Veteran combines Boho with India

HIS is not a name that is new to Fiji Fashion Week because he has worked at various parts of the industry and continues to grow with the 15-year-old history of the event.

One can’t speak about Indian fashion wear in the region without coming across Zulfikar Ali and the AZA label he designs under.

He was a fashion buyer at one of the country’s biggest department stores and has operated fashion boutiques.

However, Zulfikar has also consistently shown collections of exquisite fashion wear at FJFW.

A hard worker, Zulfikar has often showed double collections and this year he plans to ensure his part in the 15th anniversary of FJFW and Palmolive is no less elaborate.

“The concept or the main theme is very Bohemian so I’m calling it the ‘Boho Collection’. It is colourful, carefree and charismatic and I’ve planned to work with the FJFW theme for this year,” Ali said.

“I focused on my very happy-go-lucky, carefree clientele who aren’t too figure conscious and have gained a few extra kilos during the lockdown.”

A 20-year veteran of the local fashion scene, Ali faced unprecedented challenges during the lockdown which is now driving changes in the way he operates.

While disruptions to supply routes are his main economic challenges, the AZA brand is also working hard to ensure the market for ethnic Indian fashion wear remains profitable for him.

So he cut back on expenses by downsizing to a home-based boutique called the AZA Design Studio which opened earlier in the year at Ragg Ave in the upmarket Suva neighbourhood of Namadi Heights.

Releasing a brand new collection called “Facing India” to mark his new venture, Ali is committed to keeping the new shop operations chic and high end to give customers a unique experience of owning an AZA piece which goes beyond the exotic clothes and costume jewellery.

FJFW managing director Ellen Whippy-Knight credits Ali with keeping ethnic Indian wear fixed on the runway despite the heavy competition that imported western wear provides.

“He has worked as a fashion buyer, operated high-end fashion boutiques and is a regular on the Indian fashion buying trail. It is always a great pleasure to work and collaborate with Zulfikar Ali because he has become the face of Indian wear. Zulfikar has always worked hard to bring in the latest fashion from India and it is exciting to see what he has in store for FJFW x Palmolive.”

Ali said he managed to show double collections for three consecutive years during FJFW and produced pieces which blended in well with the tropical resort wear branding that FJFW had aligned itself with in recent years.

“I love producing collections for people who come to FJFW because they are the biggest spenders! Meeting customers at the after party to hear what they think is the best part of FJFW of course,” he said.

“Initially my focus for 2022 was to have my own boutique which is now operational by the grace of almighty. Now the focus is to take it to the next level with a wider product range for my valued customers.”

While working for the Tappoo Group, Ali learnt from the buying habits of high-end ethnic indian wear customers. He said that experience drove him towards creating more exquisite collections and he was adamant his current success could not have been possible without that experience.

“I must acknowledge my former employers, in particular, Mr Harish Tappoo, for having faith and trust in me always and for supporting me and my vision to take AZA on a commercial level. It was just not possible without his kind support.

“As a fashion buyer and managing sales on the fashion floor, my interests developed to get into more customised detailing to understand the needs and to meet the demands of a customer.”

He adds that he is inspired by the ability to create a story from the preferences of his customers and using that to design the colour, style, silhouettes and often intricate detailing in his AZA collections.

“It is like creating a story, working with the colour pallets etc but the most rewarding part that I absolutely love is when your work gets appreciated, when my clients feel proud to wear my label,” Ali said.

“I’d like to acknowledge Ellen Whippy-Knight for creating a platform for local designers and for taking raw talent to the next level.

“I must also acknowledge the never ending love and support of my close family, friends and my valued customers. “ finale of