Fashion / Style File

A Houston Pioneer in London

Local Kid Wonder Becomes the First Texan to Attend the Most Prestigious Fashion School in the World

BY // 12.04.15
photography Max Burkhalter

You’ve probably heard of Amir Taghi —Houston’s fashion wunderkind who created his own successful brand at the age of 15, interned for Oscar de la Renta at 17, showed at New York Fashion Week at 18 and has been written up in German Vogue and on fashionista.com. All while attending Episcopal High School.

But despite the flurry of fanfare, he has taken a step away from both the hot lights and his label to return to school. Not just any school … Taghi moved to London this summer to attend the most prestigious fashion school in the world: Central Saint Martins, where Alexander McQueen, Riccardo Tisci and John Galliano studied. Taghi is the first Texan to attend the fashion design program at Central Saint Martins and is one of only five Americans currently in residence.

Taghi’s parents, Iraj and Fariba Taghi, weren’t especially surprised by his career — or his success. After all, the Taghi name is linked to fashion — two generations of Taghis have owned the haberdashery A. Taghi, which was founded by his grandfather, Ahmad Taghi, and his cousin Maryam Afshari owns the boutique Baanou in River Oaks District.

Taghi spent more than a year creating a portfolio that was Central Saint Martins-worthy.

“It was all about creating, deconstructing, reconstructing and starting the whole process again,” he says. “They wanted to see as many pieces as possible. CSM is known for being an idea factory, even if the idea is not actually applicable, so at the interview they wanted to see if I had the ability to create such ideas.”

Taghi moved into the student halls in Finsbury Park this summer. On a typical day, he leaves his rooms by 9:30 am to attend classes in Kings Cross and spends most other waking hours at Equinox in High Kensington or traversing the London Underground to explore the city. While his closest friends are American, he has met students from Korea, Peru and South Africa, each with different talents and strengths.

“We feed off of each other’s energy and work,” he says. “It’s absolutely amazing to think that I’m studying alongside the next Phoebe Philo.” He has also spotted Antonio Banderas around campus, who is studying menswear at CSM.

Taghi explains that CSM is different from American universities; students attend the same class daily but change products every week. On Monday, the new project is assigned and due promptly on Thursday afternoon. One example: Reinterpret a white button-down shirt inspired by the use of petroleum. For another project, he was asked to create a textile inspired by a picnic in Hyde Park.

“We are always forced to think of new ways of creating without having restrictions,” he says.

Over the course of the week, the students push their creativity as they cut, drape, photograph, sketch and create collages. This work is documented in each student’s sketchbook, which the tutors carefully review. The sketchbook, Taghi says, reveals to the tutors “the pathway to the way we think.”

Taghi has selected a fashion and textile foundation, which is the basis of the fashion courses of knitwear, menswear, womenswear and textiles. He hopes to continue on to womenswear next year as the courses become more specialized. In addition to the base class, on Fridays, students attend workshops that explore topics such as painting.

Amir in his Houston studio

As one would expect from a top-notch university, the tutors don’t just teach; they also work in the field of fashion as stylists, illustrators and designers — illustrator John Booth, stylist Patricia Williams and designer Chris Kelly are currently teaching. Tutors rotate each week so that students experience new techniques of creating. Taghi was especially delighted to work with fashion illustrator Petra Börner, whose client list includes Louis Vuitton, Jonathan Adler Interiors and Vanessa Bruno.

The teaching method resonates with Taghi, who feels he has been prompted to deeply explore the methodology of creating fashion.

While Fall/Winter 2015/2016 will be Taghi’s last full collection under his label for some time, he continues to work on custom commissions while he attends school. After graduating CSM, scheduled for 2019, he plans to work under an established designer for a few years to continue learning the operational side of the business, and hopes to reopen his brand in New York or London.

When we asked Taghi the obvious question — why attend school with so many successes — he responded, “Even though these are all great accomplishments, I believe that a person can never stop learning. I can’t wait to see what I’m designing after I finish school.”

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