Interview with Syrian born designer Zena Presley
Zena Presley is a Syrian born designer who currently resides in Dubai. Zena’s affection for the acceptance of diversity within culture is paramount throughout her ready to wear womenswear collection. Through collaborating with international artists whom commission patterns and prints, her signature style has been established. The Zena Presley customer is someone who has a passion for the beauty and cultural underlings of art, someone whom loves to take risks and stand out and uses fashion and clothing to express their individuality.
When and how you decided that you wanted to be a designer?
I have always had a fascination with fashion especially unconventional pieces, I would try to stand out with the way I dress, but I always felt like I wanted to bring more to the fashion scene. I want to make an impact and push the limits of creativity, and I am also very passionate about art, and so two years ago I was inspired by a certain painting, and I got the idea of creating wearable art. I was instantly in love with the idea and decided to pursue this as a career, and to try and use art and fashion as a form of self expression.
It was your dream job?
Yes, I instantly knew it was the career for me, I fight hard for it every day and that is purely out of my love for, and my enthusiasm towards, being a designer.
Which is the first thing you designed and for who (yourself, friend…)?
When I was younger, I would always try to create things for myself, or I would reinvent a piece I have in my closet and try to transform it into something different, and that has been going for more than 10 years! Although, it is really hard to remember the first thing I ever created, I will never forget the first piece I designed as part of the Zena Presley brand. It was the Olivia skirt from my AW15 collection, and when I saw the result it was overwhelming and even more beautiful than I had imagined.
Who’s the designer you admire the most and why?
There is a long list of designers that inspire me, one that really stands out is Mary Katrantzou. I am really inspired by her creations and by how she was able to reach this level of success in a very short time, and that is purely due to her creativity. Mary was able to create pieces that really stood out, and that is what resonates in the fashion industry today, her prints and techniques are impressive and she is able to reinvent herself every season while sticking to her signature style.
Who’s your muse, your icon, when you create a dress?
Today and more than ever, there are so many style icons and it is hard to pinpoint one out. However, when creating my pieces I actually create them for myself, I create pieces that I would love to wear, and if I end up with a piece that I am not too excited to wear, I don’t include it in the collection. The reason I do that is because I use fashion as a form of expression and this is my way of expressing myself and my style.
If you had to design an entire collection using just one color, which is the one you’d pick and why?
That would be quite a challenge for me, because color is one of the main elements of my collections, I use a lot of color and prints, and it is impossible to have prints using one color only. But if I had to give up prints for one season and create an entire collection with one color, I would go for black. Black is such a powerful yet feminine color, and I imagine that I would use a lot of sheers as well with the collection to create contrast.
Who’s the first person you show your sketches to?
My mother! She has been a great part of creating the brand and is always with me in every step and we have similar style, and so I always look for her opinion in every piece I create.
The fabric you love the most…silk, lace, velvet and why?
My favorite fabric in creating my collections, and it is a fabric that is present in all my collections, is a crepe back satin. I love the nature of this fabric, as it has a “canvas” feel which is perfect for my pieces given that they are based on paintings, and it is a bit heavy and stands really nicely which goes well with the silhouettes I create and it creates beautiful volume.
Do you have any trick to avoid that “blank page” moment when you’re at the beginning of the designing of a new collection? Do you watch a movie, flip an old magazine…
In moments like these I resort to art! My collections are inspired by art, so starting there is always a good idea. I also do my fair share of watching fashion shows, going through designer collections and through street style images, and that always sparks some inspiration and ideas.
If you weren’t a designer which job in the fashion world you would like to do and why?
I always imagine I would be a good fashion buyer! I love exploring new brands and I believe I have an eye for the stand out pieces in the collection, so I think it would be fun to have this role in the fashion world.