Between Destinations with Aban Sonia
Aban Sonia has the brains, the looks and the pantalones to run the show. So long as the show needs to be designed, styled, or produced. As the president of Artisans Agency, a creative production agency in Miami, Sonia is always busy adding her unique and inspired touch to everything from magazine spreads to live events. She recently produced Thrillist at the Fountainbleau, a fashion event featuring emerging designers from New York.
Difficult to catch on land, I had to chat with Sonia over the phone while she drove from New York to Philadelphia to see her family.
Where are you from and what brings you to Miami?
I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. I have lived in London, San Diego, Texas, Philly and then Miami.
Philly taught me how to deal with different characters. It was a tough neighborhood and it gave me thick skin. After that, I moved to Miami – everything seemed so easy, I hated it for a while, it was all bout the nightlife industry, but it has changed and I’m here because I believe in the city’s creativity potential.
What’s your schedule like?
I work whenever my phone rings, I work all day. I’m constantly on the phone dealing with business, there’s always something going on, fashion, film, art management, artists to book...I just can’t afford to take days off, and I don’t want to. I love what I do and whenever I’m not working I feel my arms are cut off.
How often do you travel?
I’m usually in New York from month to month. I try to be there as much as I can; New York is the mecca of what I’m doing, but I always come back to Miami.
Why are you still in Miami then?
All creative people end up moving to LA or New York, but I want to be involved with the city. I love Miami and I will stay and work with the people and pioneers that want to make of Miami a city to stand out, like Overthrow. There is so much diversity and potential in this city.
When did you become involved with fashion?
I’ve been designing all my life. I designed and made my 8th grade prom gown. I have been always very into arts and crafts. I’m the one that will call my friends and say, “Hey lets get together and make something!”
But talking about my first professional experience, that was when I was thirteen or fourteen when I started modeling.
Model to art director/stylist/graphic designer/production manager? How did that happen?
I’m very creative and curious, so as a model instead of sitting down and waiting, I asked questions; I started helping the stylist or the photographer. I was curious about the camera and how it operates, I picked everyone’s brains. Then, I realized I just didn’t like doing one thing; I like doing everything. Modeling is fun but I’m more of a producer. I want to have my hands on everything. I need that control.
Then progression happened, friends that had local magazines started calling about modeling or styling and it all went from there, and I haven’t stopped since. Seeing the results of a shoot and being able to say that I was part of it – that’s the best feeling I can ever have.
I’ve been involved with set designing, lights, make up, casting, hair, styling, art directing and producing for the past five years.
Do you think people underestimate stylists?
Yes, actually it’s really underestimated. I get phone calls from photographers expecting me to have outfits ready for the next day. I can always throw shit together but I don’t want to do that, there is a production within this roll that people don’t understand. If you want an editorial to be published you need next season's collections – I have to call clients see if the clothes are available, go to show rooms…you need some prep time to pull it all together. Being a professional also teaches you to turn things away that don’t make sense.
Do you have any particular style when it comes to your work?
I literally wake up every day feeling different. I have a dice tattooed on the back of my neck, as for being dicey. I find inspiration from everything – everything has its own beauty. I like diversity. I show people what they have seen but in another light.
The style of my work also depends on what the client is asking for, and I love that there is always a new challenge and something new to create on every occasion. I make sure that my work never mimics itself. I want to be different every time, create a new identity.
Originally published August 30, 2010.