Interview by Chief Editor
July 2020 6 min read
Gulnara Khalilova is an accomplished and internationally recognized fashion designer who presently serves as the head of Gulnara Khalilova Fashion House and the Azerbaijan National Clothing Center. As a multidisciplinary, she is also a theater and film artist and has a Doctor of Philosophy in Art History. She serves as head of the Commission on Social Affairs of the Association for the Development of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Azerbaijan. As a spotlight feature in our Grand Masters interview series, Khalilova discusses her influence as a cultural ambassador through innovative fashion. We discuss her background and advice to women building sustainable businesses in the creative sector.
(VC) Outside all your accomplishments, many awards, and creative work in the fashion industry, who is Gulnara Khalilova?
(Gulnara) Gulnara Khalilova is a public figure and a person who loves to help the people around her. She cares for people, wants to contribute to society’s life, and finally, a mother and a designer who introduced the national values of her native Azerbaijan to the world.
(VC) Azerbaijan has its own fashion culture of flamboyance. Which other markets outside the country excite you and why?
(Gulnara) Each country has its fashion traditions and culture. Even though I work in every style, I always wanted to show the Azerbaijani fashion culture to the world. Nevertheless, I am the one who carries our ancient and past traditions to the present day, passes them on to future generations, and introduces them to the world. As a creative person, there are aspects of the clothing traditions of other nations that draw my attention. In general, I am open to any good innovation that is eye-catching.
(VC) You started the Gulnara Khalilova Fashion House back in 1999 and have since gone on to do many exhibitions. Did your company grow organically, or it evolved according to a business plan?
(Gulnara) We have been operating for many years. Our brand has developed organically following the requirements of different times. My team and I worked according to my thoughts and plan. It has been developed and implemented with unique business plans for some of our important projects.
(VC) Tell us about your research work on Azerbaijan National Dresses and its culture and the types of books that you authored.
(Gulnara) I pay a lot of attention to Azerbaijani national costumes in my work, and I love it. When each garment is made, I research it by referring to specific sources. Since many clothing examples have not survived to the present day, we make these clothes based on the works of genius artists who created miniatures in the past. My research is related to the costumes of Azerbaijani folk groups. The book I wrote on this topic is called “Clothing traditions of Azerbaijani music groups.” At the same time, a catalog of Azerbaijani national costumes was published. Currently, research is underway in this area.
(VC) Many organizations, like the media, shape society’s perceptions about awareness, what does self-awareness mean to you?
(Gulnara) I’ve loved observing since I was a child. I have seen many wrongs and rights things in life. Although I was still a kid at the time, I was able to give a fair assessment of what was happening. It is commendable that a person has these qualities from childhood. This shows that even at my age, I can analyze the events in time.
I took part in several international online fashion shows representing Azerbaijan for the first time. One of them was Aspara Fashion Week. I will represent Azerbaijan at the upcoming International Digital Fashion Week in the United States
(VC) How has the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affected your outlook on life-related to your work and international partnerships?
(Gulnara) It almost destroyed our entire work process. Many fashion show invitations are delayed or even postponed due to the pandemic, which is not pleasant for a designer who loves her job. Nevertheless, I took part in several international online fashion shows representing Azerbaijan for the first time. One of them was Aspara Fashion Week. I will represent Azerbaijan at the upcoming International Digital Fashion Week in the United States. The event will be broadcasted on FNL Network. Offers for online fashion shows are still available. But in my opinion, it is impossible to get the excitement of the live fashion show from the online one. But, I am considering participation in other online fashion shows I have been invited to. Let our world return to its former state as soon as possible. And let’s meet in live fashion shows, not online.
(VC) Some mention different historical times as a period they admire for affluence or culture. If you can time-warp to any era to collaborate with its culture, what time would it be?
(Gulnara) The past attracts me. I am interested in historical periods. Regardless of the time and region, the period of the kingdoms is more interesting to me. Again, my love for history motivates me to answer this question in this way. I am a person connected with my past. However, I would like to note that I live in a modern age and I try to get acquainted with each new movement and show all the positive features of my work.
It is very important to have special knowledge and work experience for your favorite job. Every business loves risk. I listen to my heart when I set up a business
(VC) Your success in the industry reflects your experiences. What can you tell young women about business risks?
(Gulnara) It is very difficult to build a business and start it from scratch. I always explain this to young women and urge them to be patient. Because sometimes there are people who want to achieve their dreams very quickly. This is beautiful. But professionalism is better. It is very important to have special knowledge and work experience for your favorite job. Every business loves risk. I listen to my heart when I set up a business. Listening to the voice of your heart, and still moving with the thoughts received as a result of its struggle with the brain, and this brings me success.
(VC) What makes you create the designs you do. Do you seek spirituality or get psychological like others in the creative industry for inspiration?
(Gulnara) I think there is no compulsion to get a good and successful job. A person’s spirit and spirituality must be ready for what he or she will do. The source of inspiration for creative people is endless. I am a very strong person by nature. I can cope with even the most difficult moments in the work process. Therefore, when I am looking for a new idea, I do not face any difficulties.
Photo by Jalal
(VC) Thanks for chatting with us. Is there anything else you would like to share with our international audience?
(Gulnara) I also thank you. Thank you for giving me space in such a large audience. I wish a recovery from the unpleasant Coronavirus pandemic for our world. Humans and life are beautiful. As long as we love and protect each other, I think everything will be fine. Since our topic is fashion and clothing, I would like to end with a sentence that belongs to me: “I wish all people to master the culture of high clothing.”