Shamaeel Ansar, the legendary fashion designer, has to her credit 24 years of work in the fashion’s eclectic industry. One of the pioneers of bringing the fashion industry to life, her understanding of fashion and her love for the industry is a class apart.  Known for her silhouettes, detailing and craftsmanship, Ansari’s design sense is rooted in a love of historical culture and textiles. Known for her unique couture designs and her impeccable taste in fashion, Shamaeel emerged as one of the most celebrated designers of her time. Keeping her profile to the down low, she caters to a very specific niche that she has created for her brand, which delivers quality. Although she was off the market for a quite long time, her collections at the FPW brought her back to the centre stage of fashion as she showed why she was known as the Prima Donna of fashion.

 

Shamaeel graduated from University of California at Berkley with a major in Finance and Corporate Law. Coming from an industrial family background, she digressed from her initial plans of joining the family business, turning instead to the creative side, indulging her passion for ancient textiles, and research into cultures of ancient civilisations. Creativity and an acute business sense shaped predominantly by her grandfather, Shamaeel found herself in the world of fashion designing. Starting with a bang her debut held at Cafe Royale in London for an Imran Khan Benefit evening in August 1987. And there was no looking back. Shamaeel has to her credit some of the most exotic solo shows held to date in Pakistan.

Q. You have been in the fashion industry for a really long time. You indeed have been one of the establishing names of the industry itself. Where did this entire journey initially start?

Being a graduate in finance and corporate law, I would say the journey is one of passion leads to “fashion”. My personal interest in historical influences and culture inspired me to merge my passion and talent plus a good business head into a lifetime opportunity.

Q. Your designs have always been known to take a turn from the traditional tides. What inspires you to bring unconventional cuts and design to the market? How do you identify your brand to be different from others?

The ‘Shamaeel’ brand is defined as a premium brand – the quintessential choice of the “Diva” who seeks to stand apart as the head turner. The collections are inspired from various sources of history/culture to bring forth a cosmopolitan flavour. Although the story changes the drama remain.

Foremost the Shamaeel brand boasts of unique silhouettes and an eye to detail in each piece. Within that it is coveted for its point of difference and bold expression of feminity. We are proud to be a brand that has one of the highest acclaims to state of personal style and wow our clients at every fashion show. 

 

 

Q. What is the driving force behind your success and respected status?

Focus, ambition and consistency in having been open to experience every aspect of the industry. To be passionate about the field, to pursue extended international experience and to be available for taking on commending leadership roles and mentorship within the industry.

Q. Your brand itself is always a hit on fashion shows. Your name as a designer and fashion philosophy is aspired to in the fashion industry. But you have never really focused on retailing and expanding your outlets in various cities. Why is that so? Is there a particular niche that you cater to?

 

The Shamaeel brand holds itself in a high end niche segment. Having said that, we are known for ‘value for money’. Our lines cover bridals and couture by special appointments and our luxury prêt line is sold by exclusive monthly exhibitions nationwide and internationally through our agents. For prêt lines the shamaeel brand is stocked at Ensemble, Lables, The Designers, Melange nationally and various retail stores in India, Singapore, Dubai, USA and UK.

Exclusivity and frequent change of designs is our motto for all our sales. Most recently we have launched the Shamaeel “Tughra” line, formally launching at our exhibition in Lahore on 7th and 8th of December. This line caters to affordable separate coordinates in silks, chiffons and cottons. A line of bottom wear, bags and scarves are engineered as support accessories. The “Tughra” line embodies the essential flavour of the royal Shamaeel style and is catered for our young metro savvy customers!   

 

 

  • Q. Pakistan seems to be carving a path into the international market with the increase of fashion weeks being held abroad and growing retail presence, how does this translate into a larger scheme of things? What are some of the disadvantages that we need to overcome?

Having been chairperson of Fashion Pakistan Council for 3 years and being one of the pioneering designers of Pakistan, I can most definitely tag the Pakistan fashion industry to be in a fledgling stage. Pakistan is a country that has been subject to political instability and a volatile economic climate for fashion to grow. The fashion industry needs to go beyond Fashion weeks and local retail into mainstream of business of fashion. Pakistan is a small market although designers are supplying abroad, it yet happens in bursts and starts. We need the government’s assistance in fighting to let go international trade barriers i.e. our tariffs and duties vis-à-vis market such as India, Sri Lanka and Middle East. So that larger quantity of business can be accessed over international frontiers on more regular channel basis of export. This in turn will provide incentive for Pakistani designers to establish larger, more standardised production units. As such designers in Pakistan are largely novices to the procedure of international quality standardization and merchandising. More exposure and education needs to be directed towards this field for improvement. A city like Karachi has a multitude of problems of basic amenities like water, gas, electricity; we find these are crippling the textile industry leave alone the designer who operates at a much smaller scale with disproportionately larger problems.

Although there are many designers entering the field one questions regarding the quality and consistency of the influx. Having been chairperson of FPC I do still question the feasibility of so many fashion weeks in a small country. This has lead to oversupply of lesser standards of quality and talent in the market. Fashion weeks have ended up hyping brands which lack consistency and production capability. Councils need to survey the backdrop of entrants vis-à-vis astringent requirements of consistent production scales.

In the next 5-10 years, are we looking at marching many brands low quality into the industry whereby there is no distinction between quality brand and consistency and those without? Low capital outlays are required to enter the fashion business whereas established brands carry a higher cost overhead simply because of their professional hierarchical structures. The first step is for councils and media to increase the barriers to entry and exposure by using quality consistency and time span as key standards for fashion designers. Secondly more professionally run organisations and exposure to Pakistani fashion at competitive prices only into international markets will lead the industry to grow. It is disappointing to note that Pakistani designers are tooting western dresses, gowns and copies of international designers, be it the senior designers in Pakistan. It is important to realise that the international trade market is a mature market looking for indigenous strength of a country which is value addition and craft in Pakistan. They are not looking for replicas of an Armani dress on a made in Pakistan ramp!

 

  • Q. Tell us a little about your personal style.

I almost always wear a Shamaeel as each outfit carries the original hallmark of my own personal statement of style. That is why it is individual original and a head turner.

  • Q. Who is your favourite local and international designer and why?

I respect all efforts of my colleagues and peers. Internationally I admire the work of Donna Karen. Having had the opportunity to work with her on export lines, I found her designs have a feminine yet bold essence to them. The collections annually offer a fresh look every season. I admire her growth as single spearhead and her business sensibilities to grow from that onwards.

 

Can you name some reigning trends for 2014, as far as what’s hot in colours, fabrics and cuts that ladies should be looking out for this fall?

 

The 2014 onwards i see as a season of individual statement of style. My philosophy of style is to wear lengths that flatter your figure rather than becoming a fashion victim.

Trend forecasts: fusion wear, bright strong colors will capture the eye while summer will bring the softer hues with more of a vintage feel to them.

 

  • Do you have any new projects or collections in the pipeline that Shameel fans should be looking forward to?

We have recently launched our new product line the “Tughra” specially designed for all fashionistas who are fashion savvy yet price conscious! Expect designs with modern experimental cuts, embroideries and print all bearing the hallmark of the Shamaeel brand.

 

  • Favourite Fragrance:

Issey Miyake

 

  • Favourite Model (local and International):

International: Naomi Campbell, all time favourite

Local: Nadia, Iraj, Faiza and Ayyan

  • One thing you hate about the fashion industry:

Fashion piracy

 

 

  • ·       What is your idea of perfect happiness?

 

To be content, live in the present moment and be gracious for all my blessing.  

 

  • ·       What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Confidence, independence, loyalty and being very comfortable with oneself.

 

 

  • ·       What is your most treasured possession?

I value family and friends far beyond any material possession

 

  • ·       What’s your favorite quote?

“Live life like a mystery that unfolds rather than a puzzle to solve” - Rumi

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 29-Dec-2013 here.