Breaking the rules, disrupting the fashion system is easier than you think.
Fashion designer, Peivand Mirzaie has made a mark on breaking the rules, disrupting the system, while embracing the power of fashion. She has gone beyond the ‘system’ in her designs, pushing concept over saleability; in her choice of education, wanting more freedom and less restrictions as a fashion designer versus as an architect; and operating outside of the system, by choosing sustainable options.
She is part of the chorus that sings “it’s all the same”. The fashion industry is so systematic with a stagnant working environment not fit for creativity. Planned obsolescence has become so normal. Peivand sees it as a “tireless machine that keeps going faster and faster”. This ricochets across all channels whether it is start-up, mass market, or high-end brands. “That level of productivity needs new ways of working”, she says. “The expectation of productivity keeps going higher and higher and the two can’t keep up with each other. So you are in this vicious cycle of lack of innovation.”
Born in Iran and currently based in Southern California, Peivand struggled with making a career choice that was suitable to her family. “In Iran, you are expected to become a doctor or engineer, anything outside of that was not considered,” she says. “I knew I wanted to be creative, I wanted something that was hands-on. I was good at both the arts and sciences, but enjoyed the arts more.”
Peivand’s top two career choices were fashion design and architecture. She never contemplated going into fashion design, given that her family would only support a “well known major”, such as architecture. She studied architecture at the internationally renowned The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. In her first year, Peivand realized that she liked the whimsical and conceptual side of architecture but not the restrictions and bureaucracy. After three years, that seven-year study to become an architect came to a halt. Although she loved the field of architecture, she says, “like any other creative field, you really have to love it, it’s not a 9-5 job.”
I view the world because of architecture. I believe that it’s the mother of all design. – Peivand Mirzaie
Pievand’s architectural studies prepared her for her next path, fashion design. As a recent Bachelor of Arts graduate in Fashion and Professional Studies at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising [FIDM], Los Angeles, she talks about how different her idea of fashion is from when she started. “Until you get into a field and start studying it, you don’t have a full knowledge of what that field is about”, she says. What she learned from her studies is a better understanding of consumerism and the negative environmental impact of fast fashion. Her desire and expectation are to have creative control and independence, but questions how applicable that is in the real world, yet contemplates, “maybe if you are designing couture or one-of-a-kind show pieces”.
Peivand is like many designers who want to do effective, meaningful work but are disillusioned of a broken system. Fashion plays into a commercial arena instead of an artistic one and they want to defy that commercialism. Fashion design schools, particularly American schools, are systematic in their training.
Schools don’t prepare you to be leaders; they prepare you to be followers.
FIDM, like many, direct a curriculum that is corporate industry friendly. The focus is to guide the students to fit within ‘the system’. They prepare you to be skilled within a specialized area, such as design, with very little ‘big picture’ knowledge. The program is designed for you to become a specialist within a corporate structure conforming to their way of working. Back in London at Barlett, Peivand says, “their whole thing was about breaking the rules, how to disrupt the system. I am always questioning things and trying to look at things differently.” She says this of schools in general but particularly with her experience at FIDM, “schools don’t prepare you to be leaders, they prepare you to be followers, they prepare you to work within a system that is already there.”
In developing her graduate collection, P Squared: Purity to Power, she wanted to focus on telling a story, be more conceptual, rather than designing a collection that had saleability. Direction from her instructors were to “be more saleable and real, not too artsy, not too out there”. Peivand spent over and above the material allowance from the school on this collection and says, “I wanted to showcase my ability to design, to make the collection cohesive”.
Although P Squared: Purity to Power may have been ‘pared back’ a little, it tells a vivid story told through the skeleton flower. Once the flower gets in contact with water, the petals go from white to translucent [purity]. She wanted to tackle some big ideas and do something conceptual and says, “We come into this world all pure, but through learned behavior and our surroundings, we become consumed with power.” The idea of paradox runs through the collection. She conveys how one paradox is purity to power – purity represented in the simple, flowing, and feminine look of her line to power that’s represented in the structural and sculptural shapes. Another paradox she says is in color – the extreme from white to a bright colored orange hue.
The execution of design is inherent in the details, particularly in fabric and trim choices. Peivand believes a designer’s material choices should match the effort in the design. Using sustainable fabric of different variations of silk – habotai, organza, gazar – and poly tulle, reflect that outcome in her ‘Power’ collection. Her bold 2 color statement, dynamic architectural lines, and unique layering suggest not only an artist’s expression, particularly one that is a non-conformist, but identity as well.
Obstacles don’t stand in the way of the talent and courage of this emerging designer. She is not interested in the turbo-charged pace of design, fueled by the fast fashion mandate. Instead, her mission is to design meaningful and sustainable fashion. Breaking the rules, disrupting the system is a good thing because it leads to innovation. An incubation-like culture and work ethic of design allows for the magic of this art form.
Creativity and vision are not renewable resources, the industry must care or we will lose the people who possess these.
EDGE congratulates Peivand Mirzaie and wishes her continued success in being true to the art of fashion.
all photos: courtesy of Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising | FIDM Debut Fashion Show 2017