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Fashion designer Azeem Khan is one of the innovators of Mumbai`s Coho, with his cool and snazzy boutique next to the Colaba Post Office, and with his background of a being a real New York City Soho inhabitant, living and working downtown.
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His grandmother started selling embroidered hankies door to door and his grandfather Shansheed Khan had bought a paan-beedi shop in that very same place where he now stocks his collections. While S.U. Shansheed Khan changed his name to the generic embroidery and sequin Zariwala title, it sparked the neighborhood Zariwala art, which thrives in nearby shops and studios. Azeem`s father`s work is known in the Indian film industry with his famous sequined sarees draping Nargis Dutt to every other heroine in the movies.
His family company S.U.Zariwala is currently India`s number one in exports to Italy, France and New York. Despite his illustrious family lineage, Azeem Khan was not always going to be a designer. He originally studied medicine and architecture, and said his father did not pressure him to get in the family line.
Azeem later on went to New York City in 1989 and studied at F.I.T. He received the "Design of the year" award there in 1992 and got a scholarship to study at the prestigious Parsons School of Design. And Geoffrey Beene offered him a job as an Assistant Designer. Azeem became totally `down town" from going to school down town and living the New York Soho life, as he worked for this well known designer. He said that after two years working for Beene, he considered staying back and getting U.S citizenship but Mumbai beckoned. His father`s store represented yet another place for his restless creative spirit to flow.
Azeem`s international designing skills were earlier demonstrated on super model Naomi Campbell when he designed an elaborate Indian bustier for her saree when she did a fashion shoot in Dubai. He also designed the clothes for Italian jewelry designer Marina Bulgari`s launch at the Taj Hotel in October.
Azeem Khan`s first show in India, the Diwali 1998 Collection, was held on October 10 in his boutique. He then started with ten outfits and in a burst of creativity, designed 26 outfits for the two models, Jaswinder Sachdev and Pooja Mishra. His second show held at The Taj, was in general opinion, "The show of the millenium". The collection was a dazzling array of the glittering and intricate Zariwala work and painted designs that are clearly unique. The price range of Rs. 15000 to Rs. 40000 appeared not too over the top.
Although Azeem has been asked to teach at NIFT, he has declined the academic route. But he does offer some advice for new designer: "Never copy. Always be original. Everyone has a certain style and one must bring that out."
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