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by Melissa Magsaysay

It’s rare that clothes can be unabashedly feminine yet still look modern and fashion forward. Add to that a play on volume and unexpected proportion that happen to work on a variety of body shapes and it amounts to a sartorial challenge that even the most talented creatives couldn’t solve. Enter Azeeza, the collection created by the Chicago-based designer of the same name, that has managed to strike the balance between classic and modern while always infusing the perfect dose of femininity into each piece.

Expect full sleeves, thoughtful details, saturated jewel tone color and impeccable cuts that somehow create a tailored feel to voluminous dresses.

With an approach that addresses women of all shapes, Azeeza has managed to capture what women want without making anything seem relegated to a certain size.

Here, Azeeza discusses her design process and how the fashion industry can move forward to be more inclusive.

Q&A With Azeeza

Why is it important to you as a designer to be size-inclusive?

In your time and experience, do you think the fashion industry has made great strides in terms of diversity and inclusivity?

What more can we be doing to push the conversation of diversity and inclusivity forward?

I've have encountered discrimination - including in the fashion industry - based on color/creed. To be honest, the fashion industry can sometimes feel very Regina George/Mean Girls like, especially at the top tier. Even though it could make you feel a way, I've never let it effect my work, ambition or whittle my confidence. I could very easy succumbed to the emotion that comes when you are belittled for aesthetic or culture. So its very much about how you feel yourself, and how you are going to address if you are victim to discrimination. Or, if you witness it, what are you going to do? That is how impact happens, and how revolutions begin. I don't have the platform or reach of a Glossier - but I can't use that as an excuse to not be inclusive, or not to do what I want that may be out of the norm. Our news sources are no longer dot com - we learn of major events and happenings live from our social media feed. Everyone has the ability to have a voice. To be frank, you have to not care what others think of you or let someone that may be condescending affect you. It starts individually - to be open-minded as well as to stand up for yourself and your beliefs.

What inspires you creatively?

In terms of inspiration for the design process, to be quite blunt, I make what I would want to wear that season. I'm also continually wearing the dresses as day dresses and do have a lot of social/industry commitments which are either lunches or a Chicago charity gala, etc. There's a beautiful white halter cocktail in SS19 that I designed because I needed a dress to wear in the Hamptons - and I ended up putting it in the next collection because it was so perfect. I'm also the guinea pic - I'll many times ask our Design team to adjust placement or a zipper or add a hook and eye based on my experience of wearing the sample. Or, change the fabric or color completely after wearing it once. That said, color is the most substantial part of our DNA as a brand and the most inspirational. So I always start a moodboard with my feelings on color and that carries itself. I also marry in other core tenets of the brand into the process or add a fresh take on our best selling plisse chiffon gown, or a wide leg jumpsuit, because we know we've had successful response in these areas and it works.

What are you most excited about in fashion right now?

The return of volume! I have always been such a volume girl, So seeing the billowing dresses back in a lot of collections definitely speak volumes to me, literally. Although Marc Jacobs SS19 was a bit theatrical, it was a beautiful statement. I can very easily use 10 yards of fabric in one gown so I'm all for this. For me, I think that even with the volume and all of that, there’s always an element of demure, like a subtle sexiness, but not outright so. I do a lot of deep open backs that are more alluring (but still make sure you have the option to wear a bra if needed). It is all about accentuating what's beautiful, like a clavicle or shoulder, and deemphasizing common problem areas we all have.


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