Nilofer Shahid | The Most Famous Fashion Designer Of Pakistan | Speak Your Heart

Nilofer Shahid | The Most Famous Fashion Designer Of Pakistan | Speak Your Heart

November 8, 2019 41 By Bernardo Ryan


Our guest today is Nilofer Shahid She is a fashion designer but very different She designs fashion with a very different thinking I welcome Nilofer Shahid Nilofer Shahid, thank you so much for coming on the show So I think I will take you back When you were young Thank you for calling and inviting me I look forward to spend this time with you and we haven’t done that in a long time I think it has been so many years since we sat down and talked to each other I think we both have been so busy in our journeys and being mothers and wives So many roles we have to play So but anyway its its always there I think it was important that we reconnect Where were you born, Nilofer? I was born in Karachi I never knew that My father was in the air force actually So we were there, and I think I was 5 or 6 when we moved to Punjab Right All the air force people travel a lot I love Karachi and the great time I spent with my parents there and how many brother and sisters are you? We are 7, all together and who is the eldest? The eldest is our brother and then there are 4 sisters then a brother and then another youngest sister So we are 5 sisters and 2 brothers and how was your home? What kind of conversation took place on the dining table? Were you all very mischievous because I know about the area for the air force and all the trees We lived in Boripur and then we moved to K.D.A then my father retired and then he was wanting to start his own business he was there for a bit and then we moved to Gujrahwala As a family, I think we had a wonderful childhood My father loved his children and He was like a friend and a mentor and so many things, I mean I think that breed of men you don’t find much anymore and he hails from Isakhel the Niazi clan and very educated, he was double M.A and then he joined the Royal Air Force and the in the Pakistan Air Force the Sundays were for his children and in Karachi he used to take us to the beach and then he would take us to a restaurant or a metropolitan those memories are so and then he would take us to museums and such historical places and I think that is what I imbibed as a child and he would tell us about histories and our family’s history So that fondness of history I used to get very fascinated So then we came to Lahore and then I don’t know, I used to feel something when I would go to these places So I think the He died, when I was only 15 but I feel that the kind of love our parents gave us sustains us till today Thats what I feel Mother was very She came from a conservative family from Lahore and but people thought that she had just done her Matric from Queen Mary people thought she is very educated and has done masters and she knew how to read poems and eveything and when all the friends and families used to come together Many couldn’t understand her talks because of the intellectuality and all those poems and and my father and my uncle were the most well dressed people in the family so all the cousins used to follow them He was a very good looking man and What kind of a girl were you, a shy girl Shy girl Hiding behind the curtains, or out there ? No I was a very Not introvertish Since we were 7 siblings, so we were very into everything but I was not a very out going, it wasn’t like that I didn’t have a nature like that I was more of a dreamer always and I used to read books like from comics to classics I was always with a book and where did you meet your mother? under a table? I don’t remember that much but my mother was She had very tough rules in the house So the table manner, eating with a fork and all Then we used to get marks on in, that no one spilled their food So that was very She had a nature like that She never sat and taught us herself but we all did really well in our schools and colleges So my elder brother was the most pampered We never heard are parents arguing or fighting It was such a, you know, like a How can I explain? Just an ideal, wonderful home and we did you talk about on the dining table? Were you allowed to discuss anything you wanted or did he or your mother ask you any question? It was all normal Or did you have to be quiet? No, not that much, yes, in our childhood afterwards, it was all fun, everyone talking and enjoying What number are you in I am bang in the middle There are 3 elders and 3 youngers siblings for me That is a very special place too because the elders are the ones responsible and the middle one can get away with a lot of things So did you get away with a lot? I was not a very naughty child to be honest We used to be in our own things So Nilofer, what did you dream of? I don’t know how to explain that but since I was so much into reading Did you start collecting at that age? Yeah, I had a lot of books But I used to take a book with me, wherever I would go What fascinated you? People thought I was very quite With my friends, I was very, you know like we used to talk otherwise I would not say a word so all the senior girls in the school they thought that I couldn’t speak So you were actually absorbing You were listening and you were learning I have that thing that I notice and observe, very deeply because if you were not observing the way your clothes are, we will discuss that but it shows that you have seen and understood actually absorbed and observed I think so, yes Unless you have that How should I call it, the 3rd eye? or if you are an observer like I am sure in your profession also you must be really deeply looking into human beings Absolutely and there behavior and all So I was more fascinated by art of every kind even architecture fascinated me because I feel that that is a very profound aspect of any culture if you go and observe any culture, you start with the architecture You get to know how involved they were in arts you know that kind of thing, when I went to Samarkand Bukhara You know the frescos on the walls and the arches So a lot like this For example, when I was doing I got very fascinated by Islamic Caligraphy and I realized that muslims are the sole inheritors of this great art So I obsessively started researching on it In college? No no, this is later on What did you study in college? I was I mean I was one of the top students so I was expected to do medicine Going to medicine So after school, which is my final 5 years were in Queens Mary because my my mother and my grandmother studied from there She was one of the first 5 girls of Queen Mary So emphasis on eductaion was always there Yes, my mother was My father was not there anymore but My mother was very keen so I did FSc from Kinnaird College in medicine and then somehow my mother, I don’t know You know I love to do the shading and the contouring and all It fascinated me a lot and in which point of life did this come about? that you decided to design clothes for a living That Samina is a long journey, its an evolution from one thing to another This fondness came about right after college? I never had any aspirations to be a designer after I got married there used to be very interesting melas in Atchison College So there were stalls so I and my sister in law just took a stall and made small things like small bags and things like them So, I discovered some women poor women who would work on this So I made all these interesting things It all fascinated me, the 3 cornered shawls I made at that time So they were received very well so we kept on doing this for 2 or 3 years and then, my husband’s aunt is an artist Tahira and She came to Lahore and she lived in Karachi at that time She said, why don’t you I went to even before I got married we went to Karachi and my aunt lived next door to Noor Jehan Bilgrami So There was a marriage there So we all went to the house next door and I got so fascinated and the setup she had was so nice and and the motives and beads You know all the old things I think it stayed inside me That was block printing Block Printing So Shahid’s aunt said, Why don’t you start something like that, because nobody in Lahore was doing that So I was the first one to start block printing in Lahore and this is a very strange story My sister was here from Switzerland I took her and bought 10 pieces of cloth so someone told us about Mochi gate So we parked the car and kept on taking the bundle of clothes We kept on walking and we ended at Mohini Road So there they printed shawls and blankets and when I told them that I wanted to print some suits so they all were smirking that what is she doing so I took out the blocks and I sat down and I started designing, I took a piece of paper and a pen and then I used the blocks, you know about the whole process and they all turned out quite interesting and I was really fascinated so eventually I got my own
workers and I was designing my blocks from You know taking patterns from the shawls and from the carpets You started researching and that man came from Jung, I still remember and he made so fine blocks and everyone still remembers all that, and I love that art because it is so indigenous, basic and you know then slowly, I corporated hand painting and I was also the first person to start hand painting on fabric and then I started waiting with block print and hand paints as to what should I do with the basic fabric I was doing chikhen and using glass pieces and everything else I always have this, you know this thing, that I have to do something different it should not be the typical Then I used different fabrics Find and then you know embellish it differently also and then I started some melishment too so I did that for years and I love doing it and I would still want to revive it with my work and this entire idea that inside fashion, you you are bringing in poets you are bringing culture I mean all the regions and motives How did this come in your mind? You know I noticed this that the people around us With due respect, we were all very complexed at that time and we were so fascinated by the west but we didn’t treasure our own heritage or culture We were not proud of who we are unfortunately so that saddens me and I said that We have such a wealth of you know treasures of art in our sand and our souls and everywhere you look, its beautiful so I said that I don’t want to use imported material, I don’t want to do anything with Yes, if you look at the western designers you acknowledge their work and appreciate it and you take some kind of inspiration but I it was like a mission for me I was this fighter on a battleground and I thought if people will ever understand what I am trying to do it didn’t start as a thought out thing, but it was my own passion for the world to recognize who we are and hence I started with In 1991, I started the House of Meeraz its interesting that when I was thinking of a name so my brothers were suggesting names like “Traditions”, or any other English name I used Lugat and started finding names in it so initally I took a stand you know because my philosophy was different and I wanted to propagate our own image, so I thought of naming it Meeraz there were many arguments about it but I stuck to my gums one thing I discovered a long the way was that I may have been a very mild person but when it came to my work I became very fierce inside, you know Head strong and going in a direction in which I wanted to go so nothing moved me if someone is doing something that if he is doing something else, I should do something similar thats a problem for me that I want to do things differently How many children do you have? I have Mashallah, 4 children and has anyone inherited from you? They all are very creative One is a miniature astist my elder daughter, worked with me initally for quite sometime so they all are very creative but as such nobody has joined me unforunately What do you collect? Do you collect furniture? ofcourse you collect books, I know that I am fond of the old textiles Wherever you go, like the jackets in Central Asia You can find a lot of old things in Turkey as well Like normal women would make jewelry, I used to collect these things and shawls Shawls, yes I have shawls and the interior of your house is the mixture of mughal and French I haven’t seen it recently You have to come see it so I have done some hand painting on the wall some embroidered banners You know, when I look at their interior as well and their windows They are so artisitic I mean the way they do things and they coming back to being proud of who they are you know they give and an edge to everythting they do So what is beauty? It lies in the eyes of beholder, definately What colors attract you a lot? in the first glimpse you go for it I have always liked softer tones soft shades and light corals all the soft very washed colors I like and a mix of those Its very important, lets say that you are wearing or lets say you go for a color combination then there is there should be come element that gives it a different look So I am wearing black today, but I am not the very black colored person basically I love off whites and echoes I have my own personal pallet Somehow I am I feel good in it but all the classic colors I think my preference changes with the seasons and the moods also like right now I am very much into the dull, jady greens and the green of the winter like the dark green Green somehow fascinates me Why do women wear jewelry? have you ever thought about it? Why do we wear it? I think that instinct to make your self more beautiful has always been there And jewelry is an adornment which really it does make you look it adds to you Sometimes I feel the birds that God has made in the universe if you look, you can see how well decorated they are Yes, indeed I think maybe we somehow, I think the early humans saw this they saw all the animals and birds around them and the flowers You cans see the peacock, the flowers that they have so many colors So I think they thought that we don’t have any color Yes You know we are so pale and plain You know, so boring I think that, maybe when humans saw so much color and beauty around them so I think they started wearing those colors to be one with the universe and maybe they discovered that how colors make you look beautiful and of course they found pebbles and created jewelry so I think its all about the whole idea to be I do wonder, how it all happened I also wondered, that where did the colors come from and how were the garments made and how did they think God had created humans I think this evolutions I think its all what you did, observe look at you, your eyes what you observed and you picked up from history and from art and I think this is what we all have been doing Indeed, indeed and getting inspired Yes What is life? Life is a very big test I mean not saying in a negative manner because we are here to Why do you say its a test? I think it is, because at this age I feel that I have gone through so much and I see people around me and so much is happening with us its how I think it all relates to your faith and if you have that faith The test is that we have to keep ourselves on the write path so if you deviate and this tests keep coming in between And if you have a strong belief or a faith your Faith and God is there then I think personally like I would say that its not easy to be on the right path to be good on the chime yes its not that you are pretending to be good It is that you You should become softer, gentler, kinder human being but stronger We have done all the mistakes when we were young and we did all the shenanigans slowly you learn and then inside you, you have your slef respect it also becomes stronger with time you know like you realize your own and why are you here in this world, why you what is required of you so there was this Peritual turning which took place in my life with in and then I started doing the Umar Khayyam Collection so it relates to my own journey and I can see that I can see that journey, like if you follow from block prints and noticing every motives thats where you start you know those motives take you to that journey These are the motives that take you through the journey At first its your ritiual Yes, it all about the pattern ad life is a pattern indeed You went through it and look what you have achieved look at the detail As a human being, what has it done for you? I has made me I think to value, relationships, more than anything else first of all, I would say I may be doing, sort of a business and other things but making money is not the ultimate for me its always been more I have always been very grounded and I feel that for me the relation relationships around me are more important if my business end, then its fine also So what you are doing is that you are creating beauty your exploring, someone who observes and takes care Your work has both the things You thought about this that how will this happen so all the people who these things in their work and for their people and for the people around I think they are blessed People say that you are like an embassador for Pakistan I say that yes, I am because thats what my hardwork has been about That I send a message in every collection of mine Umar Khayyam, Khalil JIbran Rumi Iqbal Chugtai Mughal art and architecture, islamic caligraphy there are so many things and I did all of this like an obsessive person When I start a journey then no one can stop me except for Allah So are you ready to write your book? Yes I write well, I hope I can start but I don’t have the time Where do you see youself? like in next 5 or 10 years You know Samina Ahmed, the journalist? She took my interview, she came and stayed with me for 2 and half days and for Harold, its a beautifully written piece, I will show it to you sometimes and its called Destiny’s child so believe me, I have not mapped my journey I want to do things, but I don’t know, what and where I will go I will keep on doing something Things that come from here, you only enjoy them you keep following it like a passion Then my last collection was on Rembrandt the Dutch artist and I was standing at the museum in Amsterdam and I stood infront of the spiritual paintings and there was one called I looked at his face and the lines and the the way he is sitting the fire behind I don’t know what happened to me Samina I just stood fixated over there My brother was with me and he told me to move but I told him that I don’t want to see anything else and believe it or not when I was When I read about Rembrandt and I was doing my research, I became more and more obsessed because of the kind of rebel he was and I could somehow relate with him because I am quite a rebel in my own way because there was no concept of life and of shade Yes Yes Amazing You know they studied Rembrandt lighting They still study Rembrandt lighting in Hollywood and wherever and it so recognized they have clubs and organisations, who were doing research then I made that collection after 6 years I tell you, paying tribute to him was one of the biggest challenges because he is the grandmaster and the colors only 9 colors he used and he painted the canvas blacj dark and then he painted on it without a single sketch No sketch was made It was just paint So they do the x ray and the research and they see those sketches He just painted so who are you Researching on I am I am contemplating somethings I have interest in somethings right now actually avenues I am trying to find them for Pakistan going back in to time, like 9000 years before So I have something for you I will come and discuss it You have to You have given me a lot of inspiration in my life and dressing you up was such a pleasure I still have that picture with you sitting in the Sheikhupura fort with the I was more of a tom boy very honestly no frills or embroidery nothing, no laces You brought I think the feminity in me You discovered that and you gave me the frills and the pastels and how I drew you into that I don’t know how but then you would sit with me and dicuss the nuances of the garments I think we should collabrate again I think we should I think the next venture must You are so intellectually evolved and it will be a pleasure Thank you my dearest Thank you, it was so lovely