Designers Saira and Shakira are increasingly chipping away the walls of convention in fashion

GT talks to the duo about their remarkable creativity

How did you get started with Saira Shakira?

Shakira: We started working after we graduated from fashion school. We were married and we weren’t doing anything, so from a very small setup at home we began making clothes for our family and friends. Then our husbands supported us and pushed us because we were pursuing this slowly. It’s been three years. We did our first prêt show in 2014, PFDC, and then we did bridal week too.

Saira: We started off with prêt and that became our forte. Now we have started venturing into formals and bridals too.

Are you more interested in bridals or prêt?

Shakira: We like doing prêt more because you can experiment. With bridals, everyone wants very typical stuff. When a bride comes to us, she usually wants something very “pretty pretty” and flowy and long.

Saira: Prêt requires just as much money, cloth, trimmings, etc., except for the work (kaam). But the margins are definitely bigger in bridals and formals when compared to prêt.

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‘Men tend to do better in this industry because the workers take them more seriously’

Tell us about your production and design processes?

Saira: We prefer doing our production in-house but during the busy wedding season we are compelled to outsource work too. We’re doing our digital printed line on silk karandi next. It’s fun stuff: kurtis and nice prints. 

Shakira: We don’t have a design process as such because there’s not one thing in particular that either of us handles. Whenever we want to design, either we sit together and do it, or if we’re busy and we need to design separately, we’ll design some pieces on our own, then get together and discuss them. She (Saira) is very good with work (kaam), I’m very good with motif placement so we combine our work and come up with something together.

What was it like exiting PIFD and entering the real fashion market?

Saira: Mostly we were dealing with western cuts, larger-than-life and over-the-top stuff—because obviously we were learning and all this is a part of the training process. But with the market, it’s a whole different ball game. It has to be wearable and more practical. We had to tone down a bit.

Shakira: It was difficult for us, we used to include lots of elements in one design. The cost of production of the design was becoming too high for us to compete in the market.

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‘Shalwars are coming back’

Whatis your standard request from your clients?

Shakira: The standard request we get from almost all our clients is for us to make them look thinner.

Any new trends in bridals this season?

Shakira: I think for outfits of the relatives of the bride and groom, a lot of western input is coming in. Crop tops with lehngas, a lehnga with a collared shirt. People actually want to wear them! With the fashion week, we did a lot of capes, jumpsuits and shrugs, crop tops, collared shirts and lehngas.

Saira: It’s difficult to set a new trend in formals and bridals because people have very set notions about how they want to look.

New trends in prêt?

Shakira: Jackets are very in, waistcoats and faux fur in trimmings, collars and sleeves.

Saira: Shorter lengths have been back for a while in prêt and bridals. Slowly and steadily but shalwars too are coming back.

If you were to characterize yourself within the industry, do you have a particular identity?

Shakira: We do a lot of fusion, modern stuff, you would be hard pressed to call us traditional.

Saira: We use a lot of pastels, lighter colours and you’ll always find a bit of androgyny in almost all our pieces.

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Behind the scene with Humaima Malick, Abdullah Haris, Saira, Shakira & others

‘The standard request we get from almost all our clients is for us to make them look thinner’

Tell us about your latest shoot with Humaima Malick?

Shakira: This was our biggest shoot to date. Humaima’s a celebrity and her movie had just come out and we think she’s pretty and she just won at the Masala awards—all great things to have in a brand ambassador. The woman we want to dress up is a woman like her. I think she carried the clothes very well. It started at 8am and ended at 11pm! Part of it was shot at Jallo Park which was interesting since it was the first time I had been. Abdullah Haris did our shoot, we decided to work with him because we think his work is different.

Saira: Abdullah’s work is edgy and he takes it very seriously. We’ve done both our PFDC prêt and bridal videos with him.

Where is your client base located?

Shakira: We get a lot of clients from all over Pakistan and the world, the U.S., Italy, South Africa and India too. But our base is from Lahore since we live there. We’re planning an outlet here in Lahore and in Karachi featuring Saira Shakira prêt basics. Mainly stocking off-the-rack stuff featuring kurtis and three piece suits. But slow production is something that really holds us back.

Saira: People automatically think we’re from Karachi once they look at our Facebook page!

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‘When a bride comes to us, she usually wants something very “pretty pretty”‘

How much do you think gender plays a role in your industry?

Shakira: As sad as it is to say, men tend to do better in this industry as the workers take them more seriously than they would a woman who’s telling them what to do. We have had to get our husbands to intervene when someone is just not cooperating with us!

How is your working relationship with each other?

Shakira: Thankfully, we’re both fairly laid back and we don’t argue and fight. I tend to freak out more and panic when something goes wrong and Saira is the one to smooth it all out. She’s the calmer one. We complement each other.

What do you dislike about the industry?

Saira: There should be copyrights, but it really is impossible to avoid other people from outright copying your work.

Shakira: Everyone nowadays is a designer! Every household seems to have a designer. There should ideally be some way to regulate how and why one can become a designer. But it sounds absurd even as I say it!

Good Times

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