The fashion designer Eskandar Nabavi owes a lot to his grandmother, who taught him knitting and sewing when he was a child growing up in Iran’s capital, Tehran. He has gone on to develop a style that adapts ancient shapes to a modern context. ‘I don’t consider myself a fashion designer,’ says Nabavi. ‘I am influenced by clothes that haven’t changed for a thousand years.’ Nonetheless, he has a cult following of fashionistas that include the singer Diana Ross and the film star Lauren Bacall. Inspired by ethnic and peasant dress, from Thai fishermen’s pants to Tibetan monk’s robes, his clothes sell to affluent women over 40. Nabavi, who moved to London with his family after the Iranian revolution of 1979, started his career knitting fine jumpers for friends. He launched his first collection in 1994 and founded Eskandar a year later when the New York store Bergdorf Goodman began carrying his clothes. Today 90% of his sales are in America. The company has added menswear and childrenswear to its core collection for women and has increased its sales 87% a year from £931,000 in 1997 to £6.1m in 2000, when it had 16 staff. Eskandar’s best-selling item is its Japanese trousers for women. Nabavi claims to sell thousands of them even though they are priced at £150 in the summer collection, £250 in the winter collection and £400 when made from cashmere.
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