Houston fashion designer shows Kamala Harris-inspired suit, Iranian heritage on the runway
BY AMBER ELLIOTT // 10.30.20
HOUSTON, Texas – October 30, 2020
Fashion designer Amir Taghi asks himself the same question every day: With all that’s happening in the world right now, is there still a place for luxury clothing?
The answer — he resolves more often than not — is “absolutely.”
“I don’t think the want or need to feel beautiful will ever go away, even if we’re stuck at home,” Taghi says. “In a time of great stress, people want that kind of getaway.”
On a Saturday afternoon in late October, the young Houston native happily provided a distraction.
An intimate group of 40 guests gathered around a backyard pool in Memorial. Each name was assigned to a gold, bamboo-backed chair. Seats were spaced appropriate distances apart, and most onlookers coordinated masks to complement their outfits.
Shortly after 3 p.m., six models from the Neal Hamil Agency emerged from a small white tent. Their runway wove through the grass and onto stone blocks lining the water. The sun was shining. The music, upbeat. And no dark clothing was shown. Instead, Taghi’s fall/winter and spring/summer collections featured animal prints, watercolors and layers of texture — each with an equally rich backstory.
He always designs with a specific woman in mind, and this time landed on two: his mom and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
“I came up with the cobalt suit was because of her,” Taghi says of his favorite piece from next season’s collection. “She’s a strong woman, and I was definitely inspired.”
His mother is more of an eternal muse. Her influence touches everything he makes. “I think about when we used to go shopping — what she would wear, what she would pick out. What do real women want?”
Like many Houstonians, Taghi’s parents have mostly entertained at home during the pandemic. Sometimes they venture out to restaurants or small dinner parties. But with no current need for gowns or evening wear, the Amir Taghi brand has focused on chic, elevated clothes for everyday.
“Suiting is something I actually wear,” he explains. “A blazer adds polish and completes your look. It’s such an important part of every woman’s wardrobe. Not every woman has one, but she should.”
Zoom-friendly work separates play a central role in both collections. Taghi’s single-button jackets are meant to evoke confidence over corporate realness, so his were cut in caramel leather, happy prints or styled with a matching city short.
He hopes clients will embrace the “Kamala suit” and his take on exotic patterns, too.
“This collection was really inspired by the Asiatic Cheetah in Iran,” he says. “It’s going extinct, and for autumn we really wanted to bring attention to that.”
Persian culture is consistently the starting point of Taghi’s design process. The goal is to highlight aspects of his heritage that Westerners might not know about.
“We found this amazing painting from the Safavid empire called ‘Birds and Beasts in a Flowery Landscape’ by Muhammad Siyah Qalam that had different shades of beige, but we added color to it. That was our other big inspiration for fall.”
Taghi, 24, makes note of industry trends, though he rarely follows them. Take the minimalist, neutral look that’s come back in fashion.
“I was at a Vogue Forces of Fashion Summit where Wes Gordon of Carolina Herrera said, ‘I’m never going to design a collection without print or color,’” he recalls. “And at the end of the day, I want to stay true to myself as a designer, too.”
His aesthetic and point of view have evolved since May 2015, when a then 18-year-old Taghi debuted his eponymous line of ready-to-wear at his parents’ Tanglewood home — the last time he presented a runway show in Houston.
After high school graduation, the young designer honed his craft at Central Saint Martins College in London and later, the Parsons School of Design in New York. He parlayed an internship with Oscar de la Renta into stints with the fashion house’s creative directors, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, at Monse. He’s worked with Adam Lippes and Proenza Schouler, too.
In 2016, Vogue featured a wedding dress and cape he designed for Houstonian Chanel Dror’s nuptials in the South of France. His aesthetic has come a long way.
“When I started in high school, I was obviously still maturing,” Taghi says. “This is my first show back, and now I’ve found my voice. As a designer you’re always nervous, but I was really impressed by everyone’s reaction.”
Applause rippled through the backyard as models took their finale lap. Afterward, dozens of attendees lined up to shop the collection — a welcome first.
“There were never transactions before,” Taghi says. “People just came for the spectacle of a teenage designer.”
One of those early supporters, Donae Chramosta, loaned designer handbags and accessories from her boutique, the Vintage Contessa, for Saturday’s runway show.
“I thought that women would like to see a complete look,” Taghi explains. “Maybe they have a Hermes Birkin or Chanel chainstrap at home. It helps them envision how they could wear my clothes.”
As an added bonus, he partnered with several organizations to create special pieces that benefit marginalized communities. One is a hot pink cardigan — and heavy crowd favorite — hand-knit by the Beberavi Women’s Center in Kenya. Proceeds from select items are donated to the Center of Human Rights in Iran.
“The women who are shopping right now want to buy pieces with sentimental value,” Taghi says. “I got to meet every single person who buys my clothes and share why everything I create has meaning behind it.”