PARIS — Young Parisian clothing designer Miqayel Simonyan only knows one speed: overdrive. Born in the picturesque town of Ijevan in Tavush Province, Armenia — population 15,000 — Simonyan displays unusual talent and determination at a young age. Still a teenager at the time and ever the artistic polymath, Simonyan earned a finalist spot at the Junior Armenian Eurovision Final, won several national vocal competitions and then was awarded a full scholarship to the United World College in Dilijan, where he passed the coveted International Baccalaureate degree.
He was off again, this time to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa — all expenses paid.
Simonyan launched his first collection, “Aphrodisiac,” at age 20 and successfully started selling his designs online. In 2021 he earned a place at Parsons Paris — considered by many the top fashion school in the world. The $55,000-price tag for tuition was a bit steep, so Simonyan decided to remain in the French capital and learn as best he could. He recently put together his third collection, titled “Omission,” and plans to send young Parisian models down the runway in his creations later this summer before attending the state-run French fashion university.
Inspired by Chanel, with a hint of Versace added to the mix, Simonyan’s designs are both wearable and pleasing to the eye.
“I love what Chanel did. She liberated women and made beautiful, elegant clothing that everyone admires. Karl Lagerfeld added street fashion to the mix, appropriating the best of what he saw around him in New York and Paris.” But more than anything, it’s Chanel, the woman, that he admires most: “I know that some unflattering things have come out recently about Chanel’s personal life. But as a designer she was second to none. She came from a poor family like me, and she let nothing stand in her way. I have the exact same drive.”
Did we mention that Simonyan is disabled? The Armenian designer was born with a rare but benign neurological disorder that makes it challenging for him to walk. He gets around that by showing uncommon sang froid in public and by resorting to an electric wheelchair when he needs to go long distances.
Tall, handsome, and warm in demeanor, he eschews fashion world attitude: “At the end of the day, we are just making clothes, not curing cancer. There is no need to have an attitude about it. To me fashion is the most important thing in my life, but I know how to place it in context.”
In several conversations, Simonyan has emphasized to me that he wants to continue his work as a spokesperson for the disabled and become the first famous fashion designer with a disability: “In the past, I struggled with self-acceptance. However, I was able to find the strength I needed by designing and making things for others. I design clothes with the wish that they can help make people become more of themselves.”
I find Simonyan’s creations beguiling: classic black tee shirts rendered in chenille/velvet; asymmetrically-cut tops with simple geometric designs reminiscent of early modernist art; plain tapered slacks with an edgy cut; pins and hats inspired by traditional Armenian arts and crafts—all painstakingly and lovingly sewn together by hand and on a Singer machine, like in the old days. And as his eye develops the designer is shying away from crafty motifs: “In the future, I want to update classic Armenian themes and designs. I want to create something bold and stunning with just a hint of folk to it, not something kitschy or derivative.”