Meet Amaan Duffer, the Bella Hadid-approved 18-year-old designer talking the fashion world by storm with his city-centric brand.
When starting a brand, an unimaginable amount of time, effort, energy and resilience is required, something that even some of the most renowned names in fashion have struggled with. But, someone who has been pouring an incomparable amount of all of these things into his line, Basliq, is designer on the rise Amaan Duffer – who is only 18-years-old, we might add. While he may be young in age, however, the irresistible day-to-night cuts and stunning triangle motifs that pack out his sleek label look as if they have been years in the making; attributes that have the brand pegged as one to watch by the industry and one that is gaining him a rapidly expanding following. And, the latest fan of Basliq? With supermodel Bella Hadid showing off his quirky spiral ring, his celebrity-approved status becomes cemented, making him all the more impressive.
When speaking on the life-changing moment, Amaan Duffer explained, “So, I’ve always had a list on my phone, celebrities that by the time I’m 25 I want to have worked with. And at the top of that list has always been Bella Hadid. Not even just for her style, but as a person, because she’s someone I really admire – she has been my phone home screen for the last year and a half. I met her and her brother in the summer, and he really liked my rings, he took one and I asked him to pass one on to her. And then we were in the same restaurant and as she was leaving, she pulled me over and then I was just talking to her and then she wore them! She wore the rings! And she’s got some of the clothes as well, so I’m hoping that she’s gonna be wearing that soon as well.”
Nestled away in a quaint cafe just off of Portabello Road, the designer sat down with me to talk juggling A-levels and a fully-formed brand, having his designs worn by one of the most celebrated models of our generation and his newest collection. Head below to enjoy our interview with Amaan Duffer.
Hi, how are you?
So happy to be here, thank you for having me.
When did you start designing, how old were you?
I was fifteen. It was literally the month before I turned sixteen and the month before I started my GCSEs. I was planning on moving to London, and I was going to come to college here, try and get an internship, try and get a retail job, and try to get a foot into the industry as early as I could. And, I thought I needed to be doing something creative as well as working to try and build myself. When I got into year 12, I was starting to look at universities and I wanted to make sure I stood out because I wanted to get in. I wanted to be someone. And everyone who I’d looked up to, 9 out of 10 times they’d come from Central Saint Martins. But, I’d heard about how difficult their admissions were, which was why I decided to pursue the brand instead. I thought it was just going to be a small collection that I’d put in my portfolio that they might like, and if they didn’t, at least I know that I tried. And then I started doing more and more research, and then I saw a Twitter video about how detrimental the fashion industry’s impact actually is on the environment, which made me go in a completely different direction. I started researching sustainable fabrics and ethical production, aspects of my business plan that could limit overconsumption and overproduction. And then from there, I spent a couple of months working with different factories to get my hardware, which was the hardest thing, to get that done in a way that wasn’t against the brand’s core values. So, eventually, I found a factory that used recycled metals, which is what we use now; all of the hardware is recycled metals. And I found a factory in Turkey where I get my production done for the clothes, which is a really small factory. I went there the other month, and it was literally like being in a family. I know the names of everyone who makes my clothes. I’ve gotten so close with them; I took everyone out for a dinner, and it was so cute.
One of the things that have always struck me the most about you, and the reason why I think people find your stories interesting, is your age and the time you’ve managed to do this in. How has it felt to be juggling your A-levels with designing and having such a quick turnaround from being sixteen to having a fully formed brand at 18?
It’s been intense, very intense. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had to deal with imposter syndrome. In the summer, I had the most incredible opportunity. So, I’ve always had a list on my phone of celebrities that, by the time I’m 25, I want to have worked with. And at the top of that list has always been Bella Hadid. Not even just for her style, but as a person, because she’s someone I really admire – she has been my phone home screen for the last year and a half. I met her and her brother in the summer, and he really liked my rings, he took one and I asked him to pass one on to her. And then we were in the same restaurant, and as she was leaving, she pulled me over and then I was just talking to her and then she wore them! She wore the rings! She’s got some of the clothes as well, so I’m hoping that she’s going to be wearing that soon as well.
So let’s talk about that. First of all, how did it feel to see her wearing your ring and, second of all, how has the reception been? I’m sure your friends were going crazy!
My friends were going crazy. I’ve never had so many people text me! My phone was ringing off the hook. And I was driving back to Manchester that night, I’d just done a pop-up in London, and I was literally in the car and I just started crying. I fully started crying. There have been so many moments where I’m like, ‘I’m not good enough for this, I’m not gonna get anywhere, maybe I should just give up. Am I wasting my money? Am I wasting my time? Am I wasting my energy?’, but at that moment, I was very confident in myself. That was a moment that was really pivotal, from that point, my whole focus had changed. It was less about pushing what I already had and more about coming out with what people were responding to, which was the jewellery. So that night, I messaged my jewellery producer and was like, ‘we need to do this many colours, I wanna do these colours, I want to turn it into a bracelet, I want to do a necklace, I want do different ring styles’, and within the month, I had like 9 new samples that were ready to go. And some of them are going to be released on Black Friday. They’re the ones I’m really excited about.
So talk us through them.
So, they’re the original rings but in three new colours. Black, which everyone has been requesting. A purple which actually matches one of the dresses I’ve got coming out. And then a royal blue, which again matches one of the knits that are coming out. And then some of the samples that we got that month I released on my birthday as a sort of like an 18th birthday collection for me.
Before we get into the new collection, let’s talk about the brand itself. So first of all, can you explain the name of the brand to us?
So I was still thinking about the brand name when I’d started, so I was sixteen at the time and doing my GCSEs, and one of my subjects was classics. And I was sat there google translating a million different words that I wanted that sort of represented the brand, and the one that resonated the most with me was ‘thriving’. That’s how I want people to feel when they wear the clothes, that’s how I want to feel when I’m talking about the brand, it’s just the energy that I want it to give off. So I asked my classics teacher whar thriving was translated into Latin or Greek. We had a really long conversation about it, but the bottom line was that basliq is sort of a loose translation of it. And instantly it was like, that’s the one. And it’s just so easy, it rolled off the tongue, and it felt right. Like you know when something is right, you just know. And that’s what it was.
And for people who might not have seen the clothes, this would be their first time seeing it, how would you describe your brand’s aesthetic to them?
I would call it the foundations for a city wardrobe. It’s very on the go, easy, throw on and you can wear it to dinner, an event, lunch or out shopping. You would still stand out and, in my opinion, be the best-dressed person in the room.
And, obviously, you’re wearing your new collection right now, which is so exciting. Give people a little summary. How is it different from the first?
So, it’s a lot more refined from the first collection. There’s a function behind the pieces, everything is designed for a purpose which was the same in the first collection, but that was supposed to be the building blocks. And this has taken that to the next step. The first collection was very stripped down. This is elevated, 7-10 pieces that you’re going to die for. My favourite piece has to be the trench.
The trench, amazing! Have you been wearing it out? What have people been saying?
Oh my god, the number of times I’ve been stopped over that trench. I wore it here on Wednesday, and the number of people on the street like, ‘where’s your jacket from? Oh my god, I love your jacket!’.
How do you feel when people stop you?
Butterflies. Literal, instant butterflies. I get the biggest smile on my face. Like, I smile on the street and stuff, but generally, I’ve got a really bad resting bitch face.
I’ve never noticed that!
I don’t want to seem unapproachable, but in general, I just look mardy as fuck. Tired as fuck. But when that happens, instantly, my eyes light up, my face smiles and I just go on a roll.
I want to switch pace now. First of all, do you have any advice for other designers cause I’ve yet to come across anyone in the industry doing what you’re doing at your age! And also, what gives you that drive to do your A-levels and to be a designer on a level like this in the industry?
I’d say you can’t half-ass it. If you want to go for it, you have to be fully prepared and committed. You’re going to have to know from the get-go that it’s going to be fucking difficult, and people are going to turn you down. You’re going to get kicked down so many times before you get that one person that’s going to bring you up, hold your hand, give you a bit of guidance, and take a chance on you. And honestly, the best thing that you can do is be as vocal about yourself as possible and reach out to as many people as you can. Anyone that you want to network with, just send them a DM or an email because you don’t know whether or not they’re going to reply. And I think having a network can be your biggest tool. So, any opportunity that you have to get yourself out there, you have to take it. Also, you’re going to have to sacrifice your sleep, your social life and family time. What you’re prioritising, you have to stick to it because eventually, it’s gonna pay off.
Has there ever been a time where you’ve wanted to quit?
Oh, 100%. 100%. Since starting this, anxiety has been awful. Imposter syndrome has been especially difficult for me to deal with. So the day before my 18th birthday, I was having the biggest meltdown in my car with my friend and then she was like “you’re not even 18 yet and look at what you’ve accomplished.”
Did you get the ring on Bella before or after your 18th birthday?
When I was 17.
And you’ve said that Bella was your number 1 person, is there anyone else you’d want to dress?
Give me your top 3!
Let me check my list, I’ve got a really long list. Probably a bit of a reach for next, but probably Rihanna. Rihanna is just the one. For me, it is Ri or nobody.
And finally, what is next for you? I know this collection is dropping soon, is there anything else you’ve got going on?
Right now, I’m reaching out to a lot of retailers and hoping to get the brand into stores. That’s currently what I’m aiming for. And my Spring/Summer 2022 collection, I’m beyond excited for it. It’s very sexy in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. So, we’re revealing without revealing too much. We’re growing the hardware in places you wouldn’t expect it. There’s so much going on there that I’m so excited about. It’s such a playful collection. That’s something that I’m really excited for.