Kamiar Rokni is one of those few coveted designers who can do no wrong.  His new collection, titled Moonrise, has women swooning over the outfits. Mehek Raza Rizvi talks to him and Eman Suleman — the face of the campaign featured in our pages — about fashion, business and diversity

Why did you choose to become a fashion designer and how has The House of Kamiar Rokni aesthetic evolved over the years?

I find that question hard to answer because I feel this profession chose me and not the other way round. I was a very artsy child who was always interested in creating things. I had an early eye for clothing so my mother and aunts would ask my opinion about the colours and prints they should wear. As a result, I found the one thing I’ve remained focused on for two decades: designing clothes.

My aesthetic has been quite defined from the beginning, but yes, it’s certainly evolved. I started off as a young and funky designer who was intrepid and high-spirited but over the years that aesthetic has become more serious, yet retains a certain boldness.

What has stayed with me from the very beginning is the use of colour. I’ve always been very comfortable with putting together colour combinations that are beautiful but unexpected. An element of surprise is always important in design and over the years I’ve grown to appreciate that more and more. I also believe my sense of quality and refinement has improved with time. I’ve learnt a lot from our local artisans, so my embroideries have become a lot better.

I’ve definitely grown as a designer but it’s mostly been the honing of an aesthetic. I’ve learnt how to mix different mediums together and create harmony in design, but essentially I’m the same creative mind who loves different cultures, history and nature.

Does being a creative person mean you ever struggle with the business aspect of your work?

Being creative and being good at business don’t necessarily go hand in hand. I think it’s definitely something I’ve had to learn and pick up over the years. I haven’t been the most astute businessman but you live, you learn and you grow. After spending so many years in the industry, I’ve finally come to rely on myself in this aspect as well. Age and experience teach you a lot.

What’s the inspiration behind Moonrise? Tell us about the collection.

Moonrise is very close to my heart because in my twenty years in fashion, this is the first collection my team and I have put together entirely on our own. I have a collaborative spirit and have enjoyed teaming up in terms of design from the beginning of my career, but it was a differet experience doing everything myself. The collection itself is represented by the moon, which is a feminine symbol. It’s an exploration of the different aspects of femininity, the Pakistani woman and how she expresses herself. Our country’s modern age woman is contemporary and relevant but also respectful of tradition. My slogan for Moonrise is “brace your inner rock star as well as your inner princess.”

I tried to put myself in the headspace of the girl of today and create what she wants to wear. The idea was to provide multiple options suitable for anywhere in the world and for any wedding affair. Also, like every collection of mine, art, culture and imagination were elements I put together into the garments, bearing in mind what I want to say about shape, form, silhouette and also embellishment.

How does your muse, Eman Suleman, personify the vision behind Moonrise?

Muse is a word that gets thrown around a lot. While Eman definitely personifies the current Pakistani woman and is very inspirational to me, I’d like to clarify that my all-time muse has always been my childhood best friend, Maleeha Naipaul.

In some ways Eman reminds me of her. She has this ethereal beauty and always looks like there’s something going on inside her head or that she lives in a world of her own, which I really like. She’s very professional and gets into character extremely quickly as a model. That just worked well with Moonrise.

We did two shoots for Moonrise, one which you see in this feature by Umar Nadeem and Azka Shahid (the duo photographer and stylist who are extremely young and talented) and the other at my beautiful family home in Bahawalpur, featuring Farwa Kazmi, Rubab Ali, Maham Ali and Eman Suleman.

I love working with new people but over the years, everybody from Noor Bhatti, to Aaminah Haq, Tanya Shafi Khan and Vaneeza Ahmad have become friends and muses. I generally enjoy the company of women — they inspire me. However, Maleeha Naipaul, my grandmothers, my mother, my aunts and friends, Sanam Taseer, Juggan Kazim, Meherbano Sethi and Zara Peerzada have influenced me the most with their beauty and grace.

The word ‘muse’ has been misused in fashion. How do you respond to the belief that its excessive use objectifies women?

Yes, muse is indeed a tricky word but essentially a muse is a conduit. It’s someone you look at from afar and get inspired by or somebody who is a collaborator — who you can talk to, work with and bounce ideas off. As I mentioned earlier, Maleeha embodies both those things for me. She acts like a sounding board. In fact, I often ask all my female friends if they would wear a certain garment I’ve made. If yes, where and how would they wear it?

I don’t know whether or not it’s sexist to have a muse. We live in a very charged climate where everything can be politicised. Social correctness has become a little extreme. As far I’m concerned I love, respect and admire all women.

“Moonrise is very close to my heart because in my twenty years in fashion, this is the first collection My Team and I Have put together entirely on our own”



How do you react to fashion being called frivolous, wasteful or indulgent?

I think it’s very silly to call a multi-billion dollar industry frivolous. It just shows a limited mindset.

Three skills one needs to survive in fashion?

A thick skin, talent and a certain amount of flamboyance

Your favourite design created by you so far?

It’s like having a favourite child; everyone has one but you never say which one it is.

Favourite models from the current lot?

I love the influx of new models. Rubab Ali, Farwa Kazmi, Mushk Kaleem, Roshanay, Eman Suleman and Zara Peerzada

A veteran model you wish made a comeback?

I would love to see so many of my old friends make a comeback on the ramp: Aaminah Haq, Tanya Shafi  Khan, Iraj Manzoor and ZQ—the models of that time were just incredible, it was when I was growing up and had just begun my journey in fashion. I have very fond memories from those days.

Worst experience with a client?

Some people can be quite rude but when people are getting married it’s a stressful time. I always try staying calm.

Apart from yourself, which Pakistani designers do you think are doing admirable work?

I’m a huge fan of Faiza Samee, Nilofer Shahid, Bunto Kazmi, Maheen Khan and Rizwan Beyg.  They’re pioneers who paved the way and created a space that we now embody. From the younger lot, I admire the work of Misha Lakhani, Sania Maskatiya, Mahgul, Khaadi, Noorjehan Bilgrami, Hussain Rehar and Feeha Jamshed.

A line from a movie that best describes you?

There’s a movie called All That Jazz in which the main protagonist wakes up every day, looks in the mirror and says, “It’s show time folks!” That’s my attitude towards life too.

Alternate career choice?

A writer, director or actor

Describe the Pakistani fashion fraternity in three words

Like any family—some people get along, some can’t stand each other, some fight, some make-up and some break-up. That is our fashion fraternity, just like any other family.


Why did you choose to become a fashion model and how has your understanding of the fashion world altered over the course of your career so far?

It wasn’t really a choice, it just happened. I continued for many reasons; it pays well, you get to explore places you wouldn’t have otherwise and you get to meet talented and interesting people. It can be exhausting too, all of it. Modelling is hard work, requires a lot of time, sweat and sometimes, even tears. I never could’ve imagined it being so laborious.

“I think the fashion fraternity needs to start being more inclusive of genders and body type. We need to deviate from the conventional standards of beauty”

You’re not one to shy away from social issues most people are afraid to address and that always leaves room for backlash. I’ve always wondered where the fearlessness comes from.

I don’t understand why these topics (oppressed genders, harassment etc.) are always labelled as controversial. They’re not. They shouldn’t be. And I’m not fearless, the fear is always there. I think ten times before I post something that might generate online abuse. In the end, I’d rather speak up than remain complicit.

You recently gave up your nomination for the Lux Style Awards. Does declining an accolade from such a prestigious platform not worry you that you may lose support?

Possibly, but it’s all right. I can either remain complicit, or lose support and I choose the latter.

How do you personify the vision behind Kamiar Rokni’s new collection Moonrise?

I think this answer has to come from people who planned and envisioned this shoot, Umar Nadeem and Azka Shahid. My two favourite people to work within the industry.

Tell us about your relationship with Kamiar Rokni and why you enjoy working with him.

Kamiar and I have worked on two projects thus far. He’s one of the finest designers Pakistan has produced. I truly believe that he’s incapable of disappointing and one can see the hard work that is invested in his designs. Pictures have become so deceiving nowadays, but I feel that pictures don’t do justice to Kamiar’s creations. Not only that, he himself is a professional and a very pleasant man.


How do you react to fashion being called frivolous, wasteful or indulgent?

The textile industry is one of the biggest and most successful in Pakistan, so it’s none of the things mentioned above. However, I do feel fashion brands can take an initiative to be more ethical, but that seems like a long shot.

Three skills one needs to survive in fashion?

Very honestly, self-control in many regards is very important. As a model your body language counts for a lot.  It’s not just about your face, and creativity, you need to have an ability to move, which is quite lacking in Pakistan’s fashion fraternity.

Your favourite campaign so far?

Shaadi wala ghar shot by Umar Nadeem for Zara Shahjahan.

A veteran model you wish made a comeback?

Iraj Manzoor, of course.

Apart from Kamiar Rokni, which Pakistani designers do you think are doing admirable work?

Zara Shahjahan, Rano’s Heirlooms, Fahad Hussayn, Misha Lakhani, I can go on and on.

Do you have any mentors within the industry?

Fahad Hussayn taught me a lot and so did Zara Peerzada. Outside the industry, I have my brother, Kayhan, to keep me sane.

If you could, what would you change about your job?

I think the fashion fraternity needs to start being more inclusive of genders and body type. We need to deviate from the conventional standards of beauty. It’s starting to become boring — everyone and every campaign almost looks the same.

Describe the Pakistani fashion fraternity in three words

Exhausting, competitive and talebearing.

A line from a movie that best describes you?

I have absolutely no idea.

Alternate career choice?

A bartender.

Model Emaan Suleman
Photographer Umar Nadeem
Stylist Azka Shahid
Hair and Makeup Ayaan Khan at Nabilas

Good Times


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