Elegant, timeless, luxe, languid . . . leather. This is the vernacular of Valerio Moda, the haute couture creation by designer Ali Mokhtarian and business partner, Mo Movassaghi. You may remember their Spring Summer 2011 collection that seemingly melted down the runway at fashion week, but the story behind the garments is just as delectable.
No Room for Error
By KATIE MOGAN
It all began with a sketch. As a child growing up in Iran, Ali was fascinated with the aesthetic of his surroundings and expressed himself through drawing. This interest led to a focus in graphic design in school and sewing at home. Working on different sewing techniques with basic fabrics, Ali eventually learned the art of leather work while apprenticing under a master tailor. Less than a year later, he began his own made to measure business, a feat that combined his childhood creativity with technical ability to satisfy the challenging requests of his early clientele.
Feeding his need for continuous creative inspiration, Ali travelled and attended the runway shows of the internationally elite from Italy and France. He was enamored with the creations coming out of the fashion houses of Cucinelli, Laura Piana, Giorgio Armani, Dolce and Gabanna, and Gianni Versace. The collections provoked his inner design ambitions and challenged him to excel in his work with the unforgiving medium of leather. His education in couture continued with a tenured position at Harry Rosen. Daily exposure to high quality and excellence shaped his own standards as a designer, and encouraging words from his mentor spurred him on. It was Harry Rosen himself who advised Ali to carry out his design work with passion and pride, to never quit despite the challenges and to remain creative and open minded with every collection. Heeding this advice, the designer imbued his label, Hirad by Ali (named in honour of his son) with precision, ingenuity and endless creativity.
In 2007, eleven years after he launched Hirad by Ali, the designer moved to Vancouver. Three years later, he rebranded the label to signify a fresh start with a new business partner. The new name, Valerio, although fictitious in meaning, is onomatopoeic and almost suggestive of the sound the leather garments would make if they had a voice. When asked what the label means to him, Ali uses the adjectives `elegant' and `casual'. Although seemingly disparate, this season's collection is just that, casual in design (from bomber jackets to sport coats) yet elegant in construction and execution. The soft lambskin that is used for the majority of the garments is supple and almost seductively soft. It is easy to understand why Ali would choose to clad the city's fashion forward in this textile. This decision, however, is not without sacrifice, as the designer warns that working with leather leaves virtually no room for errors.
This challenge is what keeps the Valerio collections in a league of their own and Ali is happy that way. He draws inspiration from an eclectic assembly of fashion icons, a list that includes Cary Grant (for his "effortless ability to shine and feel comfortable in his own skin"), David Bowie (for his "guts to experiment with different styles") and Sean Connery (for giving fashion "meaning, etiquette, accessories and flare"). These influences can be seen in the juxtaposition of hard and soft, edgy and elegant at play in the collection. Industrial zippers, epaulets, buckles, pleats and exposed stitching are all visible this season, along with a colour palette that ranges from sobering black and chocolate browns to electric orange and sapphire blue. No matter your style preference, Valerio has you covered, and it's likely you've never looked better.
To see the complete collection and list of boutiques carrying it, visit www.valeriomoda.com.