A Conversation with Lilian Afshar, Founder of L’AFSHAR

Originally a ready-to-wear designer, Lilian Afshar discovered her talent in designing clutches during the presentation of her graduation project...
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Originally a ready-to-wear designer, Lilian Afshar discovered her talent in designing clutches during the presentation of her graduation project at ESMOD in 2013 and since then, she started her journey in this creative field. Inspired by her upbringing and formative years between London, Vancouver and Marbella, the British-born Iranian settled in Dubai and launched her brand, L’AFSHAR, as she continues to design compact, contemporary and timeless bags.

Azyaamode had the opportunity to run an interview with the designer, where she tells us about her journey, latest collection and so much more.      

From ready-to-wear to bags, what made you make this move?

During my graduation project at the university, I designed a full Ready-to-Wear collection. I had the idea to craft a standout, innovative accessory – a plexi clutch. This was supposed to be the “finishing touch” to complete the collection. Interestingly and to my surprise, the jury all gravitated towards the clutch during my final presentation. This shift in focus was what really led me down the accessory route.

How do your designs reflect your identity, heritage and the cultures you’ve explored?

Contrast serves as the center of my identity. Acrylic has a rigid, masculine feel to it. We soften and feminize it through the engraving techniques applied to the bag.

I find that it’s an interplay of opposites where my creative journey ignites. The tension draws me in, and from there, I work to create a harmonious equilibrium. In many ways, my love for contrast mirrors my own experiences – growing up in different cultures, transitioning between West and East.

Iran will forever serve as inspiration to me – the mirrorwork, tapestry and poetry. I’m eager to continue exploring its rich culture and history despite having only lived there for a year of my life in my early teens.

Tell us about your latest collection.

My latest collection represents a leap beyond my comfort zone, a bold departure from the familiar. This time around, I collaborated with artisans in Italy to craft a range of entirely new styles with a material I’ve never worked with before – Crystal. As a designer, it’s easy to find a groove and stick to it, but growth lies in pushing the boundaries of what you know.

Generally speaking, what makes a L’Afshar bag stand out?

What sets a L’AFSHAR bag apart is the craftsmanship that defines each piece. Each bag is made within our in-house workshop/studio in Dubai.

Working with Acrylic is tricky, precisely because of its inherent limitations. It’s a material that doesn’t easily conform to whims; instead, it demands an intimate understanding of its properties. This is a challenge that fuels my creativity.

How do your aesthetics speak to the Arab woman?

Arab women have a zest for discovering something new. It's inspiring to witness their innate desire to find standout pieces. I find that my bags offer a harmonious blend of refinement and distinction. They carry an understated elegance that enables them to seamlessly integrate into a variety of looks.

Ultimately, my aim is to provide Arab women and women across the world with a carefully crafted accessory that isn’t just a mere addition to their closets.

As a Middle Eastern yourself, how far do you think Middle Eastern women have come in exploiting opportunities and making careers for themselves?

I hold deep admiration for women across all fields. Women are constantly pushing boundaries and paving the way for generations to come regardless of their industry. Their resilience will serve as a constant source of motivation.

The path hasn't been without challenges, from my own experience starting my business at the age of 23, in a predominantly male-dominated environment. I had to put in ten times the effort to establish my credibility and earn my place. It’s an ongoing journey for us all.

Check L’AFSHAR’s Fall/Winter 2023 collection in the Photo Gallery.

Article Written by Mirella Haddad