italian) and ‘Hatami’. It is basically my surname, combined with the possessive adjective which underlines how this project belongs to me and fully reflects my aesthetic beliefs, my root, my know-how developed over the past years. Miahatami shows an approach to fashion design with a well-defined identity, which nevertheless has many facets and permits thousands of interpretations. It is an approach, which aims to be a meeting point between Middle East and European design.
PP: What have you accomplished so far that was not possible without entering the world of fashion?
NH: Every single step in my entire life I think. First of all, my parents that supported me from the beginning, from the moment that I decided to come to Italy to study fashion. Then like any other job, I had to work hard and earn experience for not wasting that support.
PP: Can you explain your design? To which area of fashion does it belong?
NH: My collections are Pret-a-porter. They are colorful and have a romantic and very feminine touch. I use European design mixed with Persian culture. That is the particularity of my designs and that is what makes it to be in an area between "contemporary" and "designer".
PP: What is the most important strength of your design?
NH: Colors, motives, and symbols from Persian art, architecture, and culture. That is what makes my designs unique.
PP: What do you think about fashion trends today? Do you think it is going in the right direction?
NH: For many years the street style dictated fashion, and this has been the trend for the past decade. Now, there is more desire to return to true femininity and there is more desire for ‘well dressing’. However, there has always been room for all styles, and, in any case, there is more and more possibility of having individual style and still dressing fashionable. This means that in fashion the real trend is not to follow the trend.
PP: Do you keep your designs up to date or you have your own style? To what extent does your design match the world of fashion today?
NH: Actually I have my own style, but it matches the world of fashion today as well. It is not one or the other, but in fashion today, you can have both; for example, maria grazia chiuri for Christian Dior and MSGM; they are both so contemporary and trendy, but they are absolutely different.
PP: How are you coping in the face of the lockdown?
NH: Actually, this lockdown helped me to stop for a moment and look at myself from outside to understand what I was doing wrong and which was the right way to go. I strongly believe that these unusual circumstances do not have to be destructive, but more constructive, and so it will be for me as well. I have new ideas and soon there will be a small revolution in the ways in which we make fashion.
PP: What is your key policy when dealing with your clients?
NH: My job is to convey beauty and happiness to my customers. It is very important that my clients feel satisfied and beautiful wearing my clothes. Therefore, it is essential to have a very direct relationship with them to better understand their needs and requests.
PP: Do you market your designs in Iran also as well as Europe?
NH: Honestly no. It is so strange, but I still have not been able to find a good distributor in Iran for my products. However, I am actively looking to find one and Miahatami will soon be available in stores of Tehran, hopefully.
PP: What are your plans for the future? What is your biggest ambition?
NH: I am working on a new project, which I cannot talk about at this point. It is about a new way of making fashion, more quality, less quantity, and absolutely more eco sustainable. It is so important to change our point of view and think about our and the next generation's future. My biggest ambition is to build a company, which respects workers and all the branches of fashion industry, from the smallest family company that makes fabrics to the biggest company that makes buttons. Better way of working to have a better life quality.
PP: What do you do in your leisure time? Do your hobbies contribute to your business?
NH: My husband and I love to travel and love vintage markets. So most of the time we have a few days to go somewhere and have a small vacation, we go around Italy to visit small vintage markets and most of the time we find also interesting items, which help me also to find inspirations.
PP: Do you have any advice for future fashion designers or those who want to start a career in Italy?
NH: I will be honest with you, it is a tough job and there are no easy way or shortcuts for anyone in the fashion world. You have to work hard to stay afloat and not drown especially in Italy, where the competition is very high. Those who want to enter the world of fashion in Italy must know that the road is very bumpy and it has many ups and downs, but if they surpass it, they will reach the top and if they do not have the true passion and awareness of hard work, it will be almost impossible to achieve their goals.