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Osman Yousefzada Dresses the Strong Woman

THE LONDON-BASED DESIGNER'S CULT FOLLOWING INCLUDES WELL-KNOWN ACTRESSES

Osman Yousefzada has reason to celebrate. Last year the British-born designer sold a majority stake in his namesake brand to private equity firm Luxcite, which helps fund niche luxury companies. And this summer, the brand will open its first shop—a five-story “gallery cum bookshop cum retail space—and an event space, too,” says Yousefzada—in London. No wonder he turned his fall-collection runway show earlier this year into a house party, where models, dancers, and the press mingled, toasted, and boogied midafternoon.

Founded in 2008, the on-the-rise Osman label boasts a cult following that includes Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Watson, Lady Gaga, and Beyoncé, who wore a sculptural black-and-white Osman jumpsuit to the 2013 Grammy Awards.

We spoke with the designer recently about his past, future, and why he’s “never froufrou.”

Osman Yousefzada creates fashions that are "never froufrou."
Osman Yousefzada

Your parents are Afghan immigrants and, like many immigrant parents — like many parents, frankly — they hoped their children would follow a more conventional career path. But…fashion designer?

They came [to Britain] as economic migrants, and tried to get a better life for themselves, worked really hard, and thought their children would do something in a noncreative field. And most of my siblings have. In a way I’ve always been the odd one. I came to London and didn’t look back. [He laughs.]

How tough was that?

Not being this conventional boy was difficult. In my family, the women did women things, men did men things. My mother had a dressmaking business in a room of our house. All the ladies would come round—she’d measure them up, make their clothes. I was entranced by these women who’d wear the clothes, paint their nails, and transform themselves. It seemed magical.

Your designs are architectural, spare. You once said, “I’m never froufrou…never frilly.”

I can do froufrou, but it’s not my default setting. I’ve done tulle dresses recently, but they’re not super-girly. I’m attracted to women who are strong, who stand for something. I want the clothes to allow them to shine through, like the old saying about whether you’re wearing the clothes or the clothes are wearing you. I like crazy and over-the-top, but a garment should make you feel better about yourself.

Osman Yousefzada
"I like crazy and over-the-top, but a garment should make you feel better about yourself." - Osman Yousefzada

We hear a lot about the #MeToo movement these days. How do you think it will impact what women wear?

Fashion is always a sign of the times. But there are still women who want to wear a sexy dress and show off their body. It’s as if she’s saying, “I’m wearing something sexy and revealing. but I’m wearing it for myself rather than wearing it for you.” You can look but don’t touch. That’s maybe what’s becoming more topical, more de rigueur.

Is that true on both sides of the Atlantic?

It’s the same woman I dress, in London, Germany, or New York. She’s no-nonsense—a strong, confident woman with an arty bent. And she knows what she wants—a daytime wardrobe that can switch up so she can have some fun.

You find those women all over?

Definitely.

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