A conversation with London-based artist, mother & entrepreneur Farrah Azam...
Tell us a bit about yourself
First and foremost, I’m a mother to two beautiful sons, Zayd and Zakariya, my pride and joy! I graduated in Psychology and Criminology from the University of Westminster, but having my children young made it somewhat challenging to pursue a career in my field at the time. Being a stay at home mum and having some time on my hands, I was able to tap into other areas I had always enjoyed such as painting and creativity. In 2011, my passion turned into a business - and the rest is history as they say!
How did you first get into henna?
I’ve always loved traditional henna; the way the designs are always so elaborate yet intricate! Being of Pakistani origin, I’ve grown up with henna being a central part of our festivities.
''I wanted to take the traditions of henna and infuse it with contemporary patterns to form my own “East meets West'' signature style. As opposed to painting these designs on the hands and body, as they’re traditionally done, I wanted to preserve them on various surfaces, such as canvases, candles, musical instruments and so much more, so they could be kept and treasured forever. My work has since evolved and you will find a fusion of various art forms incorporated into my work today such as botanical illustrations and watercolour.''
What’s the hardest thing about working as an entrepreneur in a creative industry?
For me, personally, it's a lack of time. Being a single mum means I’m juggling a fair bit and, consequently, my ideas don’t materialise as soon as I’d like them to be. The process of painting a commission is just a small part of the many things that goes behind running a successful business. Managing social media, answering e-mails and brainstorming ideas for a piece are all equally as time consuming as the execution and finalisation of a product.
Tell us about your amazing collaboration with Giorgio Armani!
Ahh, working with Giorgio Armani was a dream! I was casually sitting in my pyjamas one day, doing my motherly duties, when I received a call from their Head Office asking me if I’d be interested to collaborate on an awesome concept for Harrods. They said they’d stumbled across my website and had fallen in love with all of my work. Honestly, I thought I was being pranked! After doing this fabulous collab, it opened the doors for me to work with other renowned brands, which I am ever grateful for, alhamdulillah.
What’s a great habit you’ve picked up over the years that’s really helped you in your profession?
The greatest habit of all time, which has helped me not only in my profession, but life generally, is practicing gratitude.
''There is so much to be thankful for in life. I have a gratitude journal and list at least 10 things every morning that I am grateful for. It gives me perspective and keeps me grounded. Allah also tells us “If you are grateful I will give you more” and this has proven to be true time and time again, alhamdulillah.''
What do you think is the biggest reason people fail or give up in pursuing their passion?
I think the biggest reason that people fail or give up in their passions is because they don’t have the right support around them and they lack confidence in themselves. When you begin a new venture, many people will try to put you off or tell you that your idea isn’t viable. It happened to me by my nearest and dearest, but I had a dream and I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me. It’s so important to have determination and a vision to work hard and succeed. There’s no getting away from hard work!
What do you wish you had known when you started out?
When I started out, I wish I’d known how to ask for help or support. I was always so shy and reluctant to ask even those close to me. Over the years, I’ve learnt to ask myself: “what’s the worst that can happen?” They’ll say no? That’s fine too, but if you don’t find the courage to ask, you will never know! I’ve now found that people are usually very happy to help and support and I, too, extend my support wherever I can.
Let’s talk fashion..
What does modesty mean to you?
Of course, the physical aspects of modesty can’t be denied or trivialised. It’s a huge part of our faith. To me, modesty also includes the way in which you conduct yourself. The way in which you speak, your behaviour and the way you treat people.
Where can people find you online?
You can find my work on www.farrahazam.com and my Instagram is @farrah.azam