Bergdorf Goodman was my launching pad in the world of men’s accessories, with cufflinks and belts designs prominently displayed in that famed rotunda at the flagship store’s 58th street entrance.
A few weeks prior to September 11th, I had received a call from my Bergdorf contact, telling me that a certain Bruce Boyer was browsing through the store and fell in love with my jewelry. In pursuit of content for the Dress Code section of Departures Magazine, Bruce wanted to feature ZADEH. Would I be willing to meet with him, they asked.
We met on September 11 at 8:30am, before opening, to allow for an intimate discussion while perusing through and shedding light on each of the designs.
Bruce, not surprisingly, turned out to be the ultimate taste maker and a well-respected voice in the men’s fashion industry, a delight to be around. As I was explaining my vision and creative process, I began noticing how fidgety the sales staff were. They seemed impatient and annoyed, throwing charged glances this way and that. I shrugged off their dismissive attitudes and we continued on to the belt department.
When we finished, I said my goodbyes to Bruce and the Bergdorf staff with a smile on my face, and left the store. When my feet hit the pavement I immediately sensed that something was amiss.
People were wandering en masse up Fifth and Madison Avenues. Streets normally electric with the purposeful comings and goings of busy New Yorkers were eerily quiet. I made my way home, confused by my surroundings but still on a high from my meeting. My mind was buzzed with the balmy glow of hope and optimism; I felt like the tides were turning...
It was my doorman who shared the news. The twin towers had been hit. Our world was crumbling. My thoughts immediately went to my girls - they were in school, at Lycée Francais and Horace Mann in Riverdale. I rushed to pick them up, along with a few of their friends whose parents couldn’t get there. Upon returning to the city we found it barricaded, no one was allowed in or out. A friend in Scarsdale took us in and we spent the night on the floor, huddled together, ripe with fear and uncertainty.
I will never forget that day. It was an unreal juxtaposition of emotions. That morning, a much-admired contemporary had taken time out of his day for me and my designs. He had placed value in my designs which are intrinsically tied to who I am, a defining moment in my career. Yet I just could not stop the anger in my heart, asking myself "Why?" over and over again.
In the grand scheme, my story of September 11, 2001 is obviously not noteworthy. Everyone has a vivid recollection of where they were on that day forever etched in their minds. But as a designer whose future was inexorably altered that day - by Bruce, and by madmen on a plane - I feel it’s a story to be shared.
I received a call one month later from Bruce Boyer, confirming that Departures loved the story. The three page article came out in May of 2002. It was an amazing feeling, yet each time I read it I was reminded of the anger and sorrow I felt that day.
I designed the Malo bracelet in response to the events of September 11th. The bracelet is a simple cuff inscribed with one of my core values,“Live and Let Live.” This simple bracelet with a significant message was also a catalyst for my Live and Let live philanthropic endeavors.
The meaning of this phrase was once a promise to be tolerant of others no matter their creed, religion, sexual preference or lifestyle. It represented the idea that we all should be able to live our lives in the manner we choose, regardless of what anyone else may think and be free to enjoy all the pleasures, rights and opportunities life offers. However, in the wake of so much tragedy in recent years, it has taken on a much more basic meaning. Even as we struggle to cope with the horrific and senseless acts of violence that plague our society, it is more important than ever that we continue to spread messages of hope, tolerance and basic humanity. Since then, the Live and Let Live Collection has opened collaborative partnerships with various charity organizations dear to my heart. In that spirit, the inscription, traditionally interpreted as a call for tolerance, has come to suggest a new awareness toward not only recognizing the blessings in our own lives, but passing those blessings on to others.