Saba Ahmed meets Shazad Hafeez, who participated in the first flowering of Pakistani hairstyling and modeling

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[fdropcap]D[/fdropcap]o you remember the early-90s? Before the era of supremely-arched eyebrows, “rosy” complexions and the overly made-up bridal look? Shazad Hafeez, who styled Pakistan’s first crop of models—Aaminah Haq, Iraj, Vinnie, Bibi—fashioned minimal, natural looks for each of these models. The 90s was a decade of high excitement and low anxiety. Shazad, who trained as an engineer and ended up a hair stylist, was at the forefront of makeup in this glorious decade.

An aspiring engineer, Shazad never took hairdressing seriously. Back in the 80s, people from comfortable backgrounds did not become hairdressers, he told me when I visited him at his home in Defense. Respect and credibility seeped into the profession as it became more lucrative. “As with most professions in Pakistan,” Shazad said, “Where there’s money, there’s respect.” As a result, hairdressing has slowly become ‘legit.’

By 1995, the Pakistani model had acquired a dramatic, filmy look—inspired by India’s Filmfare and Cineblitz Magazines

The aesthetic appreciation of hairstyles in Pakistan, however, has always been the same: we opt for naturally beautiful, luscious, thick long hair, whether it is set off by the classic chuttiya, or styled more naturally.

When Shazad was getting started in the mid 90s, hairstyles from the West – sharp silhouettes and daring partings – were rolling in. Shazad had trained in New York, and he had a refined, educated aesthetic. It was only when Western styles slowly made their way to Pakistan that people actually found a need, for the first time, for high-end hairdressers. The growth of Chinese-owned salons brought in new styling; the influence permeated to makeup as well. The porcelain doll and geisha look, that had been the standard for brides all through the late 70s up to the early 90s, was being replaced with something more real. “To whitewash the bride,” says Shazad, “And then paint on the features, this does not appeal to an educated mind.”

Aaminah Haq called me one day and said, ‘Make me a model. I want to be on the cover of every fashion magazine in the country’

go2Shazad trained extensively at prestigious salons all over Manhattan, including Vidal Sassoon, the Toni and Guy Academy, and Bumble and Bumble before settling on a salon in Greenwich Village called Damian West, where he worked for nine years. Quickly, Shazad found himself having to choose between styling shoots and doing salon work. It was after he styled a shoot for Playboy magazine that he finally made the decision. He remembers the day well: the stylist scheduled for the shoot was double-booked so the salon where Shazad worked decided to take a chance and send Shazad. “The model’s name was Vera,” he told me. “She was a 25-year-old from Sweden, and as soon as we were acquainted, the photographer came in to inform me that Vera was to be ready in 15 minutes! I just did whatever I used to do—I did the hair and the makeup and it was fine. Vera walked on set and the photographer declared, “Perfect! That’s exactly what I had in mind.” At that moment, Shazad thought to himself: I can either be a stylist, doing fabulous shoots all over the world, or I can choose the reliability and solidity of a salon. He opted for salon work and has never looked back.

go3He moved back to Pakistan for five years, from 1993-1998, went back to New York from 1998-2012, and he’s back again, indefinitely, this time for both personal and professional reasons. He’s looking after his father, while also doing makeup and styling at Madeeha’s salon in Lahore.

“I am a simple person,” he told me. “I like working with simple people and clients, some of whom have been with me for 20 years or maybe more now.” In 1993 Pakistan, as the beauty and fashion industries were taking off, Shazad found he was able to do both styling and hairdressing, attending more and more to bridal clients, as bridal makeup at this point had become a strong addition to his already burgeoning skill-set as a stylist.

Of his time in New York he reminisces, “I had bridal clients in New York that would call me to check with me first if I was available before setting their wedding dates!”

During the five-year stretch in Pakistan, Shahzad styled TV shows, Lux Style ki Duniya as well as maintaining a roster of private clients. He worked with the pioneers of Pakistan’s modelling industry—Vinny, Iraj, Aamina Haq, ZQ. “Remember,” he says, “When modeling was a relatively new industry, there was very little competition. It was all about ijaazat. If you had ijaazat, they would paint your face.” He says the professionalism in the industry has now created space for healthy competition.

Back then, he says, most women in Pakistan were not ready to cut their hair. “In Pakistan, women have a fear of chopping off their hair. In India, modern hair-styling is part of fashion and beauty. But not here. Half the women cover their hair, most of them are averse to cutting it—so you don’t have many options left. Only a very small minority is into serious hair-styling.”

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I wanted to know more about what the Pakistani fashion and modeling industry was like back then. After all, Shazad worked closely with some of its biggest names.

“Aaminah Haq called me one day and said, ‘Make me a model. I want to be on the cover of every fashion magazine in the country.’” The phone call kickstarted the beginning of Aaminah Haq’s career. “She understood my creativity,” he says. “I worked with her more than any other model. We started in 1993, working with photographers who now have huge empires of their own.”

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go7By 1995, Shazad says, the Pakistani model had acquired a dramatic, filmy look—inspired by India’s Filmfare and Cineblitz Magazines. “They were soft-focus images designed to make the model look five shades lighter,” he smiles.

Shazad did many fashion shows, including one in which HSY was introduced for the first time. It was an exciting time to be in Pakistani fashion and hairstyling. By 1998, Nabila and Tariq Ali had arrived on the scene, deepening and enhancing the industry’s approach to makeup.

That’s when he left for New York, to pursue the type of techniques he had always found more interesting: experimental, avant-garde, creative. He worked in Manhattan for 14 years, perfecting the skills in the city he had first learnt them. Shazad moved back to Lahore in 2012 and works now at Madeeha’s salon. He says he is back for an indefinite period. For someone who has lived a remarkably varied life, Shazad has levelheaded  advice for those thinking of getting into hairdressing: “Get an education in something useful. Then pursue what you want after having grounded yourself and gotten your bearings right.”

Good Times

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