During a uniquely isolating 18 months, our friends, sisters and communities of like-minded women provided a vital source of comfort: a (virtual) shoulder to cry on, a judgement-free sounding board for our ideas in lieu of catch-ups with colleagues, a place to offload our rambling voice notes.
“Our video calls became the office, the therapy session, the party,” says artist and writer Sarah Khan, 28, one third of Baesianz, a collective dedicated to celebrating creative projects by Asians in tokenism-free space. Sarah, creative director Sami Kimberley, 30, and casting director Roxy Farahmand, 30 – who are of Pakistani, Chinese and Iranian origin, respectively – are friends first and creative collaborators second.
We’re speaking to the London-based trio as they model the adidas Originals Step Into You collection, which is all about comfort and the freedom to express your personal style. Nothing has provided more support and reassurance during this unpredictable time than their years-long friendship.
The friends “did all the normal things” when the UK’s first lockdown was imposed – connecting through the buzzed-about social apps, online quizzes and the like – but Baesianz was their “saving grace”, Sami says. It kept them occupied, stimulated and “ensured we had routine and were always chatting, which was essential to keeping a healthy mind.”
When Roxy was struggling with her mental health earlier this year, Sami and Sarah took on her work so she could take care of herself. “They were there for me in every way,” Roxy recalls. “I remember one instance of them both coming over with a bunch of snacks. We ordered a takeaway and just cuddled. It was a small act but really meant a lot.”
Snacks are a running thread throughout the friendship. Sarah and Roxy first met when they worked together at a magazine and Sarah offered Roxy snacks. “I think it was some boujee almonds, I said no,” Roxy remembers. “Later that week I bumped into her at a party and confessed I did actually want some snacks, I was just shy,” she laughs. “We’ve been best friends ever since.”
Sami had a similar experience of Sarah wooing her with food. “We bonded at work events and then Sarah would drop off snacks to my desk as she walked through the building. It was the cutest thing ever,” Sami says.
Their friendship was solidified by their shared experiences: “Growing up without seeing creative Asian role models in the media, feeling a disconnect with our identities at various points in our lives, and knowing that we must not be the only ones who felt like this,” Sarah remembers. “And so Baesianz was born.”
The way they run Baesianz – to uplift others – is how they approach their friendship. “We’re all open, honest and genuinely caring for each other. It’s a sisterly bond,” says Sami. For each of the women, connecting with their heritage in ways they hadn't before has been formative. “My grandmother was Chinese but as she passed away before I was born I didn’t have much to connect with,” she continues. “Roxy and Sarah helped me to own that part of my identity and helped me find ways to connect with it. It’s changed my entire outlook and I’m so grateful.”
Not only do they learn a lot from each other but each brings something different to the friendship. “We all complement each other’s personalities in different ways," Roxy says.
If Sami were a flower, Sarah says she’d be a sunflower: “Warm, sunny and a light in everyone’s lives. Unconditionally accepting and kind.” Roxy, meanwhile, is a born entertainer, Sami says. “She can make you feel happy just with her energy. She’s also incredibly caring – you always feel loved with her as a friend.” And Sarah is the joker of the group. “She’s the kind of funny person that doesn’t know how funny she actually is – she could pick up an object and I’d be in stitches,” adds Roxy.
They have unique personal styles but comfort is a shared enthusiasm – making the adidas Originals Step Into You collection a sartorial sweet spot for them all. “My style could basically fit into any American high school movie from the 90s, I’m always channeling one of those looks.” says Sami. “I just want to be comfy and I like things to be quite simple but with a bit of fun coming from somewhere.” Sarah’s like a New Age goth hippy from the year 2000, Roxy adds, admitting: “I dress like a little teenage boy.”
They often hang out and collaborate at Roxy’s home in Loughborough Junction, south London – a light-filled treasure trove bursting with plants. Thanks to Roxy’s set designer housemate and her own magpie-like tendencies, “the house is such a nice place to be and feel inspired because you’re so visually stimulated,” Sami says.
It helps that Roxy’s a dab hand in the kitchen – there’s always an Iranian dish or incredible salad on the go – and a natural, willing host. “It’s the Iranian in me,” Roxy agrees. “It’s easy for everyone to come over whenever, and my kitchen and garden is lush, especially on summer days. It’s such a nice hangout spot.”
Over the years the house has been the site of sleeping, dancing, eating, singing, crying, laughing, the lot, says Sarah. “It’s been both Baesianz HQ and a club on the weekend. The garden is a sanctuary and the living room is a cosy office or cinema depending on the day.”
Like the best female friendships, they embolden and champion each other’s strengths and successes. “We try to be respectful of one another’s specialisms,” says Sami. “We’re all supportive of each other's dreams, ideas and needs. Without them I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do half the stuff we have as a trio.”
When the future feels uncontrollable and uncertain, little else has the power to soothe, inspire or brighten up the situation like close friends. For Sarah, a great female friendship is “a torch in the dark and the sun in daylight – unquestioning, supportive and healing.”
Just as the adidas Originals Step Into You collection allows them to lean into their individual style, there's no doubt the trio's friendship will continue to thrive, consoling and encouraging each of them as they step into themselves.