Clutches for canvas
Article from the Sun daily by Ponnie Chin (posted on 1st Sep 2015)
IF you told a younger Shana Azahari that she would be running a business selling handmade clutches, she might not believe you. Back then, writing was a passion for her. "I really wanted to be a writer; that's why I studied philosophy and economics in university," she explained.
However, it wasn't what she thought it would be, and she soon grew uninspired by it. A lack of time to read too, added to the fact. Then, she discovered a new love – painting. It was when she travelled to Europe with her mother that she grew so immersed into the art culture there. "They really focused on not just functionality but also form and aesthetics. It's very easy to be inspired in Europe," the 26-year-old said.
Slowly and quietly, she was persuaded to start painting. Surprisingly, she had never dabbled with paints before that. "I couldn't even ace an art exam!" she laughed. Hence, she favours acrylic over watercolour painting because the latter requires a lot of discipline to get right the first time. But with acrylic, "If you get it wrong, it's fine. You can just let it dry and paint over it."
The aha moment that prompted her to start a line of handmade bags was a question that she couldn't answer. "I thought, 'Why isn't there a more accessibly priced bag that is as aesthetically focused as Marchesa or Olympia Le-Tan?'" she said. Although Shana acknowledged that the two brands are completely different in terms of aesthetics, she said both their designs prioritise form over function.
With that in mind, she started painting on normal bags wrapped in fabrics. "The bags you see under AZOOI today have actually evolved from Clutch that Bag (her previous accessory brand) with a whole bunch of trials and errors," she explained.
What is AZOOI all about?
We are focused on art pieces. I like the idea of functional pieces – an art piece that you can carry around and also serves as a bag. I love painting and bags, so I incorporated the two together. Portraits are beautiful but they get left at home and you can't appreciate it in full effect. But if you have it on a clutch and bring it around, it becomes a conversation starter.
How do you get inspiration for your designs?
I'm a very simplistic person – I don't like fussiness. The shapes of AZOOI clutches are very clean – if you look at it, you know what you're supposed to be appreciating. I also like nature, flowers and birds. I guess that's the main source of inspiration for me.
How long did it take you to acquire the skill sets needed to create these bags?
It's a continuous process. Even till now, I'm still working on it. It's more than just art, which I like, because we actually have to look at other aspects, from the weather to the chemicals, how certain chemicals in the lamination might affect the paint, and so on. I'm quite glad that I have a team who fully understands what we're trying to achieve, with personal standards. That's why our products are of such good quality.
What kind of woman carries AZOOI clutches?
Women who know what they want. It's really for a person who knows what they appreciate and what they like. I don't have to sell them anything – if they're interested, they'll ask me how it's made and I'll tell them everything from the sourcing to the process of making it – all the little aspects that create a story behind the bag. I want them to bond with a particular piece, design or an idea behind the clutch.