Lahore - Nilofer Shahid of the renowned fashion house Meeras, belongs to a prestigious pathan family of warriors, poets, writers and painters. She is one of the most successful and internationally recognized designers of Pakistan. She opens the portal to the subcontinent’s history thought her various collections under the House of Meeras and has attained for herself the title of the ‘Runway Empress’ of Pakistan. She has the distinction of being exhibited at world renowned venues, from The Louvre in Paris to Royal Albert Hall in London, from Prague to Zurich, from India to Central Asia and from Hollywood to the Middle East. In 2013 she was awarded knighthood “Grades De Chevalier” by French government for her contribution in the development of culture and fashion design. Her stellar list of clientele includes discerning names like Cherie Blair, princess Haifa and princess Nourah of Saudia Arabia, Jemima Goldsmith, the pop star Madonna and countess Martha Morzotto. She also dressed late princess Diana and Benazir Bhutto to name a few. In an exclusive interview with The Nation she talks about her career in fashion industry. Following are excerpts of the interview.

You have been working for a long time in this fashion industry. How has your experience been?

It has been a beautiful journey because to some extent my dreams were fulfilled. My dream was not to promote myself but to promote our country, culture and heritage. For me this has never been a business project. It was something that comes deep from my soul. People all over the world say your clothes have soul. Sometimes they can’t even explain how they felt and say there is something mystical about your collection.  I think that the kind of status and level has made me a proud Pakistani. 

The name Nilofer Shahid is basically the ambassador of her country’s traditions what is the secret of success behind it?

Unconditional passion and love for your own roots has been the secret of my success.

What is your favourite part about being a fashion designer?

The highest point is when I’m working on a collection. When I’m working on my collection which is inspired from our own heritage the energy that I get is amazing. For example take the Paris Fashion Week at the Louvre. The collection was inspired by works of the grand master of the sub continent A.R. Chughtai’s paintings, which are inspired by greatest poets of the Urdu language, Mirza Ghalib and Allama Iqbal. The huge challenge was to translate painting of great poet Mirza Ghalib and Allama Iqbal into garments. My clothes are like my babies and when it comes to work my passion reaches a whole new level.

What influences your design process?

My inspiration influences my design process.

You deal with bridal, prêt which line you enjoy making most and how would you describe word ‘Couture’?

There is a misconception in Pakistan that couture is bridal. Couture is if you go in that world and study the meaning of couture that is a different story. It is all about surface, textures, cuts, technical dripping and the way couture garment is cut basically comes from the west that is the highest level of designing. Couture is high end fashion that is made by hand from start to finish, made from high quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable sewers, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. I would say bridal is the bread and butter in fashion industry. In the bridals I have brought a lot of revolutions.

What trend would you suggest in lawn for 2016?

My first suggestion to all the designers is first get out of Dolce and Gabbana. Think of summer. Make it more elegant. I have seen a lot of people which go for dark colours. Look at our weather.  Go for skin and light colours. We get so much influenced by the west that we forget our own culture and traditions. 

If the theme is something so personal, then how do you explain fashion trends? How is it that the designer’s personal expression turns into an international trend?

If you look at the west they get prediction for this year which colour is in and which is out. We don’t get any outline. I have always gone with my theme and I tried to remain true with my theme its interpretations and translation. I think if you a true designer then you should have great aesthetics and great vision by which you can reinvent fashion.

Tell us something about Meeras your fashion brand?

Meeras is the only fashion house in Pakistan to work on profound themes with extensive research, hence having an edge over all their competitors in Pakistan. Each garment has its own story and philosophy, pertaining to a certain theme/inspiration. Meeras produces from extremely traditional to a fusion line, from couture to prêt, fusing the west and coming up with a wearable exotic look having its own strong signature style. Meeras was the first fashion house to support Pakistan Institute of Fashion & Design. Such an institute benefits Pakistan fashion industry.

In the last one decade Pakistan fashion industry has shown unprecedented growth coming up with so many young designers. Have we reached at a point of saturation? Are we moving in the right direction?

We are generally very scared of creativity and of giving something new to the market.

What are the dressing essentials that every woman should have in their wardrobe?

Good accessories shoes and jewellery because you might be wearing same lawn print but if you accessorize it differently you will look different.

Where does the Pakistani fashion industry stand today when you look at the global fashion scene?

I think we have a long way to go right now but it is moving forward. There is recognition to some extent but I think we need more and more participation in the international events. We need our government to be supporting us more.

As a designer what is your biggest Challenge?

Apart from creativity the biggest challenge right now is working with logistics in Pakistan. I work on profound themes with research, hence having an edge over all the competitors in Pakistan. Each garment designed by me has its own story and philosophy pertaining to a certain theme/inspiration.

Of all your works, which one do you think is you’re best and why?

There are so many favourites but there is collection called Kemal the perfect (tree of life). This was designed for the World Fashion Week in New York and it was a message of hope and peace. That one collection took a whole team’s work and nearly a year to develop and produce. Kahlil Gibran collection has also been close to my heart. 

Faizan Javed