Walk outside wearing a design by Ammara Yaqub, and prepare to answer the question “Who made your shirt?” a minimum of 12 times throughout the day. The NYC-based designer launched her eponymous brand as a ready-to-wear collection of dresses and separates in 2015 and later shifted her focus solely on shirting. Yaqub’s tops range from classic, structured button-downs to modern styles marked by billowy sleeves, asymmetrical silhouettes, and fun touches in the way of ruffles and bows. Her collection alone was enough to draw us to her Upper East Side apartment, but when we learned that her wardrobe hangs in a purple lacquer closet, filled with pieces she acquired while working for Louis Vuitton and Saks, we expedited our visit.
There, we chatted about how the Lahore, Pakistan, native made her way from Smith College to Harvard Business School to helming a womenswear brand, veering away from the finance career she’d started after undergrad.
“My second year [at Harvard,] I did this project with Neiman Marcus,” she tells us from her sleek, airy kitchen. “At that point, online shopping was very new, and they hired a team from Harvard Business School to assess the impact of their online store on their physical stores. We went to Dallas and presented to Burt Tansky, who was then the CEO, and at some point, I realized I wasn’t going to go back into finance; I wanted to go into fashion. I think that I was the only person out of the 990 people who graduated without a job.”
Things eventually fell into place, though. Yaqub landed a job at Zac Posen before decamping for the LVMH role, and after some time at Saks, she’d gained enough business and fashion acumen to start her label. Today, she oversees a small team, producing all Ammara pieces in NYC. “I design everything,” she says. “I’m able to experiment and make what I feel like making. I don’t have to answer to anybody, and if it doesn’t work, it’s on me; it’s not on anybody else.”
From our vantage point, it’s definitely working.
Click through for more on Yaqub’s career and the wardrobe that complements her busy life.