Grad Joins the Voices of Black Women in Luxury Fashion in the Launch of Her Brand Azana Serene
Immediately after Azana Williams graduated from FIDM in December 2018, she got to work on building a luxury women's wear fashion brand, and launched Azana Serene last year. "My design work has always been driven by special moments and imbuing confidence in trailblazing women that inspire me to create these designs," said Williams who is a graduate of Fashion Design, International Manufacturing & Product Development, and Bachelor's in Business Management. Williams' latest daywear collection was produced in Saudi Arabia. "Fashion has been a nonexistent industry that is now part of Saudi’s 2030 Vision. I made a choice to partner with other women of color at OTKUTYR Fashion House and take part in this cultural movement to help extend the voices of women in the region to the world of fashion...I’m thankful to be walking in my purpose and join in the voices of Black women in luxury fashion." We caught up with the talented designer to learn more.
Tell us a little about yourself: Hi! My name is Azana Williams, I’m the founder of Azana Serene, a luxury women’s wear brand based here in Los Angeles. As intimidating as it can be, going into business for myself to be a voice in luxury fashion has been a dream. FIDM gave me some of the tools to do so. I got started building this brand right on the heels of graduating. It took me some time to figure out what would make Azana Serene as unique and special to others as it is to me. However, the more open I am to new opportunities and new people, the more I’ve been able to improve my craft and envision what Azana Serene will come to be for others. For me, Azana Serene was always about feeling your best and accomplishing goals. I wanted the brand to speak to diverse and successful women who should be celebrated. My design work has always been driven by special moments and imbuing confidence in trailblazing women that inspire me to create these designs. The phrase ‘Serene is for you—You make it special’ has quickly become my new mantra. I look forward to finding new ways to celebrate women and make an impact in fashion.
Tell us more about Azana Serene: At Azana Serene, our mission is to accentuate the beauty of diversely powerful women with luxury garments that speak to a moment in their story. I established the brand just last year in 2019 with a goal of preserving elegance in fashion and one day becoming a leader in the interpretation of fashion. Azana Serene is a brand very close to my heart that at its root, was a way of expressing confidence and passing that along in the form of luxury items.
Describe your current collection: Our latest collection is actually our first ever daywear collection: IN SERENE by Azana Serene. It is a collection of leisure and luxury that came to life in an unexpected way. The styles in this collection were inspired by a longing for outdoors and an appreciation for life’s lulls. It is a true salute to what it means to make moments special, as we’ve all learned to do. IN SERENE is about rising and reforming. One of the more distinctive approaches the brand has taken to date, is producing the collection in Saudi Arabia. Fashion has been a nonexistent industry that is now part of Saudi’s 2030 Vision. I made a choice to partner with other women of color at OTKUTYR Fashion House and take part in this cultural movement to help extend the voices of women in the region to the world of fashion. Together we worked to execute my vision for a beautiful daywear collection now available online at azanaserene.com and in the OTKUTYR fashion house in Jeddah!
Where do you find inspiration? I find a lot of inspiration by drawing on classic style from the past. I’m a huge fan of movies, especially period pieces and sci-fi. Oftentimes these stories spark an idea or help define the persona of my collections. Other times, my designs may be inspired by a woman who’s been a role modeI for myself or others. Wherever the inspiration comes from, I take these ideas and tell a story that would resonate with women of today.
Why did you choose FIDM? I knew that design was something I was seriously interested in for a while, but had no idea how designers got their start. Not everyone took the idea of a fashion school very seriously, but FIDM piqued my interest, so I took a tour my junior year. As I was figuring it out, another FIDM alumni unknowingly inspired my choice to attend FIDM with her amazing career. It was Monique Lhuillier. During one of my initial visits, her Bride Barbie was on display in a beautiful barbie-sized dress. Something about it made me sure that I was in the right place to get started. It showed me the possibility for growth I could have with FIDM. So of course, I applied, and here we are!
How do you feel FIDM prepared you for what you are doing now? I think FIDM exposed me to a lot of the steps involved in telling a well-rounded story through fashion. From the outside you see all the fun and glamour—that’s what draws you in. But the process was much more than that. I was able to gain a lot of raw skills on both the creative and business side of the industry which gave me the confidence to jump into business for myself. Of course, I didn’t have all the answers, but I left with enough real world experience and basic tools that I was ready to bet on myself.
Looking back, which classes at FIDM were most valuable to you? That’s a great question! All my draping classes were definitely my favorite. They were my happy place as a creative. I think the most valuable classes were the courses taken during International Manufacturing & Product Development (IMPD) because the courses touched on each phase of design and a bit of marketing. Through these courses I learned my strengths and how to improve on the weaknesses.
Any advice for current FIDM Students? My advice would be to take in as much knowledge as you can while it’s available and build connections. You really never know how you may be able to work with others down the line and building strong connections makes a difference. I look to a few designers that I studied with now for knowledge and the simple inspiration to keep going! As we all know, there’s strength in numbers, so don't be afraid to ask your questions and learn from what others are doing. I also think it is important that you don’t rush your ideas, but instead be diligent and deliberate with the steps you take. Of course, sometimes things will go wrong, but the more opportunities you have to learn, the more prepared you are for when something goes right!
What is your biggest goal right now? My biggest goal right now is to grow as a businesswoman and diversify my sales channels. As of lately, Azana Serene is exploring new connections and ways to bring the vision to more women in different areas. The recent daywear collection has made that even more possible.
Anything else you’d like to share? Thank you for letting me share a bit of my story! This industry is not for the faint of heart, but when you keep going, doors keep opening, so I’m here to stay! I’m thankful to be walking in my purpose and join in the voices of Black women in luxury fashion. I’m excited to see what new avenues Azana Serene will explore next and I’m grateful to have FIDM’s support.
Learn more at azanaserene.com and follow on Instagram @azanaserene.