THE YEAR THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
After designer ELLA BOLUKIFAR left Iran escaping oppression, she started over in Australia, with no English and just her dream of building a bridal label to sustain her
A bridal designer on why she left Iran for Australia.
“I was a 19-year-old girl in a business that in my country belonged to men. It was a constant battle with the government and with society in general.”
In 2017, I found the confidence to believe in my own creative power and realise that fear has no place in my life anymore. I was ready to move on from my past to live my second life in Australia, and I found it to be absolutely incredible. I’ve always believed art has no borders, and I’ve learnt you can cross any line to continue to do what you need to do to be happy and fulfilled.
I grew up in Iran, in an artistic family. My grandfather Abbas Bolukifar was a famous painter whose work is collected by Iran’s national art museums. He was my inspiration to embark on my own creative journey. I graduated from art school at 18 and continued my studies at the University of Art in Tehran. I opened a bridal gallery while I was studying, learning through trial and error and growing it into a well-known brand. I put heart and soul into it for about nine years and achieved almost all of my goals. But then things went wrong, and I had to leave the country, and that life, behind.
I was a free-spirited person, but in Iran there are limits and boundaries for everything.when I kicked off my journey, I was a 19-year-old girl in a business that in my country belonged to men. Because I had no fear, and because creativity was in my blood, I persisted for nine years, but it was a constant battle with the government and with society in general. I was not accepted as a businesswoman and they would constantly try to shut down my shop, fine me and take my stuff away. I was born a fighter, but they made the circle tighter and tighter, so in 2013 I decided to come to Australia.thank God I ended up here. I could not speak English when I arrived — couldn’t understand a word — so I started learning it by borrowing movies from the local library with English subtitles and watching them at least three times each. I would pause them to find the meanings of the words and to learn the way to use them in conversation. After the first year here, I started making friends just through body language and smiling. It took me two years to learn the language and the Australian culture, but after that I started to chase my dream again, and in April 2015 I began working for the Sydney bridal designer Steven Khalil.
I gained more skills and confidence during my time there helping to create the collections, and last year, I decided it was time for me to move on and do my own thing. I began to work freelance as a garment technician and consultant with different fashion houses and, in parallel, work on my own collections. In many ways, working for Steven gave me the strength to launch my own business yet again, and since then I have been working directly with private clients from my studio in Sydney.
It’s been an amazing journey for me and I totally feel the creative power I had in the past, but now I’m doing it in a country that supports me. I create exotic and unique garments with fine craftsmanship, and I’m targeting people who aspire to couture. I design special occasion and bridalwear under the name of Ella Bolukifar Couture because I employ a couture approach to everything I do. I love using unexpected materials and unconventional cuts, and I tailor every element of each design to the individual client, working very closely with every woman who walks through my door. I’m not interested in following trends. I am taking my own path, as I have done all my life. My dream is to build my new business in this new part of the world and to make it a success. – As told to Georgina Safe