Azin Valy, co-founder of New York City architecture and design firm I-Beam Design, knows cities. Through the years, I-Beam has worked on projects ranging from refugee shelters in Kosovo to parks in New York.
Valy’s love of urban landscapes expanded last year into another industry: fashion. The Cityzen by Azin line of dresses, bags, and scarves features brightly colored satellite images of cities around the world, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, Dhaka, Bangkok, Tokyo, Cairo, Tehran, and Baltimore.
The idea for CItyzen came about while Valy was doing research for an upcoming urban planning exhibition for the Museum of Modern Art. “We were looking at all these cities with high foreclosure rates … it gave me the idea for a fashion line that highlights various solutions,” she says. “I’d always been interested in topography and maps, and I had always been interested in fashion.”
All of Valy’s featured cities are places where she has some connection. Tehran, Valy’s native city, was one of the first she wanted to feature. Every new batch of city-inspired items will include one city from Iran and up to three from the U.S., she says.
The colors in each of the garments are inspired by the cities themselves. “In Tehran, it’s more or less the colors of the desert and colors of the mountains. London is lush and green, so we exaggerated the greens,” explains Valy. “With New York, I wanted it to have the sepia and golden colors of the ’30s and the ’40s–the old photos of New York that I love.”
There’s also a relationship between each garment’s design and city landscapes. In the Paris dress, the Seine curves around the body to the backside and comes through to the front, with the neckline cut out around the river. In the Bangkok dress, the Chao Phraya river becomes the slit for the skirt, curves around the body, and eventually becomes a strap that goes over one shoulder.
Each item is accompanied by a hang tag that includes a map of the city and suggested places to visit. “We highlight things that have to do with your senses and beyond. We encourage someone to smell something about that city that they would remember it by, to eat at a certain restaurant, or have a drink there,” says Valy.
Valy’s designs aren’t cheap: Expect to pay upwards of $800 for each dress and $250 for a scarf. Ultimately, Valy says, she hopes people wear her pieces “to create a dialogue.”