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South Asian designer Sana Khan-patel’s new “Our Time” line celebrates the duality of her culture


After centuries of lack of representation and recognition, South Asian identities are finally at the forefront of popular culture. South Asian influence has seeped into every aspect of American society, creating a generation of brown people who grow up seeing that their experiences are worth integrating. For Pakistani-Indian-American fashion designer Sana Khan-Patel, this indicates that it is “our time”.

South Asian fashion has always quietly influenced popular style trends in the United States. Whether it’s the pajama pants you wear to bed or the paisley pattern that adorns your tote bag, touches of Desi impact can be found everywhere you look. Khan-Patel’s brand, Aara By Sana, embodies the presence of South Asian influence and proudly boasts of it. This is particularly the case with his latest collection, Our Time.

Our Time embraces the duality that exists for South Asian Americans in a way that evokes a sense of unabashed rebellion. Sheer chiffons and silks juxtaposed with leathers and studs set the collection apart. Likewise, the stark contrast of blacks and whites plays on the theme of the marriage of two different worlds. A sense of empowerment comes from wearing the pieces, and it says, “I’m strong and proud of who I am.”

Indeed, this empowerment is at the heart of Our Time. “Empowerment is in my blood,” said Khan-Patel teen vogue. “I was brought up like this…long before it was fashionable.

Sustainability is also at the heart of every design offered by Khan-Patel. “They’re heirlooms,” she says of her pieces in Our Time. “I wanted products that you could pass on to your daughter and her daughter down the road.” This desire was a driving force for Khan-Patel to enter the world of luxury fashion. Putting a significant amount of work into each piece, she wanted to create quality garments that customers would cherish forever.

Khan-Patel also believes her designs, while inspired by her experiences as a South Asian American woman, can be worn and enjoyed by everyone, even those who don’t understand fashion. “I think it transcends people who aren’t fashionable because of the feel,” she says. “When you put something on and it’s amazing, that’s all the understanding you need.”

As with her previous collections, Khan-Patel aimed to make Our Time feel authentic. She wanted to do more than just create repurposed sarees and lehengas; she envisioned designing something no one had seen before. Beyond the artistic beauty of the clothes in this collection, Khan-Patel believes they resonate with people because of the story they tell. “Clothes aren’t inspiring – the people who wear them are,” she notes. “When you wear a designer, you become part of their story. And I love seeing women become a part of mine.

Khan-Patel’s story is a bit different from that of an immigrant who moves to the United States to live his American dream. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan, where her family lived a privileged life. But because his father worked in New Jersey and could only fly to be with his wife and children twice a year, 11-year-old Khan-Patel, his mother, Rehana, and sister, Saira, moved to the States United so that the family could be together. After two years, however, his parents’ marriage ended, and Khan-Patel, his mother, and sister were left in a 400-square-foot apartment in Newark, New Jersey, with no money or means to earn any.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.