What is your idea of style for the modern woman?
The modern woman is strong, independent and doesnâ€™t want to get boxed into a single style. She needs clothes that look trendy, fresh and yet donâ€™t make too much of a dent in the wallet. Itâ€™s great to see so many of the young generation have individual styles these days. Whether it is uber glam, high street or bohemian itâ€™s refreshing to witness women hold their own and not necessarily be â€œon trend.â€ That is why when Saira and I started Saaya, we sought inspiration from a range of things so we could create a brand that would appeal to different women from various walks of life
Which living person do you most admire for his or her signature style?
From the West I love Emma Watson. Her style has really evolved and it is now effortlessly chic. At our end I think Fawad Khan has emerged as an icon in more ways than one
What trait do you most admire in people?
Humility. I truly believe that if any artistic creation is executed with love and sincerity then it should carry its own weight without any need for arrogance or boastfulness
â€œItâ€™s refreshing to witness women hold their own and not necessarily be â€œon trendâ€
What is your greatest extravagance?
Currently all I want to spend money on is travel. It is so fascinating to see the differences and similarities among people of different cultures. I find traveling gives me the most amount of inspiration when designing for Saaya. For example I was so fascinated with dervishes from Turkey; they inspired us to create our tunics with images of twirling dervishes, which to date is one of our favorite designs
What is your favorite journey?
I recently took a trip up north with my husband and son and I was just blown away. Too many of us focus our attention on traveling abroad when we have heaven in our own back yard. I met the friendliest people and encountered the most beautiful scenery. It truly made me proud to be a Pakistani
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Conformity. I think people appear most beautiful when they take fashion trends and blend them with their own unique style. I love it when people wear Saaya kameezes and make it their own. Iâ€™ve seen two women wearing the exact same kameez, but because of their distinctive flare the outfit looked completely different: thatâ€™s the beauty of being your own person
How are you using your medium to promote and maintain Pakistan’s culture?
I have been lucky enough to be part of a field where one can really promote what is most positive about us. Clothes from the subcontinent are by far the most beautiful in the world. I am always stunned by the sheer raw talent and dexterity of our kaarigars. In this way I am so grateful that I can use my work to showcase Pakistani culture. Whether itâ€™s a block print of a twirling dervish, Urdu scripture or an embroidered elephant or rickshaw, giving your clothes an eastern touch always proves to be a winner!
What is your greatest achievement?
I would have to say Saaya. It had always been our dream to create a brand which made affordable and trendy outfits for women with eclectic tastes. Despite some challenges Saira and I were able to launch the brand in March 2013 and we overwhelmed with the response. It has been an amazing journey so far! No matter how much hard work we put in or how frustrating the process gets on occasion, Saaya always provides us with a sense of achievement and satisfaction. We canâ€™t wait to see it grow further
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Live and let live. Life is too short to judge someone elseâ€™s journey. (I wish more people in Pakistan would embrace this motto!)
Name an item in your wardrobe you canâ€™t do without.
These days its definitely a pair of gold cork wedges. You can wear them in the day with a casual outfit or spruce up an evening ensemble by slipping them on. They look great with both eastern and western outfits
Name three things in your handbag that are always there.
Chapstick, mobile phone and a measuring tape.
What in future do you consider your greatest achievement?
I would be delighted if Saaya became a brand that people associated with fashion and affordability â€” a brand which provides something for everyone and for all occasions. We are currently working on a more semi-formal, formal line which we hope to launch some time this year
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Without a doubt my son and my sister. I’m obsessed with both of them. It might sound clichÃ©d but no matter how hard my day is or whatever may have transpired, when I see Ali, it puts a smile on my face.
With my sister Saira, it’s like we are two sides of the same coin. She completely gets where I’m coming from without me having to articulate it. I’m very fortunate to have these people in my life
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
I would have to say the Dalai Lama. I love his peaceful and positive attitude towards life. Itâ€™s something truly worth emulating
“I am lucky to be part of a field where one can promote what is most positive about Pakistan”
What are the challenges in keeping ready-to-wear fashion affordable?
Unfortunately conducting any type of business in a place like Karachi is a challenge. One is always losing working days because of civil unrest, strikes, national holidays etc. Adding to that the hardships faced by employees have to be accounted for as well. This leads to a lot of unforeseen variable costs. But one has to power through these issues and churn out a product that one is proud of and that is worth the price
What inspired you to subtly westernise the eastern ensemble?
It all depends on the market you are catering for. I want to wear ensembles that are traditional but have a modern twist and that is why at Saaya you wonâ€™t find out-and-out ethnic pieces. They have a very strong western element. I think that is one of our strengths. We integrate local handiwork and materials with a western twist. Iâ€™m not a big fan of the word â€˜fusionâ€™ but in essence thatâ€™s what it is
What advice would you like to give the teenage girl who looks towards making a mark in the fashion industry?
Think Big. With the right talent, handwork, and dedication I think any dream is possible and no goal is unachievable. We have so many examples of designers who started out in small workshops and today are the biggest names in the industry. Itâ€™s truly inspiring.
Considering that women in Pakistan are now rapidly entering the work environment what in your mind makes for a good work attire?
At Saaya we always have the working woman in mind. That is why many of our ready-to-wear cottons are simple, chic and affordable. Working women need outfits which allow them to exude confidence, through comfortable yet trendy cuts, colours and fabrics. We try to find that blend in our cotton line which proved to be very popular
As a woman, what difficulties have you faced in starting your venture? Please mention anyone who stands out in their support in helping your work.
Fortunately we didnâ€™t face many difficulties in starting Saaya. The credit for that definitely goes to our husbands and our parents. Our friends and employees have all been bastions of strength in their own way. They have each contributed to making Saaya what it is. The fact is that without the backing of all the people in your life it is impossible to build a business.
The GT challenge: if you were asked to redesign the uniform for the ladies of our national airline, what would you do?
I think itâ€™s definitely time to spruce up the uniform. Add an interesting print and make it a nicer shade of green. Also I would suggest a shorter kameez with a straight pant. In the 70s the uniform was kind of like that
Text & coordination | Marium Ali Khan
Photography | Gibran Jamshed