A North Texas alumni & designer shares her success story
Shirin Askari is a Fashion Designer and UNT alum with a passion like none other. She started designing from a very young age, and has since been a contestant on Project Runway. More recently, she began her own collection called “ASKARI.” Her collections are sold online and in over 175 boutiques, and focus on designing for women of all body types at an affordable price.
What path led you to become the successful designer you are now?
When I was about to graduate from UNT, I had broken my knee, so I had to spend my last few months of college on crutches. By the end of the year, I had wanted to go to Italy, but I had to cancel my trip because of my injury, so I ended up just at home searching online for jobs. One of my professors actually e-mailed me about auditions for Project Runway. I hadn’t planned on auditioning, but I really had nothing better to do. I turned in a video, and got on the show a few months after graduation! After that, I decided to move to New York for a while to “strike while the iron was hot”, and learn everything I didn’t learn in school. I went back to Dallas to launch my first collection, and that’s really how it all started. After doing a higher-end line for about five years, I decided to do what I really wanted, which was to make women’s clothing at a better price point.
Was there ever a time you doubted working in the fashion industry?
Of course! Anyone who has been in the fashion industry knows that it can be brutal and defeating. You have to work so hard. It’s 2% glamorous and 98% hard work, and it’s a really hard business because it’s so subjective. You have to grow a very thick skin. You need to really love it, or else you’ll just be miserable.
What are some ways you find inspiration for new collections?
It really depends on the season. A lot of times I’m inspired by art, and architecture. I go to museums and take inspiration for my prints. I like my prints to be abstract, and like paintings – what you’re wearing is a piece of art.
How would you describe your target consumer?
Women that are the ages between 25 and 45 is usually our target customer, but it is a very broad range of customers because I have such a broad range of styles that fit many body shapes. There are pieces that work for an 18 year old, and pieces that work for a 60 year old. It makes a contemporary statement at a more moderate price point.
What type of traits do you think a person must have to be successful in the fashion industry?
You would need to be an extremely hard worker who goes above and beyond what you’re asked to do, because you have to be open and willing to learn all the aspects of the industry.
What advice would you give to a UNT student who hasn’t found success in the fashion industry yet, but wants to?
Don’t be afraid to learn all the aspects of the industry. Explore the industry and be willing to work hard to learn everything you can. Maybe you’ll fall in love with something else! Maybe you’ll find your place in a different part of the industry that you never thought you wanted to do. You’ll never know until you try. Most people when they graduate from school want to go from A-Z, but it doesn’t work that way. Just enjoy the journey and learn as much as you can!
What would you say was the turning point for your career?
When I was finally able to launch the line I’m doing now it was a really proud moment for me because I had spent so much time wanting to do it, and everything is made locally, and at the price-point I wanted. It was a huge step for me, but all the little successes that got me there almost mean more because they are what made me the person I am today.
How do you hope to move forward with “Askari”?
Our goal for this next year is to expand our number of accounts. We just got a rep in Atlanta, so we’re broadening to that territory, and we now also have a rep in L.A. It’s exciting because we sell so differently in different regions.
Shirin Askari and the “ASKARI” collection are expanding rapidly to more regions and consumers, and rightfully so. It was an honor to be able to talk with her more in depth about the success she’s had in the fashion industry, and about her beautiful collections. It will be exciting to see what her future brings, and watch her journey unfold as she continues to make UNT proud!
See Shirin Askari’s collection at askaricollection.com. And follow her on social media @askaricollection.
Words by Reilly Farris
Edit by Carolina Gonzalez and Taylar Gomez
Photos from Shirin Askari