INTRODUCING: UZMA BOZAI
Uzma Bozai’s fascinating cultural background was only the starting point; her family roots extend to India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Uzma was spending summers as a kid becoming acquainted with ancient traditions and techniques and of embroidering, dyeing and embellishing. After working with international aid organizations in London, and witnessing the crafts she grew up with dying out in favor of fast fashion, she decided it was the right time to jump into action. Teaming up with a group of talented textile and print designers led by Emma Avery – whose portfolio includes Erdem and Jonathan Sanders – her namesake brand was born in 2012. Today, the label includes a full womenswear – with the personalized bomber jacket being an instant hit with the British press – and accessories line. We sat down with Uzma to discuss reviving ancient-old craftsmanship, the meaning of ethical fashion and designing kidswear in the future.
What were you doing before launching your own label?
Cutting my teeth in business, I moved to Cornwall eleven years ago, and went into business with my husband. With one successful startup behind me, I had the confidence to launch the Uzma Bozai label.
What was it about the culture of Pakistani tailoring that sparked your interest?
My grandmother loved textiles and introduced me to the art of hand-embroidering. I spent childhood summers hearing stories and watching magical techniques like zardozi and ari that have been passed on from mughal times. These stories stayed with me, and many years later, dispirited by the growing trend for faster fashion, I was intent on finding a way to preserve these ancient crafts.
Your brand includes both Ready-to-Wear and accessories. Was that a planned decision or it happened along the way?
We love embellishments, so accessories were a natural extension of the brand. We started off with a small accessories line which has done really well, and will be expanded over the next year.
Your personalized bomber jacket has been very popular with the press. Can you explain the appeal?
We’re delighted that press and bloggers have been loving our bomber jackets as much as we do. There’s something about having your name in white lights (or beads) that’s irresistible.
What are your inspirations for next season?
I’ve just returned from Vietnam and was mesmerized by the natural untouched beauty of the mountains and coast. I loved the colonial influences in art and architecture, and how harmoniously they fit into the native settings. Check out our Instagram for glimpses of inspiration for next season.
What is your definition of ethical fashion?
For me, ethical fashion is about making conscious choices. We lead such busy lives that most of us don’t stop to think about the impact our choices. Is my choice of body armor helping or hindering people? No industry is 100% ethical but if everyone takes time to think about their style choices than we can wear beautiful pieces that make us feel and look good (wouldn’t that be nice!).
Popup shops are huge right now. What is your opinion about them?
Popup shops are a great way to engage with customers and get a better understanding of what is working for them. If you can showcase, your brand in the right setting with other brands that complement yours that it can be a winning formula.
Did you have any mentors starting off? How did you stay motivated when times got hard?
I’m very lucky to have a very supportive family and close friends that have all given me the strength and motivation to keep going. My poor husband gets the brunt of it all though! In the early days, there are more lows than highs but you have to trust your instincts and know the rest will follow.
What are your future plans?
Childrenswear. I have a two year old who insisted on having clothes just like mummy, and who can say “no” to a toddler?
Images © Uzma Bozai