Business Lessons

Aseef Vaza reveals his strategy as an independent luxury brand

Two years ago, while designing couture at Carven, Aseef Vaza realized that a chic origami-style evening bag in silk faille with a hinged closure was what he should be designing. One season later, a handbag line showing off his sophisticated geometry was formed. The bag was a hit with Sienna Miller on the red carpet; Erickson Beamon, the influential London store, bought it; profiled it; and a new luxury designer was on the market, fighting for shelf space with global behemoths and other independents alike. In our continuing search for new and emerging designer brands working independently in the international marketplace, Jason Campbell spoke to St. Martins-trained Aseef Vaza (now based in London) to discover the source for the strategy of his namesake company, the celebrity factor, and just where dresses fit into his collection.

JCR: What are the advantages of working from London?

AV: London has an energy and vibrancy similar to that of NYC. I feel the vibes from the zeitgeist are particularly strong here. The British luxury market is not saturated, and there is always room for one more. There are fewer British brands working in the high-end luxe market. Despite maintaining my base in London, the line is produced in Italy and sold in Paris during the collections.

JCR: Define the Vaza collection.

AV: Vaza collection is couture in spirit and timeless in essence. It’s about intelligent design using couture-grade materials executed by skilled artisans. This combined with cut, shape, and proportion and heedful detail, are all important aspects in executing good design.

JCR: It’s important to use placement in particular stores to bait other stores, to whom do you sell now and to which other stores do you wish to expand?

AV: Currently the line can be found at Catherine Prevost (London) and Erickson Beamon (London). However, for spring I have eight new accounts. Three of them are from the US, one is Mix Modern from Houston. At the moment the line is concentrated toward high-end specialty stores and independent luxury boutiques. I have identified 90 stores world-wide in this category that I would like to sell to. This is something that is going to take a little time but I am diligently working towards this goal, but I don’t want to become overexposed. I also do custom work for key private clients.

JCR: In the present climate, what does an independent luxury designer use as a guideline for building a brand?

AV: I think it is important, when building a brand, for an independent luxury designer to create intelligent and innovative designs. It really is about the product. Innovation is key but it should be channeled to present current and relevant products — products that my target clients can relate to. As a business role model, I’m still seeking a model to emulate.

JCR: The line consists mainly of bags, but you introduced a few dresses for
spring, why?

AV: The dresses are designed to accessorize the handbags. To finish off the look.

JCR: While the line is very hip, it seems you aren’t chasing trends. Do
trends influence your work?

AV: I am aware of current news and affairs but I find trends come and go. I prefer the timeless, couture-spirited approach where I can give my pieces the time and space to evolve through the use of shape, form, proportion and 3-Dimensionality.

JCR: How important has the celebrity machine been in the rise of your label in the last two years?

AV: I am honored that celebrities have chosen to use my bags for events. However I also recognize the importance of cementing a good relationship with stores, personal clients, and key fashion editors. As a new designer, I’ve realized that selling your product means selling your personality. It’s as important as selling your ideas and all that drives you. If buyers and the press pick up on this enthusiasm, it can go far.

JCR: Which markets particularly interest you for near term?

AV: I would like a stronger presence in the three main markets where my brand will be selling for spring 2006: US, UK, and Asia.

JCR: Is it the time for independent luxury brands?

AV: Yes, it is. As an independent brand, you’re able to act with discretion. I can have a personal relationship with buyers and editors. At the moment, I don’t have the same pressures or constraints that a designer has when working under a conglomerate. I have the ability to keep my operations tight, and still offer a demi-couture experience.

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