My City, My Style: Our Afternoon With Designer Azeeza Khan

Don't give up on ditching your boring 9 to 5 in favor of your dream job, just yet. Instead, take a cue from local designer Azeeza Khan, the gorgeous entrepreneurial spirit behind Atelier AZZA. Only 30 short days after making the impulsive decision to start a biz, she launched her label at New York Fashion Week — naysayers be damned. And, her story isn't the only thing that's ultra-impressive. This go-getter has a killer wardrobe that turns heads whether she's buying groceries or out on the town—don't worry, we've got the snaps to prove it.
Khan takes us to some of her favorite go-to spots, giving us tips on everything from how to shop vintage at the Chicago French Market to what to eat at the hot new resto Embeya. After spending time with the designer in her West Loop 'hood, it's clear to us that, just like her work ethic, Khan's sartorial skills are top-notch. So, click through and copy away—after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
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How would you describe your style?
"My personal aesthetic is very statement but timeless. For example, I love a balanced look of a simple white tee, leather skinnies, and one of my embellished blazers. You'll most likely always catch me in a skirt or a dress — even when casual. You'll also always find me in AZZA — not only self-representation, but I am constantly prototyping new cuts and designs. So, instead of purchasing a simple tank at a department store, I create one. I live and breathe AZZA in every way."

Azeeza is wearing an AZZA scarf, Chanel bag, and vintage dress.
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You love scarves! What are some creative or easy ways we can wear them?
"Scarves are most certainly a must-have and can be dressed up or down accordingly. With that in mind, I have designed embellished pieces for my couture collection. I personally love exaggerated, oversized numbers in a good quality — that's key."

"For silk scarves, a fun way to incorporate them into your look is by wrapping the handle of your handbags with them in a candy cane sort of twirl. It adds a nice pop to a simple leather bag. The look for this was first started in the circuits with the Birkin paired with Hermès signature silk scarves, but one can get this look with almost any bag and vibrant, printed, silk scarf."
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What advice can you give us for shopping vintage — like at the Chicago Vintage Market?
"Enter with an open mind and do not go in with the mind-set of searching for too specific of an item. I look for unique, rare finds — but with vintage, it really is a 'love at first sight' feeling. You know right away if you can't live without it."

The outside of the Chicago Vintage Market.
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What designer are you loving right now and why?
"I've been obsessed with Charlotte Olympia lately! Her shoes are just refreshingly different; quirky, unexpected statements but still elegant."
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Azeeza's Christian Louboutin booties.
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What is a typical day like for you?
"Extremely chaotic! I begin the day at 7 a.m. with my Nespresso and try my best to catch up with my inbox. During the day, I handle all my U.S. business, and overnight, I receive all of my international inquires. With that being said, it is never ending. Any given day can involve client design meetings, press interviews, photo shoots, fittings, inventory, and a whole lot of emails. I barely sleep given my workshop has a 12-hour time difference and my to-do list is just never finished."
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Why is shopping at the French Market better than a grocery store?
"I love that local farmers and artisans bring their organic crop to the French Market — that's as 'farm to pot' as it can get in a metropolitan city. I also really love the European market ambiance of the space."
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Azeeza is wearing a Splendid tee, AZZA scarf, Paige leather leggings, Hunter boots, and an Alexander Wang bag.
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What do you do with your free time — if you have any?
"You would be correct to say if I had any! In the rare event that I do have downtime, I take advantage of it to do creative soul searching — which often includes researching, a visit to a museum, or just sketching. In the hustle of the business activities, the last thing I have time for, unfortunately, is the creative aspect — which is really the driving force of the label. That said, I do go out of my way to make time for this."
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Who is your favorite vendor at the French Market?
"Klay Oven Kitchen for avant-garde, experimental Indian cuisine within the ambience of a true Parisian market. I feel like Hiran, executive chef, fuses South Asian accents into modern cuisine the same way I bring them into garments."
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Azeeza's killer python Hunter boots.
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What do you love about your West Loop 'hood?
"I love being away from the urban hustle and chaos, while still being in the heart of the city. It is peaceful, street parking is always readily available, and there is always something new to try in terms of food and culture. I am most excited about the new Mariano's that just opened. Also, I am only a five-minute cab ride away from areas I frequent such as the Gold Coast and Loop. I also have a lot of friends in the vicinity."
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Why do you love coming to Mary Bartelme Park?
"It has such a beautiful view of the city in a spacious environment with plenty of corners to just sit back and relax. And the architectural eye candy is also inspiring."
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Azeeza is wearing an AZZA coat, white blouse from a boutique in Milan, AZZA collar, AZZA skirt, Louis Vuitton bag, Miu Miu ankle boots, and Topshop sunglasses.
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What was your source of inspiration to start your clothing line?
"It was a combination of expressing the entrepreneur drive within me that wanted to be self-employed, and I saw a gap in the market for the design vision I had for garments. It was impulsive; I literally decided one random day in a conversation that I wanted to do this and didn't want to delay it any longer. Then, 30 days later, I launched at New York Fashion Week."
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Tell us a little bit about what your production process is like?
"Production for a collection begins with a moodboard where I set the vision, tonality, and palette of the seasonal line. I then start protoyping cuts and embroideries with my workshop and take it from there to develop a sample. Once a sample is approved, it becomes a part of the collection."

I also produce one-off pieces randomly if a vision comes to me for a new piece, hence why often you will see pieces of Azza that are not formally a part of my seasonal collections. I just go based on a whim at that point and, usually, those end up being some of my best sellers/best designs."
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Where do you source your materials from?
"The materials used in Atelier AZZA are sourced from Italy, Asia, and India, along with Swarovski crystals from Germany."

How long does it take to create one garment — from concept to completion?
"The production of a garment can take anywhere from four-to-10 weeks. I usually spend one-to-two weeks in the design/prototyping process and a minimum of two weeks in production. Keep in mind all of garments are hand-embellished, hand-cut, and hand-stitched, so there is a lot of labor that goes into the piece."
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Azeeza is wearing an AZZA dress, Leiber clutch, and Christian Louboutin shoes.
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What do you love about Embeya?
"The mussels and sticky rice are to die for! I literally could drink the sauce as soup — it was that delicious. Given my design background, I was on visual stimulation cloud nine with the decor by Karen Herold of 555 Designs. On my first visit there, every nook and cranny was an 'ooh and aah' — let alone the statement accents such as the handcrafted chandeliers and oversized carved wall screens."
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You always look gorgeous when we see you out and about. What do you love about dressing up?
"Come evening, I love to bring out the bling! That said, I opt for a fun cocktail dress — or even a full-length that leverages my signature embroidery. Given that I am all AZZA'ed out, I feel comfortable getting my external shopping fixes from accessories: shoes and bags. I usually pair my dresses with Louboutin, Valentinos, and Manolos, along with minaudiere clutches: Leibers and McQueen usually my choice of poison."
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One of Azeeza's favorite pairs of Christian Louboutin pumps.
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Tell us about a little bit about your philanthropic endeavors and what you have next on the horizon?
"I have recently become obsessed with the nonprofit Chicago Children's Choir. After 56 years of wearing the same uniform, they have commissioned me to develop a new look for the children. The partnership has now positioned me as the costume designer for their upcoming musical with the Lookingglass Theatre, "Sita Ram," which will take place on December 14 and 15 at the Harris Theater."

"As part of my collaboration with them, I am matching the uniform funding so that we are able to upgrade the uniforms to silks and more high-fashion options. Working with these children has really allowed me to step out of the box as a designer and really expand my horizons to new ventures. The children themselves are inner-city CPS students and just so full of talent and promise."