Shana Aza­hari

Fash­ion meets art, it’s in the bag for this young de­signer.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Contents - By Cai Mei Khoo.

“Style – the un­con­scious ex­pres­sion of a per­son’s state of mind. You give away ev­ery­thing, just by get­ting dressed,” opined Shana Aza­hari, when she made the cut as one of BAZAAR’s Most Stylish Women last year. Also known as Shana Azooi, a moniker from her bag la­bel Azooi, the 25-year-old is as pas­sion­ate about art as she is about mak­ing bags.

“My daily style is laid­back and func­tional, a nod to the French as I favour sub­dued colours and over­all sim­plic­ity,” says Shana. “I’m not one for prints and tend to dress up ba­sic looks with a state­ment bag, keep­ing all other ac­ces­sories to a bare min­i­mum, if at all.”

List­ing Daphne Guin­ness, Alexa Chung, and Vic­to­ria Beck­ham as her style he­roes, Shana cred­its her mother as her ear­li­est style in­flu­encer. “It was mum who told me to ‘never over-em­bel­lish, ei­ther how you look or what you say’ and that has stuck ever since,” re­veals Shana. “She also taught me that less is more, and vows lip­stick has stronger value-add than eye­shadow.”

Tread­ing the wa­ters as both project man­ager and bag de­signer, her first taste of fash­ion was when people started to tell the pre-teen Shana that she should model. “I was sold on the idea early on. Flip­ping through mag­a­zines, my eyes would drink in a sin­gle page, vo­ra­ciously con­sum­ing ev­ery de­tail of the im­age,” she re­calls. “Clothes are both the props and the ac­tors in a staged per­for­mance within a glossy – how is that not fas­ci­nat­ing?”

Commercial jobs started pour­ing in when Shana was 15 but it wasn’t un­til she grad­u­ated from univer­sity in the US that she started to model full-time. “I al­ways put school first, so when I fi­nally had the time I de­cided to give modelling a go,” she shares. “I did shows for names like Bul­gari, Etro, and Chanel, and was lucky enough to be the house model for Tif­fany & Co., Malaysia. It was about a year and a half af­ter I started that I de­cided to quit modelling to start my own busi­ness.”

Ea­ger to set up shop and armed with a keen eye for de­tail, Shana re­alised dur­ing her modelling days that she wanted to source and sell qual­ity hand­bags but couldn’t quite find prod­ucts she re­ally be­lieved in. “I sup­pose it was only nat­u­ral I would want to cre­ate bags that speak to my imag­i­na­tion since I paint, and the la­bel Azooi was born.

“Our bags are cre­ated for art lovers, the woman who sees the beauty in a piece of paint­ing that can be clutched, as sculp­tures that can be held,” ex­plains Shana, whose bags are all made by hand and hand­painted ei­ther by her­self or a small group of artists. “I draw in­spi­ra­tion from paint­ings by var­i­ous artists, from Gus­tav Klimt to Henri Rousseau and Yangyang Pan. I have a grow­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion for ab­stract artists and you’ll see quite a bit of that in the Azooi bags that I’m launch­ing soon.” As for the one bag that’s clos­est to her heart, Shana re­veals it’s one that was in­spired by Rousseau’s work, with a jun­gle scene painted on the ex­te­rior. “The level of de­tail that went into mak­ing that clutch has re­ally set the stan­dard for all my work to fol­low,” she notes.

“That fash­ion can be tricky some­times ex­cites me. Cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful pieces that look amaz­ing both in­di­vid­u­ally and within a collection is what I strive for with Azooi. That, and try­ing to in­no­vate yet stay true to the core of my brand – that’s a duty I owe to my cus­tomers,” she says, while pick­ing up her painted clutch and pos­ing.

Count­ing de­sign­ers be­hind brands like March­esa and Valentino as in­spi­ra­tion, Shana also looks to the likes of Char­lotte Olympia, Olympia Le Tan, and Kate Spade for fash­ion with a twist of hu­mour. “Their de­signs are fresh and play­ful, and make you feel like there should al­ways be a skip in your step. I grav­i­tate to­wards de­sign­ers whose work reaf­firms my de­sire to go through life with roset­inted glasses on.” Al­though, with her looks and talent, re­al­ity should prove just as rosy.

A preppy cock­tail vibe

Do­ing dou­ble denim. Denim shirt; and pants, both from DKNY Jeans

Vest; and pants, both from DKNY

Ab fab in a chic crop top

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