…Stay motivated and work towards that dream of yours. I go back to what inspires and motivates me each day. While I’m working, I get in the zone and take advantage of the time I have to get work done efficiently. If it is a creative task, I always play music in the background. When it comes to all other work, I keep going and find it hard to stop until I reach a milestone that I can pick up again the next day.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Noor Amiri.
Founder of Noorullah, Noor Amiri, was born in Afghanistan in 1995 but soon moved to Pakistan during a time of war. When Noor was 7 years old, he came to live in the United States and currently resides in San Francisco, California.
After earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in early 2019 in the Fashion Merchandising program at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Noor worked as an assistant for notable boutiques such as the House of Chanel and Marni.
In December of 2019, Noor began to collect inspiration for his new brand Noorullah, a timeless luxury menswear collection that currently features nine unique and versatile pieces.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a very disciplined traditional Afghan household. Dari is my native language but I also had to learn Urdu while growing up in Pakistan. The school I attended during my childhood was just over the wall of my courtyard. At the start of every school day, the principal would check the appearance of each student individually. She would carry a yardstick and would smack the hands of any student who did not have their shirts tucked in or nails cut. I was a devoted student and loved by my teachers, but many of my peers didn’t like me because I had fair skin and blonde hair, which was rare in my community. After school, my brothers would help me with my homework and I would also play with my sister who is just a year older than me. My sister and I were best friends growing up and we even had the same haircut which was given to us by my older brother.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
Living in Pakistan was difficult because it was not my homeland. My two older brothers, sister, and I moved to Pakistan because our homeland, Afghanistan, was unsafe. Since our parents had passed away in Afghanistan, we were forced to move to Pakistan and we were lucky to be alive. Although we were no longer concerned for our safety, it was nearly impossible for my older brothers to support the rest of us. Since my brothers did not have the education or qualifications, they struggled to find work. My brothers would either work at food stands or pushcarts with fruits in the street. Even with those jobs, they still could not make enough for rent. In addition, the government did not support us and we did not have our parents or any foundation to keep us going. Finally, on November 27, 2002, my siblings and I got lucky and we immigrated to the USA as refugees.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
I remember feeling so excited to come to the USA. I was only six years old and had never flown on a plane before. The whole experience was astonishing to me but I had no clue what would be in store for me when I landed. The trip took about 35 hours in total. We boarded a plane from Pakistan to Dubai, then to New York, and from there to Chicago, before finally landing in Phoenix, Arizona. Once we landed in Arizona, we all felt so blessed to have a new start with a promising future.
Everything was so new to me and I was full of joy to be with my siblings in America. I started going to elementary school and learned to speak English fluently in about 2 years. I would also go to church and was enrolled in classes there. Going to school was fun for me because it was different from what I was used to. Instead of studying nonstop from only textbooks and chalkboards, I was now also learning from videos and group activities. Going to school was more like going to play, especially at church.
Although I had much to learn when I first came to America, everyone made me feel so welcomed. I felt a sense of belonging immediately, especially at church because there were so many activities to do and all of the kids would treat me nicely. We would play games, sing songs, watch movies, eat and learn together. When I was not at school or church, my brothers would take me and my sister to the park to play soccer and go for walks. It was all a new learning experience but it was overall fun and exciting. I still remember the first time I learned to ride a bike, which was the most fun memory I have here in the USA.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
The government in the USA made sure that we had an opportunity to start our lives here. The United Nation brought us here through the IOM organization, which had the Catholic Church of Arizona make our transition easy. We had so much love and support from wonderful people at the Catholic Church. Our social worker was amazing and so were the people from the church: Sherri Aldridge, Ashley Blake, Debra Brownfield, and Dorothy Damaz. These kind people provided us with an apartment, paid our first six months of rent, and paid for all of our expenses until my brothers were able to get jobs. They all had big hearts and supported us so we can live happily.
My mind was blown since the first day I arrived in Arizona and walked into my apartment. My sister and I shared a room and our beds were filled with stuffed animals and toys. I had a big scooby doo stuffed animal which I am still a fan of today. Debra and her husband Micheal gave us their original Nintendo NES console with the Super Mario Bros and Zelda video games. They let my sister and I stay with them at their house over the weekends, which was something I always looked forward to. I enjoyed playing basketball with Micheal and going swimming with Debra. She would also sometimes take us downtown to get ice cream.
Dorothy was a sweet lady who had a great sense of humor and always made me and my siblings laugh. She also provided us with guidance and advice. Ashley invited my siblings and I over for a party this one time at her house and we got to meet a lot of down-to-earth people who also made us laugh. I remember one of them made a joke about the similarities between “tarbooze” and “tarmooze,” which means watermelon and tea pitcher.
So how are things going today?
I have noticed that life continues to get more and more challenging as I grow in age. However, I enjoy giving myself challenges so I can accomplish goals that are rewarding in the end. Growth can sometimes be uncomfortable and you might have to make sacrifices in the process. After I graduated high school, I began college in Fall 2014. I thought high school was difficult until I took college classes. I made sure to keep my goals for the future in mind and stayed motivated to finish college. I took classes that weren’t required and disliked by my friends because I knew it would be challenging and it would benefit me in the future. I still enjoy learning daily, challenging myself, and believing that I can accomplish anything because I know that all of us are capable of doing more than we think.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I dedicate a lot of time to research and learn more about the pollution in our ecosystem, as well as how the fashion industry can create less pollution. I have also contributed to preserving the planet through my brand Noorullah. I designed each product in my current collection for longevity, in terms of style and durability, to produce less waste in pre and post-consumption. In addition to caring about the ecosystem, I also strive to inspire everyone around me to be more positive and successful in their lives. On a daily basis, I encourage my peers and those around me to believe in themselves and be confident by sharing my personal experiences and how I overcame my own challenges.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
Since I was just a child, I was unaware of the process so my older brothers took care of it. However, I do know it is a lengthy process to obtain a visa. After having a conversation with my brothers about this and reading about other people’s experiences online, I was able to come up with three suggestions.
First, the immigration system can be improved by processing visas faster. This can be done by improving application services, reducing government costs, and solving fraud or abuse issues. Second, the visa process can still be improved upon through technological advancements. Applying AI technology in the processing of visa applications can speed up the process by offering: e-Visa, contact centers, mobile biometric services, and online appointment booking. The third suggestion is ensuring that all of the immigrant visas that are provided by congress each year are issued consistent with demand.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
The first key is to follow your dreams. The adults I grew up around would always tell me this as a child and it was really important to me because you should not settle for the norm when you are capable of more.
The second key is to get inspired. I find inspiration easily from people I look up to such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and even from my peers. Movies, TV shows and books also inspire me.
The third key is to have a clear vision of your dreams. It is okay to daydream about the things that we want. I do this sometimes because visualizing somethings can help you see your end goal and will make you believe that you will get there.
The fourth key is to make plans and set goals towards achieving your dreams. One of my long-term goals was to get my Bachelor of Art’s degree in fashion merchandising. I achieved this goal through short-term goals and took each experience leading up to completing my degree one step at a time.
The fifth and final key is to stay motivated and work towards that dream of yours. I go back to what inspires and motivates me each day. While I’m working, I get in the zone and take advantage of the time I have to get work done efficiently. If it is a creative task, I always play music in the background. When it comes to all other work, I keep going and find it hard to stop until I reach a milestone that I can pick up again the next day.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
I am optimistic about technological advancements. I believe there will be more technology invented that will better lives, such as providing bullet trains that have existed since 1964. I also think companies will have more ethical business practices, especially in consumer industries to reduce pollution. In addition, I think there will be a better balance of nature and infrastructure in all regions. Some cities feel too industrial and can use more elements of nature in design, and vise versa for regions with nature.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Jeremy Scott because I am a big fan of his designs. He is so fun and playful with his work. Fashion is powerful in that the way you present yourself is the way you are perceived by an audience. You almost become a character based on the style you choose to adorn yourself with. Jeremy Scott does this the best with his designs. I remember one look in particular from his designs in Moschino Fall 2017, where some models looked as if they were a real-life G.I. Joe action figures.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
IG & FB: Noorullahus
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!