Hook, line and leather: Calgary designer Aleem Arif captures the attention of Western Canada
Aleem Arif, 31, is the creative director behind Bano eeMee – an ethically manufactured leather goods brand that caters towards the professional, socially conscientious and adventurous woman.
Arif originally hails from the world of finance, where he worked in IT at the Bank of New York after attending the London School of Economics and Political Science. However, after taking time away from the office to travel the world, Arif was inspired to focus on his passion for fashion design.
Arif uprooted his entire life in 2010, crossing boarders and industries as he came to Calgary looking for a fresh start to do what he loves. After tenaciously networking his collections and brand over the past four years Arif is now expanding his company into boutiques in Ontario and Quebec as well as designing a new men's leather jacket line.
Arif says that his Fall/Winter 2014 line is a culmination of ideas since Bano eeMee began. His line is available at boutiques such as Something2Wear, ESPY Experience and Kismet Clothing. His jackets retail at $350-400.
"I'm going to build my company right," says Arif. "I want to sell people something above and beyond a leather garment that they are just going to wear — I want to sell them a concept."
Model: Alina Cox
Photos by Sarah Comber
Published November 12, 2014
Arif was born in Saudi Arabia and raised between Islamabad, Pakistan and New York. His father is an engineer who works in oil and gas and his mother stayed home to raise Arif and his two siblings while also pursuing a love of painting, fashion design and interior decorating.
These tunics would become Arif's passport into the world of Calgary Fashion. Not knowing anyone already in Calgary's industry, Arif approached retailers coldly in YYC's trendy shopping districts such as Kensington and 17 Avenue until, after what Arif says was about the tenth try, he sold his tunics to Eleven Eleven Boutique – which is now closed.
Lana Selbee, the then owner of Eleven Eleven Boutique, took Arif under her wing and helped him network within Calgary's fashion community. "I haven't seen a lot of people that are able to do anything as quickly as he has been able to do it," says Selbee. "I think it is because he has a very clear vision and he is just making it happen."
Arif says that he has always wanted to design for women because there is more room to be creative and try new things. He adds his mother and grandmother inspire his creative style.
"I have my doubts everyday," says Arif with a laugh, adding that he is still in touch with his old co-workers in Boston and has seen them buy property, get married and start families. "I could have done that, or I could be who I am right now. I get to be creative and I get to have fun with what I do, that is what my life is."
All of Arif's tunics sold except one, which to this day he still has hanging in his closet. The tunic is an amalgamation of red fabric and lace. "If I look at it now I think 'What was I doing?' Not that I think I have arrived — you are always growing and always improving — but I feel like I was so green at that time," says Arif.
(Left) - Arif's Fall/Winter 2014 collection was inspired by a trip to Paris and the lining of the jackets features images Arif has taken himself. This collection's images are of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Arc de Triomphe printed on the matte side of satin fabric.
(Center) - His Spring/Summer 2015 collection spotlights the recent sport-wear trend. The collection features lemon yellow, dove-grey, black and cognac. Arif incorporated mesh ribbing and hole-punched leather to create a lightweight, athletic aesthetic.
(Right) - Arif had his first fashion design experience after he stumbled upon some vibrantly coloured fabrics while travelling in Lahore, Pakistan. "I didn't think that I was designing per se," says Arif. "It was like, here's fabric and I am going to hire somebody to help me make some tunics."