By Susanna Huth
Hushidar Mortezaie – better known as ‘Hushi’ – is an Iranian designer and artist who works in collage, painting, illustration, installation art and fashion. Born in Tehran in 1972, Hushi emigrated to the U.S. in 1975, where he currently resides. He launched his fashion career in New York in the 1990s with fashion designer Michael Sears. Together, they set up the boutique ‘Sears and Robot.’
Hushi’s work has been featured in W Magazine, Italian Vogue, ID, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, and worn by actors Brad Pitt and Sarah Jessica Parker and singers Beyoncé, Madonna and Brittany Spears. His work is heavily rooted in Iranian culture and seeks both to critique and to celebrate Middle Eastern identity. Hushi’s experiences as an immigrant working in fashion and the arts infuse his work, as does the closeness to his culture that he maintains thanks to his family. His deep love for his heritage and his hopes for an Iranian renaissance continually inspire his work and life.
Kayhan London recently spoke to Hushi about his life and career.
You seem to have such a diverse range of techniques. Would you call yourself more of a fashion designer or more of an artist?
HM: I have definitely gone more into the art world. I want to show people that my work is not just clothing or a painting, but art. I have been doing a lot more art shows recently, and had my work shown in different galleries. There’s also Art Basel coming up. So [art] is definitely something I am going more into.
You were born in Tehran and moved to the U.S. in 1975. How has your status as an immigrant inspired and influenced your work?
HM: When you are born somewhere and you are taken to another country, you get confused. You don’t really know where you belong, so you end up creating your own world, and that’s what I did. I created a world of what mine could have been.
I was influenced by Iranian women and their strength and beauty, and grew up on 1980s television, so I was inspired by pop culture and old Iranian illustrations. Growing up here in the U.S. and being an immigrant made me want to show people that we are more than stereotypes. I wanted to portray that through my work.
For those who have not seen your work, how would you describe it and your aesthetic?
HM: That’s a hard one! I have to say that it varies from day to day. It can be very romantic, nostalgic, [or] very militant, pop culture and dreamy.
Your work has been featured in fashion magazines such as Vogue, and worn by celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna and Brad Pitt. Would you say this is the type of market you want to reach, or would you prefer your fashion to be more universal?
HM: Definitely more universal. When you are young and starry-eyed, you hope for celebrities, but this is definitely not what I am about. I never went to look for the celebrities. It just happened through their stylists. I definitely want my work to be for those who feel happy to have it and for those who really want it.
You have also said numerous times that you hope to inspire the younger Iranian generations to explore their Middle Eastern identity. How will you do this?
HM: I’ve had so many requests online for my stuff – so definitely by making my work more available to young people over in Iran. I have communicated with a lot of young aspiring designers over social media and given them advice. I have also done programs in camps teaching art. I want to give young people a new way of looking at our culture.
Post-9/11, your work led calligraphy to be used more in clothing, allowing those who wanted to hide their identity to feel pride. Do you feel that this kind of encouragement is needed again, especially with the rise of hatred in the U.S. post-election?
HM: Yes, I absolutely do. It’s very important, and every single one of us needs to do something to make our voices heard. I don’t want to fight hatred with hatred, and so I want to use my creativity. This country is supposed to be about diversity, so it is important to show people something about our country without showing an angry side.
Is there anything you have coming up in the next couple years that we can look out for?
HM: Yes! I’m going to have two online stores opening soon, and I have some group shows with other artist coming up as well.