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Photography Kapfhammer, Styling Tré Koch

Unearthing the precious archive of a Vivienne Westwood obsessive

After working with Westwood throughout the 90s, Asiya Durrani amassed a treasure trove of rare pieces, brought together for the first time in an exclusive shoot from Diet Paratha

TextElliot HostePhotographyKapfhammer

The year is 1988, and Asiya Durrani is beginning her undergraduate degree at Greenwich University. “My family would never allow me to study fashion,” she says, quite matter of factly. Instead, the “acceptable” choice was business – but the ever resourceful student was still intent on exploring her passions, whichever form that may take. “When I did my dissertation, I did it on fashion advertising, because advertising was sexy in those days,” she explains. “We had no email then, so I wrote a handwritten letter to Vivienne Westwood saying ‘please can I interview you for my dissertation?’” Soon after, the designer mailed back a response. “Yes, you can. Come and meet me at our cottage.”

When Durrani arrived at the Westwood offices for her interview, she was surprised to find a homespun operation. “It was literally a cottage in Battersea,” she remembers. Downstairs, a handful of designers populated the ground floor, cutting and sewing at the kitchen table. In one upstairs bedroom was Westwood, her partner Andreas Kronthaler and managing director Carlo D’Amario. A second bedroom was taken up by the accounts and invoicing department. In the following interview, Westwood revealed to Durrani that the reason they didn’t advertise at the time was solely financial. “It wasn’t a strategy,” says Durrani, “it was actually because there was no real finances.”

“I got a voicemail message from Vivienne saying ‘would you like to come help us with this season’s show?’” – Asiya Durrani

Durrani graduated and put fashion out of her mind, instead going to work in the city at Lloyds bank (“Like everybody did in those days, I cut my hair real short and bought a red suit”). But nine months into the job, the aspiring fashionista would receive a call that would change it all. “I got a voicemail message from Vivienne saying ‘would you like to come help us with this season’s show?’ It was then that Durrani decided to give up her comfortable office job to follow her dreams. And though it was just meant to be a one off for that season’s show, Durrani put her business degree to use by taking on the financial tasks no one at Westwood particularly enjoyed, in the process securing lucrative licensing deals with department stores like Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman. “I learned how to bring in money,” she explains, and as a result was promoted to head of advertising and licensing by the mid 90s.

It was during her time working closely with Westwood that Durrani amassed an archive of rare pieces, bought and gifted to her from 1992 onwards. Pieces from iconic collections like AW93’s Anglomania, SS94’s Cafe Society and AW95’s Vive la Cocotte are all included in Durrani’s unique collection, one that totals over 130 pieces from 90s era Westwood. “My favourite is always the bum cage from the [SS95] Erotic Zones collection,” says Durrani of her standout piece. “It was made by Andreas’ father, who’s a welder. There was a few of them made in the world, and I have one.”

Though Durrani’s collection is one-of-a-kind for a personal archive, she hadn’t always considered it such. “I hadn’t really thought of it as an archive before,” she continues – that was until she was introduced to Anita Chhiba, founder of the creative agency Diet Paratha. It was Chhiba’s idea to document the archive in a brand new shoot, inspired by Vivienne Westwood’s SS98 Tied To The Mast campaign, which Durrani herself worked on. The original pirate-inspired shoot, shot in a swimming pool in Battersea, was one of the advertising campaigns that the company was able to finance thanks to Durani’s canny business skills, so this shoot with Diet Paratha is a full circle moment for the former Westwood marketing and her collection.

The 2024 shoot also afforded Durrani the chance to reminisce about her time at Westwood. One of the Kapfhammer images sees a model tied up in a boat, her hands bound together in a plunging white gown. “This is an alpaca dress, which I never wore, because… I don’t know why! I think because you had to wear the whole thing, it was quite difficult to wear out.” Elsewhere, a shredded pinstripe shirt from the AW96 Storm in a teacup collection is paired with baby doll makeup, while another model in a dramatic black satin dress sports Westwood’s famous ‘prostitute’ stilettos (“the names that she would give these pieces!” recalls Durrani). And as well as reminiscing about the clothes, the shoot also marked a reunion for Durrani and some of her old Westwood colleagues, who turned up for moral support at the shoot. “They’re like family now,” she says. “We’ve all been family for such a long time.”

As creatives of the same background, the shoot also marked a moment to champion the south Asian community’s contribution to fashion. Of the creatives working on the shoot, Durrani is of Kashmiri Afghan descent, while creative director Chhiba is Indian, and stylist Tré Koch is of Sri Lankan origin. “We really just wanted to pay homage to Asiya’s collection, which was so incredible,” says Chhiba, “and also the story is just so fascinating. With Diet Paratha, we love unearthing all these really amazing stories. It’s just so exciting to understand the people that laid the foundations for us to be able to do what we’re doing now in fashion.”

Hair AYA KURAOKA, make-up TILDA MACE, models MIMIKO at FOUND, NASSIA at SUPREME, TEHYA at PREMIER, AMELIA and SIUHEI at NEVS, ASHA and KHADIM at CHAPTER, EFFY, ILLY and MASHUD at MAJIN, DEE, EMMAN, creative director ANITA CHHIBA, set design LOUIS GIBSON, movement directors JONNY VIECO, AKTI-MAGDALINI KONSTANTINOU, photographic assistants HRISTO HRISTOV, EMILY WHITE, digital operator TONY IVANOV, styling assistants HARPER CELESTE, AASIYA KARA, hair assistants ERIKA KIMURA, YUHO KAMO, make-up assistant NAOMI FIELD, set design assistant ALICE FERRANTE, production NICOLAS RIVET, post-production LUCA MASTROIANNI, studio MONOLITH STUDIO

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