Wednesday 9th June

| BY Emily Phillips

Maral Asmani’s Debut Collection Shows How to Baste your Waste

Maral Asmani is one Iran’s great innovators. The multifaceted, Tehran-based designer uses fashion as a vehicle to communicate the catch-22 of consumer waste and unsustainable practices in fashion production; to break down the boundaries of conservative dress in Iran; and of course, to uplift fellow Iranian fashion fans.

But Maral didn’t get her start as a designer. She actually graduated from uni with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering before turning to styling, creative direction, and eventually, during 2020’s global adversity, designing. 

One of the pandemic’s solitary pleasures has been watching luxury brands and teenage TikTokers alike taking up handicrafts. With the realisation that there wasn’t much else to do when stuck inside all day, many of us found ourselves with a crochet hook and a ball of fluffy yarn in hand. Maral can relate: “I didn’t let the pandemic and social isolation kill my inspiration or creativity,” but rather, the multi-hyphenate creative opted to make her own garments. 

She’s always been a natural when it comes to handcraft, engaging in crochet, knit, sewing and embroidery since her adolescence. So, when her bid to be sustainable spurred her into action, it only made sense that these techniques would infiltrate the upcycled garments. 

Dubbed Baste Your Waste, Maral’s first official collection, designed, assembled, styled and directed by herself, paid homage to the Earth. Her aim was to “animate the concept of consumer waste” in a way that was both conceivable and comprehensible – and if you ask us, there’s no question that she has succeeded. 

Coming to the fore is a pair of split-hem patchwork tights constructed from 30 pairs of damaged and discarded socks, crocheted and sewn together, and taking more than two months to bring to fruition. The tights came paired with a cream-coloured ribbed knit with apricot finishings and kaleidoscopic tassels along the shoulders. What followed was a procession of cut-out, asymmetric oddness appearing as an old sweater dress-cum-jumpsuit, an erratic black jumper with strings spread sporadically, tight turtlenecks, and chunky platform shoes. 

Creating the collection began with gathering unwanted or damaged knitwear fabrics wherever they were available; her own closet, her sister’s, her friend’s. Excluding threads, not a single element was purchased fresh from the store. Then, “using crochet as an attachment technique,” Maral stitched the castaway materials into something provocative and new. 

In pursuit of a more “artful vibe” the cutting-edge designer then turned to polychromatic plastic waste. “I was looking for every kind of plastic waste and more. For example, bottle lids, bubble wrap, cartons, tissue boxes and empty aluminum tea light holders.” Maral fashioned buttons, bags and other accessories from these discarded materials. There was even a pair of pumps where scrap metals made up the sole and rigid paper cartons were used for the heel. 

Each look was worn with an eccentric crocheted-together hat, inspired by the hijab but with an intentionally Western take. However, in Iran this comes with its controversy. “I always try to bring a hijab with a modern twist into my styling, but for the government it’s unacceptable because it’s untraditional, these hats could never be showcased in public,” she says – going on to create bulbous bucket hats, offbeat berets, and stripy knit cloches. Quirky clothes to hunker down and save the planet in. 

“I wanted to start something different in Iran and to encourage Iranian designers to start making more conceptual collections,” she says. Watch as Maral Asmani works toward relishing in new-found Iranian fashion freedom. 

Photography by Sohrab Vahdat.