Meet the Designer Behind the Insect Clutches You Saw All Over Fashion Month

Dubai-based Lilian Afshar only graduated from ESMOD three months ago, yet her Lucite clutches are already on the global fashion map. Here's how she got them there.
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Dubai-based Lilian Afshar only graduated from ESMOD three months ago, yet her Lucite clutches are already on the global fashion map. Here's how she got them there.

Lilian Afshar

Lilian Afshar

In the Internet era, emerging designers stay "emerging" for quite a short amount of time. One blog covers the next big brand and suddenly, it's just a big brand, no "next" preface necessary. That's why it's exciting to stumble upon a line that isn't quite there yet, but shows plenty of promise.

Dubai-based Lilian Afshar, who is 23 and only graduated from the esteemed ESMOD school in Dubai three months ago, launched her collection of bug-adorned clutches after designing them as accessories to accompany her senior ready-to-wear thesis. An acquaintance -- Sofia Guellaty, who just happens to be senior editor at Style.com Arabia -- wore one to Milan Fashion Week. Suddenly, photos of L'Afshar bags were on Paris Vogue's website, and The Cut, too. Now, the collection is stocked in boutiques in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with Europe and the U.S. next on Afshar's list. And there's more:

Fashionista: Have you lived in Dubai all your life?

Afshar: No, I've moved around a lot. I was born in London, moved to Vancouver, then Marbella. I've lived in Dubai for five or six years. My father is in the camera business -- he franchises Canon products in Iran, where we're originally from -- and my mother works with him.

You were studying ready-to-wear at ESMOD in Dubai just a few months ago. How did you get into accessories?

I wanted to have acrylic handbags for my senior collection, and I found a factory here in Dubai. It was very industrial—they had never made such delicate items before. The first prototype wasn't so amazing, but eventually we got it right. The price point is very good -- the smallest bag is under $300. I really want to keep it accessible.

Clutches from L'Afshar's collection.

Clutches from L'Afshar's collection.

What look are you going after?

I want it to be a cool statement piece -- something colorful but not in leather. I liked the texture of acrylic. The logo -- which is on the bags -- is a mixture of a beetle and a dragon fly. It represents transformation, growth and strength.

How did people find out about the clutches?

Dubai has a very small fashion scene, and it's easier to access people. I got in touch with the editor of Style.com Arabia, and she ended up wearing one to fashion week. Dubai, in general, is really interesting as a fashion city. Five, six years ago it was all big brands. Now they're starting to bring really cool designers here.

Your parents run their own business. How involved are they day to day with yours?

Both have been extremely supportive, especially my mom. She's like my business partner.

You're stocked in some Middle Eastern stores. How important is it to expand to the U.S. and Europe?

I'm used to moving around so much that I would love to see it in Europe, and even New York. But we want to start small. Just handbags for now. I would definitely love to expand to shoes, but I believe it’s better to always start small and grow bigger.