There is an old Persian proverb that says: "Luck is infatuated with the efficient." Azhand Shokohi (azhandshokohi.com), a fashion designer in Cincinnati, Ohio, has materialized this proverb in her life, seizing every opportunity that arose. Shokohi’s first two fashion shows took place in the spring and summer of 2011, featuring her haute couture lines, and already her days are filled with custom designing clothes for clients.
Shokohi’s influences are deeply entrenched in 1950’s American culture and her Persian roots. "The curve in our writing, the poems, the colors: I got lucky that it all helps me to design everything," Shokohi said. Her method of design is unorthodox, relying on the fabric itself to inspire her as opposed to sketching blue-prints on paper. Shokohi’s materials are a breach of formality, as well. "As a designer, I am more creative when I have less to work with," Shokohi said. "The more you have in your hand, the more material that you are able to buy, I think makes you less creative because you always have the pieces made for you. You don’t have to think about creating material for yourself."
Both of Shokohi’s parents were educated and politically engaged, which provided Shokohi with exposure to an array of cultures and environments. "They opened up a lot of windows for me to see what was really out there," Shokohi said. "When you live in the projects, you don’t see what’s going on. You have to have the opportunity of exposure to see what’s really out there, and I did."
Shokohi was born in Persia, but at the age of 13, she moved to Germany with her family after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Although the political climate was tumultuous at the time, Shokohi said that her adolescence was fairly normal. "A typical teenager," Shokohi said. "Up in my room listening to music, growing up on Michael Jackson. It just happened to occur during the revolution." After three years in Germany, Shokohi moved again to the United States, first to Chicago and then finally settling in Cincinnati.
Uncharacteristic for an aspiring designer, Shokohi followed the wishes of her parents and attended college for premed. "For Persians, education is most important and being a doctor is very prestigious," Shokohi said. "As much as my parents knew I loved design, I had to respect their wishes because they did a lot for me."
Over time though, Shokohi realized her path lay elsewhere and applied to the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and
Planning. In 1996 Shokohi called the director of the design program and left a brief message about her circumstances and her deep desire to become a designer. Unexpectedly, the director called her back with the simple instruction to fill out the application form and her acceptance would be granted. At the time, Shokohi was working full-time while majoring in psychology and German for her premed degree and was unable to afford the tuition costs until two years later -- but she got there.
Shokohi said she used to be afraid she had wasted time studying premed, but her perspective has changed. "Maybe, I’m good at what I do because of all that I’ve gone through to get here," Shokohi said. "Opportunities don’t come around that often when somebody just wants to give you a chance."