One day in 1972 Niloufar Lamakan went to sleep in her bed in downtown Tehran, Iran. The next night she found herself in her new home in suburban Torquay in England. Not only had she travelled 3,000 miles, she had gone from a place of petro-prosperity, a vibrant metropolis, and countless family, to a sleepy seaside resort with chronic unemployment, where she was regarded as an exotic novelty by the locals.
But making a great leap came naturally to a family not scared of challenging conventions. Her father joined the Iran army to get the university education his humble background couldn’t imagine or afford. Her mother joined a minority, often-persecuted religion despite her own parents being well-to-do members of the local Muslim community.
As a teenager, her middle class Persian origins did not fit the image of the typical first generation immigrant, but it meant that she didn’t have to dogmatically hold on to her Persian heritage or simply forget her past to immerse herself into local culture. Instead she moved between both, comfortable around the kitchen table with the women of the family preparing dinner or at home in the town halls of Devon listening to local pop bands. This gave her an ability to challenge the presumptions embedded in any social structure. Coming from an environment rich in strong female characters, Niloufar always asked “Why?” or challenged with a “Why not?”
Niloufar’s education mixed the arts with the social sciences. In a time when deep specialisation was the norm, her bookshelves contained books about the fashion design and Post-War economic theory. She found inspiration in the works of people who were able to see beyond the prevailing logic and uncover something different about the world.
Just before the economic crisis of 2008 and at the height of a successful career working in large corporate environments, Niloufar took her life in another direction. She risked the comfort of a regular, growing pay cheque to focus on her passion for creativity, which had her designing her own dresses aged four, and customising the family furniture as a teenager. Inevitably she took an unconventional approach, rather than finding a simple label of “writer” or “designer” or “artist”, Niloufar has found different ways to express her ideas and share her experiences, her confidence always driving her to challenge herself through new ventures.
Her first interior design project won an international award. It challenged all the ideas of what a kitchen is there to do and the convention that great design is very expensive. Her art explores some of the biggest social topics of our time – age, identity and gender – and how they are impacted by ideas of beauty.
Niloufar’s self-challenging style comes from the place she has called home for the last 30 years. Her beloved London continues to inspire and surprise her in equal measures. It feeds her with hope and a zest for living, whilst presenting endless possibilities for exploration of life and culture. It is what drives her to ask “Why?” and challenges her to think “Why not?”