Meet Maneli Nourbakhsh, the Creative Director of Aiki District and the Fashion Director/Career Liaison at John Casablancas Institute.
At age three, before even really knowing what fashion was, Maneli was already fascinated with illustrating women in different outfits. She loved creating from a young age but found herself equally drawn to the academic field of law as she continued through school.
“I was caught in-between my two passions: fashion and law. During career week in high school, I interned at a fashion house called Christine Vancouver for a week as well as a law firm.”
Maneli was torn between the legal and fashion worlds. She went on to graduate with a degree in Sociology and Political Science from the University of British Columbia and had the opportunity to work with a local Political Party. Soon after writing the LSAT, Maneli decided to hold off on law school to go traveling.
“While I was traveling throughout Europe and the Middle East, I was inspired by all the art surrounding me and I knew fashion is the path to pursue.”
This choice sparked her passion for the creative, and Maneli found herself inspired to pursue a career in fashion. A few months after her trip, she returned to Vancouver and enrolled in fashion school. After receiving a diploma in Fashion Design, Maneli once again packed her bags and moved to London where she interned at MCQ then joined the print design team at Alexander McQueen.
“Maison Margiela, Alexander McQueen and Commes des Garcons are my biggest fashion influencers.”
Maneli co-founded Aiki District with Anahita Faghih in December 2016. As someone who enjoys traveling around the world, she often struggled to find clothes to pack in her luggage. Most of her favorite pieces did not travel well, becoming wrinkled or even damaged in a suitcase.
This sparked the idea to create a fashion label that focuses on clothing which is contemporary and ideal for packing. Aiki District has a full team of people who work together to create their versatile collections. The travel-wear line will also be launching menswear in the future.
“I always knew I wanted to start my own contemporary clothing line for women’s wear.”
“The most rewarding moments throughout my career were the launch party at Aiki District, which was really special, and earning the position of Fashion Director at JCI.”
Maneli keeps a busy schedule between running Aiki District and directing the Fashion Department at John Casablancas Institute. She enjoys working at JCI because of the positive, professional environment and good energy from the students and staff. Maneli has a lot of plans for her future at JCI and is excited to see the school grow, especially after the introduction of the Core Design Program in Fall 2016.
“I never thought I would get into the educational side of fashion but I love it. Definitely, take opportunities and put your all into it and see where you can go from there.”
Though it’s difficult to get time for yourself when you’re running your own business and working as a Fashion Director, on her days off Maneli can be seen restaurant hopping, catching the latest shows and trying to plan a weekend getaway.
Maneli has never stopped traveling and continues to use her trips for design inspiration. She has driven all around Europe and still goes back and forth between London and Vancouver. Of all the places Maneli has visited, the city Shiraz in Iran has been her favourite muse to date.
“Take any opportunity that comes your way because you never know what you will enjoy unless you give it a try.”
The word of advice Maneli would give to students striving to make it in the fashion industry is to start networking as much as possible. It is a key concept in the industry, so begin making connections while you’re a student or as soon as you graduate from your program, Maneli encourages students to take any opportunity that comes their way. You may not know what other jobs you enjoy unless you take the risk and give it a try!