Aysel Huseynova: Talks of success with the organizer of the first fashion events in Azerbaijan
Successful people spend most of their time focusing on innovations and exploring ways to apply them. But others just complain. There were certain gaps in the local fashion industry, as well as great untapped potential. Someone had to approach those stars and tell them how bright and beautiful they really were. Only after that, everything would be better than before. We present an interesting interview with Aysel Huseynova, the founder of the Azerbaijan Fashion Designers Association, the organization which unlocks this potential to the world.
Aysel hanum, can you please tell us about yourself?
I was born in 1992 in a family of artists and architects. From an early age, the creativity was always in front of my eyes, and creative works, new ideas formed my lifestyle. Growing up in a creative family, I had a great interest in art. You will probably not be surprised that I continued my education at the State Academy of Fine Arts. After graduating from the interior design faculty of the academy, I started working with investments in a very different field. This gave me a business approach, and thanks to this job, I was able to think about art and business together. No matter where I worked, my creative passion always led me to creativity.
While working in a different field, I used to read research and analyze the state of the fashion industry in the country almost every day. My next education was in PR and journalism in Moscow, and this was my second education. My education at Moscow gave me confidence in choosing fashion as a professional discipline. As I read and researched the field of fashion in Azerbaijan, I was able to see the existing potential and problems. I became so convinced that I could realize this high potential so that I completely dedicated myself to working in the fashion industry of creativity.
“What I once wrote only on paper is now in front of my eyes.”
How did the idea of AFDA come about? How would you describe your feelings at that moment?
First of all, I want to note that this is one of the most important and nice projects for me. The idea of AFDA was not accidental, it was the answer to the questions I had over the years. Having worked in the field of fashion for more than 6 years in projects such as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Baku, Azerbaijan Fashion Week, I became convinced that there is no project in the country that supports, assists and coordinates people working in this industry. Well-known American writer Toni Morrison once said, "If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." I did the same. I realized that there was no project to support designers, but it was needed. So, we had to create such an organization and support the development of fashion in Azerbaijan, my idea was ready. I shared my idea with the designers, and each of them welcomed the idea with great joy. Finally, the first reactions to the creation of an organization that brings together fashion designers were unforgettable. Their support encouraged me even more. I started working on this idea more actively. Together with several fashion designers and professionals, we founded the Azerbaijan Fashion Designers Association.
The doors of the association are open to all designers and amateurs. We are also ready to discover new talents. When amateur designers contact us, we introduce them to professionals and give them advice. We educate them how to work on a business idea.
When an idea comes up, a person is usually excited and begins to make predictions about the future. It happened to me; in my mind I was already reviving the activities of the association. It's really hard to express how I felt when I did it. What I once wrote only on paper is now in front of my eyes. This is more of a responsibility than a passion. Goals and plans are growing every day and they require continued actions. The biggest goal is to achieve great success in the fashion industry thanks to AFDA.
Did Etro's 100th anniversary fashion show for the Italian Embassy in Azerbaijan make your dreams come true?
We also approach our every project as an experiment. Although it was a small fashion show, we gained an invaluable experience while organizing it and after the event. Our team is courageous and not afraid to bring innovations. That's why we try to innovate in every show experimentally. This caused a great reaction in the media.
But the most spectacular event for me was the fashion show of Gianni Versace's special museum collection at Baku Fashion Expo in May 2019. The exhibition consisted of a personal collection of 50 images. Those designs are exhibited in museums all over the world, but in our project they were exclusively displayed on the catwalk. Maybe a few years ago I would not have believed that I would create such a project, but it really happened.
Baku Fashion Expo project is one of the main projects of AFDA. Along with fashion shows, the project includes master classes, installations and meetings. Our main goal is to create a networking environment for emerging and well-known designers, to establish a communication system in fashion.
I would like to emphasize that one of the most motivating and strengthening points for me is the feedback I received after the events. I have received many positive comments from foreign and local designers on the projects implemented so far. I think the reason is a professional team. I thank them for being flexible in innovative nuances and applying innovations without fear!
“The important is you must not let the flame inside you go out.”
What challenges did you face at the events you organized?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge is to solve all the problems same time - organization, PR, sales. Our main challenge at events was to convince our partners. We started from scratch and had no results to show as an example. Therefore, first-round projects were usually hesitant: people wanted assurance. As they say, a man does not believe without seeing. We didn't have any indicators, the only thing we could do was to convince the sponsors. This is a great responsibility, and expectations must be met. Despite all these difficulties, realizing the concept is a great feeling. It's worth to endure hardships in order to say then, "We did it."
Realize the expectations of everyone participating in the event, and keep our promises. Looking at the enthusiasm and energy of our team, my desire to cross these paths again ignites. Sometimes it takes half a year to work for an hour-long project. It's worth working not only for half a year, but even more for the adrenaline, the excitement and the dozens of emotions I can't express in that hour. Success achieved through perseverance is sweeter.
During the first fashion show, we could attract only 3 designers, but now their number is more than 500, and the number continues to grow every day. I see this as the fruit of the suffering we had at the beginning. Despite the hardships we had in convincing people before, after our small fashion show in 2019, our designers received invitations from London and Milan. 9 designers went to London and demonstrated their designs. The difficulties of the beginning were replaced with completely different feelings. At that moment, I could hardly express my pride. Even now I get excited when I talk about it. The world witnessed our talents: foreign designers, famous professionals. I have a word to those who are just starting out in fashion: there will always be difficulties, hardships; this is the reality of life. The important is you must not let the flame inside you go out. Keep it up, take the challenges; you will be successful in this job.
What would you advise for new beginners who want to build a career in fashion design?
In my experience, I can say that a comprehensive approach is absolutely important. Both professionals and amateurs often focus on their work and other factors are left out. In the present case, it is not enough to have good work, it is important to promote them and determine in advance how to sell. We need to learn to apply a business approach. It is necessary to aim at recognition around the world, to exceed the limits. I really want articles about our designers to be published in high-profile magazines around the world, and famous designers to comment on their work.
Another important issue is education. You have to think about education, even if you have strong talent, perfect hand skills, and fascinating designs. Learning from experienced trainers gives not only knowledge, but also courage, motivation and ideas. The path to my AFDA idea began with my education in Moscow. The trainers unlocked my enthusiasm so well that I was sure of myself and what I wanted to do. During education your idea can form exactly what he wants.
Working as an assistant to designers during your studies accelerates your career steps. I can easily say that designers are very eager to hire an intern. We create opportunities for those who apply to the association and direct them to professionals. They can easily apply if they have any idols and that person is available. Many designers control social networking accounts themselves. You can impress them by writing a short motivation letter. They will also be pleased to request an assistant. People who have portfolios can also send it. This is a great opportunity. Learning all the nuances directly. Roads are open to all who want to learn. No one will shut the door to them, and even if they do, there will be other doors that will be knocked on. It is necessary to be strong-willed and work until you realize your desire.
“The pandemic has brought about a kind of overshadowed innovation opportunities.”
Finally, as a representative of the fashion design industry, we would like you to talk about the main problems you face in this area. What are the challenges and lessons learned for this industry during the pandemic?
There are problems in any field all over the world. The existence of the problem is also an indicator of growth. We can always do better, and that's why these problems arise. One of the important issues in the local market is to find potential customers. We try to bring buyers together with manufacturers by creating fashion shows and outlets. We even have an idea to create a large-scale selling point for Azerbaijani designers. There are misconnections between designers and buyers; the number of successful connections is small. They have hardships in finding each other. We plan to create e-commerce platforms to overcome this problem. One of the sites we created about 5-6 years ago was the first e-commerce platform. Another problem in the field of fashion is high taxes. Designers have to import quality parts, and this price affects the cost of the product. As a result, the final product has a high market price and does not meet customer demand.
The pandemic suddenly paralyzed business relationships in the field of fashion as well. In particular, the lack of weddings and engagement ceremonies completely disabled them. But on the full side of the glass, we see that the ceremonial attire has been replaced with casual attire. This was a new stage for designers. Later, sales began on social media channels, but previously this trend was not evaluated. The pandemic has brought about a kind of overshadowed innovation opportunities. The pandemic had a positive effect, and designers, seeing the difficulties, began the process of adaptation. I was very happy to have a successful and fast adaptation.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the Ministry of Culture and the "Creative Azerbaijan" team for their interest in the field of fashion design and support for our activities.
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