Bonnie Tsui is a contributing writer to CityLab. She writes frequently for The New York Times and is the author of American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods.
Architect Azin Valy created street chic dresses, bags, and scarves that incorporate aerial views of cities around the world.
Can urban planning translate into street chic? The architect Azin Valy, co-founder of New York’s award-winning I-Beam Design firm, thinks so. She created a new fashion line from research she did for an exhibition on urban planning for the Museum of Modern Art; the far-ranging collection of dresses, bags, and scarves incorporate aerial views of cities around the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, Dhaka, Bangkok, Tokyo, and Tehran.
The George Washington Bridge becomes a strategically placed strap on the fiery-hued New York dress, while the desert palette of Tehran covers a handsome overnight bag. Some designs (the sinuous curve of the Seine on the map of Paris, the restrained night-sky elegance of the Europe cocktail dress) are more successful than others as actual clothing (the blotchy purples and blues of the Hong Kong rayon jersey design are unflattering on any figure).
But Valy also has higher aspirations for her work -- she wants the Cityzen by Azin collection to transcend fashion and geographical borders, and uses each city’s design to draw attention to and pair support with hand-picked nonprofit and relief organizations: Chicago’s Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, which provides high school scholarship assistance to economically disadvantaged students; Tokyo’s Architecture for Humanity, which is rebuilding tsunami-ravaged areas; Cairo’s Stabl Antar Dream, an education project in the Stabl Antar slum. Cityzen is currently highlighting the charities, with the goal of supporting the causes financially once the company grows.
Though Valy just launched the line earlier this year, she’s had some notable attention already in getting the message out. She presented the Chicago dress to Michelle Obama; Arianna Huffington is a fan of the Rome scarf; Iranian-American writer and commentator Hooman Majd carries the Tehran bag; and Grammy-winning musician Esperanza Spalding wears the New York and London designs in concert. Through the website, customers can suggest a city for the next design. Up next: more affordable pieces, and a clothing line for men and children.
All photos courtesy of Cityzen by Azin.