My love of fashion is a gift from my mom,” says Sana Ali Khan. She first learned the importance of fabric choice and quality from her mother, who ran a boutique in Karachi, Pakistan. Today, as head designer and CEO for luxury resort wear brand AARA by Sana, she draws on those early inspirations to craft a signature style—and to inspire the next generation of South Asian women.
At age 11, Sana’s life was transformed when she, her mother, and sister moved from a well established life in Karachi to the trials and tribulations of starting life on a blank canvas, in a new country. Moving directly into a housing complex in Newark, New Jersey, came with its own hardships, and she very quickly recognized how far away the American Dream actually was. Uncertain of her destiny, all Sana saw was the distant skyline of New York City, the fashion capital of the world. It would have remained there, however, had she not started working at a local fabric store at age 13.
Fashion became her refuge, a way to manage the pressures of dealing with a new country, a new home, and a single-parent family. While other kids had a social upbringing, Sana grew up quickly, with adultlike responsibilities throughout her teens. Before her 16th birthday, she was already the breadwinner in her family.
After paying rent and double-checking a mountain of bills with her mother, Sana would find peace at the sewing table—it was her escape. Her passion for quality textiles fueled her in those quiet hours. “My imagination and creativity blossomed,” she says. “I was in love with the feel of different fabrics, the colors and textures, the infinite possibilities. It was the best early education I could have hoped for.”
It was after her younger sister started college that Sana was able to concentrate on her own ambitions. After spending a few years as a network administrator, and then being promoted to project manager at a credentialing company in New York City, Sana married the love of her life and became mother to two vivacious boys while following her dreams of fashion design.
Today, Sana takes great pride in raising her boys and looking after the home, which is only a stone’s throw away from the Hudson River, waking daily to the same New York skyline she often admired from Newark, and the very city that inspired her all those years ago to maintain the work ethic required to build a brand.
Sana brings this journey to life as a designer. She juxtaposes hard and soft materials, pairing delicate silks and chiffons with bold Italian leather, for a signature style that reflects her incredible personal story. Her vision has been well received by A-list clientele, both locally and internationally, as the brand rapidly becomes their go-to for luxury resort wear.