#07 WESH Interview: Tara Zadeh

by Nesrine Khemiri

WESH: How did you go from graphic designer to having your own brand, to later advising other brands?

Tara Zadeh: From graphic designer to brand founder and subsequently PR event consultant this transformative journey was rooted in my passion for design and fashion. My educational background includes a degree in graphic design from Parsons, which laid the foundation for my creative journey. Right after college, I embarked on a role as a senior graphic designer for Interview Magazine in NY, a publication with a strong fashion focus. While this marked my foray into the world of print and publishing, the subject matter remained consistent with my overarching career trajectory.

My career took another international turn when I relocated to London to assume the role of art director at the Gentleman’s Journal, a lifestyle magazine catering to a male audience. I directed various lifestyle shoots, emphasizing elements such as yachting, luxury watches, and high-end automobiles. Over the course of three years, I honed my skills and gained invaluable experience.

After three years, I found myself at a crossroads, questioning whether I should continue working for larger publications or take a bold step towards creating my brand. At this crucial juncture, my partner, who would later become my husband, was in the process of launching his entrepreneurial venture. The prospect of establishing my brand was tantalizing but equally daunting. This step required meticulous planning, from crafting proposals to securing initial investments.

One pivotal moment in my journey occurred during a trip to Iran with my then-boyfriend, which served as a catalyst for crystallizing my vision. The breathtaking landscapes, mesmerising architecture, geometric forms, and vibrant colours of Iran ignited my imagination. These experiences laid the foundation for the signature pieces that would define my brand upon my return to London.

WESH: Lovely timing with your husband, it’s like you uplifted each other, isn’t it?

Tara Zadeh: My husband’s simultaneous entrepreneurial journey was a unique and transformative experience for both of us. Rather than following a conventional trajectory of taking turns, we embarked on this journey together, bolstering each other’s resolve, faith, and understanding of the challenges and rewards that lay ahead.

With my background in graphic design, I possessed the tools to visualize and conceptualize my ideas. However, the process of turning these ideas into tangible prototypes presented considerable challenges. My quest led me to a design studio in East London, where I found the expertise required to bring my designs to life. At a fabric fair in Paris, Premiere Vision, I selected the finest leather, setting the stage for creating a high-end product without the prohibitive costs associated with luxury brands.

My signature piece, priced at 500€, reflected this commitment, even though I would have preferred a lower price point of 300€. At this early stage, I had yet to receive a single order, making it impractical to purchase materials in large quantities. Despite the vulnerability and uncertainty that accompanied this endeavor, I remained resolute in my pursuit.

During a trip to Barcelona with my mother, I hesitated to broach the subject of my project until the last moment of our four-day trip. I needed her to understand and support my vision. She eventually did my vision, and within two weeks, I made the bold decision to resign from my job and focus entirely on Tara Zadeh.

WESH: Before Tara Zadeh, your network in fashion was strong, but then it became much stronger. How do you explain it?

Tara Zadeh: Traveling has always enabled me to connect with creative individuals across the globe. I possess a natural knack for networking and building connections. These connections played a pivotal role in expanding my brand’s visibility and opportunities.

I reached out to a friend working at Moda Operandi to inquire about their online trunkshows. This move, marked by a combination of ambition and curiosity, led to the realization of my dream: Tara Zadeh was live online in June 2017 - during the same week I got married, coinciding with my husband’s business launch. While the trunk show was not a resounding commercial success, it provided an invaluable platform for increasing my brand’s visibility.

 Indeed, my brand received a surge of interest from buyers and the press, resulting in an overwhelming influx of emails. To manage this newfound attention, I decided to enlist the services of a PR professional, Sophie Elliott. This choice proved effective in navigating the complexities of the fashion industry, particularly in its early stages. I started showing my collection with Maison Pyramide showroom during Paris Fashion Week.

Within a year of launching Tara Zadeh, the brand secured a place on Net-a-porter, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Farfetch, Bergdorf Goodman, Galleries Lafayette etc, the dream for any designer. 

Naming my brand was a deeply personal journey. I opted for the name Tara Zadeh, a fusion of my first name and my mother’s last name, “Zadeh,” which means “born of.” This name reflected not only my identity but also my Iranian heritage, a crucial element in my brand’s identity.

WESH: Recognition came fast for you; how did you manage that? 

Tara Zadeh: Within a year of launching Tara Zadeh, the brand secured a place on Net-a-porter, the dream for any designer. However, the rapid ascent to success brought a host of challenges. Despite the thrill of being a designer, I realized that design constituted only a fraction of my responsibilities. Most of my time was dedicated to production, financial management, and legal matters.

My eagerness to accommodate retailers by saying “yes” to every request proved counterproductive. Balancing responsibilities became increasingly challenging as I found myself wearing multiple hats. As a production manager, I encountered frustrating delays in my Spanish factory, which had a detrimental impact on my brand’s shelf life. To maintain product quality, I made the decision to switch production to Italy, the next day Paris Fashion Week was starting, and I was jumping from one plane to the next, always trying to catch my breath. 

The birth of my son in October 2019 led me to take a season off to focus on motherhood. This decision coincided with the onset of the COVID-19. Soon orders were cancelled, and retailers demanded discounts. I perceived this as an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate my brand’s trajectory. My husband’s business continued to thrive, and we both embraced the unique experience of working from home during this time.

A close friend, Leila, introduced the concept of face yoga sessions and sought my advice on launching the platform in the UK. I decided to offer my assistance, free of charge, to test the waters. This venture proved to be a success and marked the beginning of my journey into event organization. I gradually increased the frequency of events, with individuals and brands reaching out to me. At the start of this year, I recognized the need to formalize this venture into an agency.

My approach to public relations and event planning differs from traditional PR models. Rather than working with retainers, my offer is project-based. The agency has been flourishing, with collaborations with prominent names like Roberto Cavalli although, my true passion lies in supporting emerging designers, as I believe this enables me to have a more profound impact on their growth. My current focus is on the MENA region, with aspirations to expand to events in New York and Paris, and potentially Dubai in the future.


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