Meet Azin Valy, designer of Cityzen
The award winning architect, designer and founder of Cityzen, invites you to transcend physical and mental borders, by offering a unique, and stunning perspective of Earth.
Azin, we are so proud and excited to collaborate with you. We believe it is a natural match and are looking forward to shedding light on your extra-ordinary talent and vision for Cityzen in particular.
What we have in common is a dedication and drive towards beauty, entrepreneurship and perfection. I found an immediate bond with LSW’s mission. My brand is about unconventional luxury, it offers my audience an alternative to what already exists and so does LSW as a unique platform that promotes other ideas of luxury.
How do you manage to shake the traditional approach to luxury?
Through Cityzen, we’re turning satellite maps into three dimensional wearable arts. We take the contours or the typography of the city and superpose it on to the contours of the body. Each piece is about bringing together women around the world, connecting them through their shared similarity of having a vision of the world without borders.
According to you, luxury doesn’t have to be about diamonds and gold. In every single piece, uniqueness and craftsmanship need to be there.
Yes, and also thinking outside the box and looking beyond the ordinary… In my architecture practice at I-Beam with my partner Suzan Wines, for years we have created museum quality spaces as well as refugee housing. Our ability and training to look at the ordinary and create the extraordinary has always been a challenge that has excited me. This is a common thread throughout both of my businesses.
As an architect and fashion designer, what is your vision of aesthetics?
My vision of aesthetics has always been classic modern and minimal and so are the cuts of my clothes. What makes them different are the bold abstracted prints of the cities and how they are positioned and integrated with the body. For instance, a river may meander through the curves of the body and creating a slit at the bottom of the dress.
The way you connect your architectural work with your designs seems obvious. Is it a natural thing that happens for you?
Yes. In architecture we look at the site conditions, our clients’ needs and desires, the budget, the codes.
It is the same thing with what I’m doing with my brand, Cityzen. Cityzen in fact started by I-Beam getting nominated for an exhibition at MoMA regarding the future of urban planning relative to the foreclosure crisis. Looking at these cities from above and seeing how beautiful they were from a distance and the challenges they faced, made me think of creating a fashion brand that exposed both. I decided that for each city I would select a cause and a charity and I would try to promote it.
Azin being citizen of the world… What are you trying to achieve through it?
I thought this would be a nice way to rally women together and introduce them to some things about different places. Through this way, a percentage of their money could be dedicated to these challenges.
We are currently promoting various charities on our site and as the brand grows we will be able to dedicate a percentage to each cause.
Your idea is to interest people into becoming citizens of the world by wearing your pieces.
Yes, and in particular with our scarves because they are universal pieces of clothing that can apply to every culture. It’s also the staple of our company. Anyone from any part of the world could potentially purchase it and wear it as they wish and I’m hoping that this is the connecting bond between women and men around the world.
What has been the reaction of the public so far?
It has been very exciting to hear the enthusiasm of the public. I get emails all the time from people who make suggestions. An article picturing the Dacca scarf was about Cityzen in the LA Times. All of a sudden I had a lot of purchases from people in LA buying the Dhaka scarf and some didn’t know where Dhaka was.
Each piece of garment seems to help you discover the place from within…
Every piece is accompanied by a hangtag that shows the entire collection, gives a little story behind Cityzen and gives recommendations about the city. We have all recommendations about hotels, restaurants, which art to see, what building/site to visit, what charity to give to and what gift to take away from each place…
How do you see Cityzen in five years?
We see ourselves expanding our collections, having more cities, other pieces of garments as well as a men’s collection and eventually expanding into home furnishings and children’s clothing.
A part of your expansion is the collaboration with LSW that will allow you to develop a Beskpoke Service.
Yes, we are taking custom orders through LSW for gowns, dresses or menswear for instance. It can be based on any city or a place dear to you. These garments are handmade in New York.
It is very important to understand the attachment of that person to that particular place.
Yes, we find out what about that city that they are interested in, and at what scale to create the map. We also find out what are their favorite colors and we do a combination of colors scheme based on their interest. We take their measurements and study their body. We make analysis of what type of fabric suits them best and try to know the customers’ needs, their requirements and their likes.
We create three schemes with three different colors where they can choose from. Then we start doing the first draft of the dress and have them review at different stages. Finally we proceed with doing the prints and we make the final outfit.
For what special occasion have you designed dresses?
We have created a Bespoke dress of Doha for the reknown artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat’s opening at the Mathaf Museum in Qatar.
We recently made a custom gown of Cape Town for the UBUNTU charity based in S. Africa in order to help them raise funds and more awareness for children with aids.
We are currently in the process of designing a custom dress based on Yellowstone National Park
And of course our Chicago gown is at the White House, which was gifted to Michelle Obama. It looks like a Gustav Klimt painting of the kiss with rich golden background and Sienna color patches next to the black of the Michigan Lake.
That would be absolutely wonderful if Angelina Jolie were to wear one of your dresses.
That would be amazing. We have started to discuss possibilities of collaborating with the UN Women for Peace and plan on working with various celebrities who function as ambassadors of good will for the UN. This is my ultimate overarching vision for the brand to mobilize women and men in working towards peace around the world.
Thank you very much Azin!