Bold Moments with Tara Ghazanfar: Talking Handbags and Heritage with the London-Based Designer

After living in Paris, New York and London, Tara Ghazanfar is no stranger to the world of fashion. Therefore, it only seemed natural when the graphic designer and creative director announced the launch of her own fashion label–Tara Zadeh handbags.

I started drawing bags that I wanted to wear and when I showed them to friends, they were so impressed that they encouraged me to start my line,” shares Ghazanfar on the brand’s beginnings.

The geometric, neon bags noticeably reflect Ghazanfar’s time spent in the creative departments at The Gentleman’s Journal and Whitewall Magazine. However, the designer also credits her Iranian-heritage and international upbringing as inspiration to create something new from her graphics background. “Growing up in such a multi-cultural environment encouraged me to be much more open minded and curious,” says Ghazanfar.

With original support from online, luxury fashion retailer, Moda Operandi, Ghazanfar was able to launch her brand with confidence, allowing the vivid circles and high quality rectangles to quickly gain popularity.

We caught up with Ghazanfar in London to learn more about the overwhelming beginnings, the transition from editorial to production, and to experience a day in the life of this international trendsetter.



How do you think your diverse background—from the US, to Paris, with Iranian heritage—influenced your career path? Do you credit one of these three influences more than the other?

It allowed me to take more risks and explore different opportunities. My Iranian heritage definitely had the most influence on my brand–from the shapes and colors, to Iranian women that I am very inspired by. I hope that I inspire other Iranian women to follow their dreams.


When did you first know you wanted to attend Parsons in NYC?

The year I turned 15–that summer my mother sent me to attend an art and drama course near New York called Emma Willard. I spent over a month and a half there and loved the courses, especially the art one. The next summer, I attended Rhode Island School of Design, where I completed a summer course in graphic design and fell in love with the course immediately. When it came to university applications the following year, I focused solely on the U.S., in particular NYC. My mother was skeptical, thinking New York was too much of an urban jungle, however, my uncle had lived there for over 20 years, so that eased her mind. During Spring break I visited New York with my mother and knew the moment I stepped foot in Parsons that it was the university I had to attend. I was the happiest ever when I got accepted!



How did living in NYC compare to growing up in Paris?

It was very different because, for me, growing up in Paris, I was living at home, my mother is pretty cool but strict at the same time so I wasn’t allowed to go out that much nor was I allowed to watch tv during the week. New York for me was freedom; I had my own apartment, my own schedule, my own curfew, my own rules. New York, quite literally, never sleeps, which I definitely took full advantage of. The energy is like nowhere else in the world and you definitely feel that anything is possible.


Tell me about your company now: you went from the world of editorial to owning your own brand. How did you make this work?

I loved working in editorial, I actually still freelance as Art Director for Whitewall Magazine, however, as I get busier and busier with my own brand I think this will have to come to an end unfortunately! To be honest my husband, who at the time was my boyfriend, was starting his own company and it motivated me to do what I always wanted, to have my own brand. My husband is a great support, he has helped me a lot when it comes to the organization of my brand and to getting things off the ground.



What is a typical day like for you?

The first thing I do when I wake up is open my inbox and start answering emails, once out of bed, I spend the morning catching up on things on the computer. I usually have lunch at Cocotte, one of my favorite restaurants in London, it is so good and simple and right by my soon-to-be old house. If I have meetings in the afternoon, I like to have them either in Mayfair, at Isabel or at the Electric Soho House in Notting Hill.

My husband and I are actually moving into a new apartment where I will have my own office, which I am very excited about. I plan on creating a showroom where I can host meetings. When I am not traveling, my husband and I like to go out for dinner just the two of us or with friends. Our friends are very important to us and take a big part in our lives.


How would you describe your style and design process?

I like to think my style is pretty eclectic. I do wear a lot of black but then I will throw in some flashy color or some “extravagant” accessory. I have so many ideas so I try to pace myself for the collections to come. I draw everything by hand, in 2D, and then when it is time to make the prototypes, I go to Ubrique in Spain to visit my factory and start the process.



When you’re not working, where are some of your favorite places to spend time in London?

For lunch I like to go to Cocotte Rotisserie or Good Life Eatery. At night my favorite places to go for dinner and hang out are Isabel and Casa Cruz–especially Isabel because downstairs you get to dance and they have the best cocktails. Other than that, I travel a lot so my routine is slightly disrupted.


Who, or what, do you consider as your inspiration?

My country Iran. What it has gone through–they tried to never lose their identity, even when they were conquered in the 16th century by Islam–they kept their Persian culture and their language. Today, when we celebrate anything Iranian, it has to do with our tradition and not our religion. I also can’t answer this without mentioning my mother as she is my everything. She has always supported me in all my choices, she is my biggest rock. She is an ethnomusicologist, she always taught my brother and I to follow our passion as she has done and that hard work must always come first.



Do you have something you couldn’t live without?

My phone, what else!


You recently launched your first handbag line. What made you decide to do this?

I have always been a collector of handbags but rather than buy the must-have “It” bag, I would find hidden gems in markets and bazaars, or from independent designers. I started drawing bags that I wanted to wear and when I showed them to friends, they were so impressed that they encouraged me to start my line.

Photos by Polly Hanrahan

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