Rebel With A Cause

Avant-garde and unique, the fashion of Dorian Who — the Reader’s Choice winner of Living Luxe’s first-ever cover contest — mixes the grit with the glamour.

From her studio in the west end of Toronto, fashion designer Dorian Rahimzadeh, who goes by Dorian Who, recalls the long road she travelled to get here. Born in Tehran, the designer, in her early 30s, always loved fashion, but in Iran, she couldn’t access or wear the clothes she adored. Her mother had a keen eye for style, sewing Dorian the most gorgeous dresses. Her father (who had a Persian rug store) would bring home fashion magazines from his trips to Berlin. Dorian pored over the pages, solidifying her love of the craft, and of Karl Lagerfeld, in particular.

For years, she longed to live in Canada, where she knew she could be free as a female fashion designer. It took a decade to get a Visa to move here. “I wanted to work as a designer to express myself.

I always had a different style back home and it was not very acceptable,” she says. At 22, she moved to Turkey to study fashion design at LaSalle college, a sister location of the Montreal-based school. She was one step closer to the life she wanted. When Dorian finally moved here in 2015, however, she felt a jolt of culture shock. “I was really uncomfortable and didn’t like it. The weather was really cold for me. I was also very disappointed in terms of fashion,” she says.

Lucky for Toronto, Dorian stayed on and invested all of
her time, money and energy into building her brand, working hands on for 12 to 13 hours a day. In 2018, she launched her first collection. Her sophomore entrée into the fashion world came at the start of the pandemic, which might have made it difficult to reach people, but her keen sense of personal style mixed with the flexibility of her pieces really resonated.

Dorian’s latest collection, Resilience, which launched in February, exemplifies her own headstrong nature and avant-garde style. She found inspiration from the sadness she felt following

the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in 2020. As a result, she mixed black into her pieces for the first time. The result is electrifying — a bold and bright collection with the grittiness of street fashion and the glam of haute couture. “That tragedy broke our hearts. I was in the beginning of launching a new collection and I was angry and sad

and couldn’t see anything beautiful. I was crying all day and wearing black. That wasn’t me. I am a very colourful person. I mixed black with really rich, Iranian colours and patterns,” she says. “There are so many prints and colours in our culture — the rugs, foods, everything, it’s all part of me.” The collection melds comfort streetwear with elegant detailing and luxurious fabrics; velvet and organza playfully intersect with hoodies and bike shorts.

Her pieces are all slow-made in Canada with sustainability and ethical practices at the forefront of her process. Every collection is seasonless with pieces that can be mixed in through- out the year. Dorian’s gender-neutral silhouettes challenge the status quo of the fashion industry. “I personally have always worn men’s clothes, blazers from my dad’s closet. I love skirts on men. Our traditional clothes were feminine, the details and silhouettes in men’s clothes, if we look at our history, we used to have that a lot,” she says. “I wanted to bring that back, especially after moving to Toronto and getting to know the LGBTQ+ culture, which I didn’t see in Iran.”

For her Resilience collection, Dorian collaborated with milliner David Dunkley and Samar Hejazi, a Canadian Palestinian embroidery artist. The collection notably features several intricate headpieces. “I always wanted to have some sort of accessory on my head. I grew up with the scarf and didn’t like to wear it. Then, I started to collect vintage headpieces and hats,” says Dorian. “I wanted to create the most comfort- able headbands, and we figured out something that works for everyone’s head.”

Currently, Dorian is focusing on expanding her collections, looking for a business partner and always creating more fashions. “The brand is inspired by my personal style. I see what look I want to have then I go backwards,” says Dorian, who doesn’t like to pigeonhole her customers. “I always think that my work could be for anyone.”