With a left brain pumping number-crunching muscle and a right brain embedded with the style gene, Maryam Afshari is something of an anomaly in the fashion world. When her five-year stint in accounting in Los Angeles couldn't satisfy her creative bent, she packed her Louis Vuitton bags and headed back to hometown Houston to open a high-style boutique.
Afshari's launch in June of Baanou in a charming, renovated house at the Shepherd Drive curve is not so far-fetched as it might first seem for the SMU grad with a masters degree in public accounting. Her family owns the men's shop A. Taghi and her cousin is Amir Taghi, the up-and-coming teenage designer who will show his creations this fall at New York fashion week.
"It feels right," she says settling into one of the antique French chairs in the main salon. "It feels like this is what I was meant to be doing."
"I grew up with a mom who was really fashionable. I love the way she would wear a Chanel suit or Celine dresses. "
Afshari has filled her racks with offerings from Honor, Roksanda Ilincic, Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent and other labels not easily found in the Houston marketplace. And, yes, Amir Taghi designs are prevalent.
Jewelry by Halleh, Eddie Borgo and Joy Kennedy and jeans by FRAME Denim are also part of still-growing collection of tony offerings. All are presented in the cozy yet elegant rooms of the delightfully-repurposed house.
Crystal chandeliers, heavy satin draping, antique chests and over-stuffed accent chairs add to the luxurious feel of the boutique. "I envisioned a home," Afshari said, "something I could fill with furniture and make it feel like a home." On this summer day, Afshari and her store manager Ann Nguyen, formerly e-commerce manager for Honor in New York, were settling in for lunch (brought in from Tiny Boxwood's) at a cozy table in one of the display areas.
A glamorous regular on the tony social scene, she also plans on entertaining in the space with intimate gatherings for clients and friends and perhaps a small charity event or two. The frothy frocks, serious gowns and separates set a sophisticated backdrop for any potential gathering.
"I grew up with a mom who was really fashionable. I love the way she would wear a Chanel suit or Celine dresses," Afshari said explaining her penchant for pieces with "timeless beauty. But I also like to give things a little edge. So I try to cover all across the board."
Afshari adds that her approach is to offer customers "a different experience, different designers and different styles."