Naza Yousefi founded handbag brand Yuzefi in 2015, and it has since become a cult Instagram sensation. Yousefi's distinctive designs have been spotted on many an influencer and A-lister's grid. According to the Tehran-born designer, "Instagram created a level playing field" for young creatives like her.
Made in London (its studio is in Fitzrovia), Yuzefi bags are distinctive and impeccably designed. Oversized gold-tone hardware and butter-soft leathers in myriad joyful colours are all part of the brand's DNA. To keep the creativity flowing, 90s hip-hop is on tap in the studio - mainly Dre and Biggie - and a surrealist lens is readily applied to most brainstorm sessions. For an added jolt of creativity, Yousefi turns to short city breaks, which she finds to be particularly inspiring. "I spend a lot of time going to exhibitions, museums and monuments," she says. "They are a constant source of inspiration for me."
Born and raised in Iran, a Londoner as of 2004
Type of Brand:
Where did you grow up? How did this place shape or inform you?
I grew up in Tehran, Iran, where made-to-measure is still going strong. From a young age, I saw women around me being very involved in their fashion choices and being very meticulous about design, fabrication and fit.
Your earliest fashion memory is…
My mum making dresses for me that were inspired by my drawings.
How does the name Yuzefi connect with your brand?
It's a different way of spelling my last name.
Where is your studio and what does it look like?
Our studio is based in Fitzrovia. It's not a very big space, but it has a lot of natural light which is incredibly important to the team's state of mind. When you spend so much time working indoors, it's great to feel like you are not missing out on sunshine, however rare that is in London. Colour is a big part of the Yuzefi DNA, too, and I strongly believe in the power of natural light in helping us develop our seasonal palette.
What songs do you have on repeat in your studio?
Having grown up in the 90s, we listen to a lot of music from the decade. Anything from hip-hop (Dre and Biggie mainly) to classic club hits - though we also have a 70s playlist with a lot of groove and soul to lift the mood with artists such as Sister Sledge and Midnight Magic.
Who is the Yuzefi customer?
We have a very connected, tuned-in and social-media savvy customer.
What does your creative process look like?
The Yuzefi aesthetic is very much about looking at the world around us through a surrealist lens. Our approach is framed by our passion for art, architecture and sculpture as we seek to find newness in a familiar world.
Why is creativity important now more than ever?
There are a lot of great brands out there, so it's really important to have a strong visual DNA and a clear message. Fashion is moving so fast at the moment, and what resonates the most is good design aligned with brand values and effective storytelling.
How challenging is it to create affordably priced designer handbags?
While it may seem uninspiring to think about price point when designing, it's something that has to be in the thought and design process since the very start. Technical knowledge can help designers be more mindful of the material consumption and production complexity.
Shop your own line. What are three of your favourite pieces?
Other than Yuzefi, what brands are in your closet?
I love the chic and easy-to-wear pieces of Nanushka, as well as everything from jewellery designer Anissa Kermiche. I can also be seen wearing Dr Martens boots most days.
What role has social media played in your brand's growth?
A very big one. Instagram created a level playing field, allowing young brands to reach audiences without much of a need for marketing and advertising. Without it, it's very likely that Yuzefi and many other contemporary brands wouldn't exist.
Is travel a source of inspiration?
I find short city escapes the most inspiring as I spend a lot of time going to exhibitions, museums and monuments, which are a constant source of inspiration for me. I went to Madrid for the first time last year and was blown away by the Museo del Prado collection. Joan Miro's studio in Mallorca was one of my favourite artist spaces to visit; the objects he collected from the area were perhaps more fascinating than the art itself.
Destinations on your travel wish list…
Where is your favourite place in the world and why?
I love travelling around Andalusia and discovering all the small villages and towns. We took a wrong turn on a road trip and found ourselves in Zahara de los Atunes between Tarifa and Vejer de la Frontera and had the most incredible impromptu lunch at Arrocería Zokarrá.
What's the best thing about London?
Everything but the weather, but had you asked me a decade ago I would have said weather and food. I remember a time when there were only three or four good restaurants in Soho, but now it's almost impossible to keep up with all the amazing restaurants opening all over town.
What are you reading right now?
The Business of Fashion. The industry is going through a lot of changes at the moment and it's important to follow what is happening closely and re-strategise as and when necessary.
What podcasts are you listening to?
I love Bulletproof Radio with Dave Asprey; it's my go-to for all the latest discoveries around health and well-being.
If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
Discovering a small seaside town somewhere with great food and local craft markets.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
No one else knows what they are doing either.
What's next for Yuzefi?
We have something exciting in the pipeline but can't really say much until the big reveal!
Naza Yousefi's Mini-Guide to London
There are so many amazing places to eat in London, but the ones I keep going back to are Lurra on Seymour Place for seasonal Basque country dishes, Kiln on Brewer Street for arguably the best Thai in London and Trishna on Blandford Street for softshell crabs.
I pretty much only shop for food and interiors in brick-and-mortar stores. La Fromagerie and Ginger Pig on Moxton Street are regular stops, especially on Sundays when the Marylebone Farmers' Market is on.
Food markets (a bit of a theme!) and antiques markets. My favourite for antiques is the Thursday market in Spitalfields; it feels curated and calm and, if you still feel like browsing, there are a lot of amazing vintage shops in the area. When the weather permits, I love to jog to the top of Primrose Hill via Regent's Park or walk to the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park.