Styling & coordination by Crayon Works Shoes by Charles and Keith
Influencer Mishael Arif takes us inside her closet
My personal style in three words
I would say my personal style described in three words is definitely fusion, colorful and traditional.
My top 5 wardrobe essentials
1. A black crop top. If you find one with a low back and neck it can double up as the perfect sari blouse!
2. A casual cotton saree. A saree is my favorite thing to wear to any event. Lunches, dinners, weddings, birthdays. They flatter literally every body type and you just can’t go wrong.
3. Jeans. My favorites are high-waisted, mom jeans in a dark blue wash.
4. A white cotton gharara. In the summer, pair this with literally any shirt you have and watch your outfit go from casual to smart casual in minutes!
5. A cool denim jacket. It’s the perfect accessory for autumn or winter. An oversized vintage one will work with any outfit â€” even shalwar kameez!
My top 5 shoe essentials
1. Comfortable white trainers are my number one essential. I love my Nike Cortezs. They go with everything. I also have my eye on some Air Force 1’s which I might get next.
2. A comfortable pair of block heels. Trust me, these will be the ones you reach for the most during shaadi season.
3. A pair of fun khussas. My faves are the handmade Sindhi ones from Chauhan Jutti House. They are made by local artists. I have them in almost every color!
4. Pointed flats or loafers smarten up any outfit whether it’s desi or western.
5. Colorful stilettos. They’re not the most comfortable but they make great statement accessories for dinners and nights out.
My favourite vintage item
I’m not sure if it classifies as vintage as I’m not entirely sure how old it is BUT it has to be my oversized denim jacket. I love it because of the fit but also because of the story behind how I got it. I was in Istanbul for an exchange program at university and I went out with a bunch of friends wearing my Zara denim jacket. When it was time to leave I went to the side to get my jacket and turned out some other girl had taken it! She left me hers (by accident or on purpose, we will never know) but I love the vintage cut of it and it’s much more me!
My most prized possession
This has to be my Grandma’s heirloom jewelry. Since I have a sister I don’t know which pieces I will get to keep but wearing it has been an absolute joy and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
The millennial model talks love, marriage and inspirations
Sona Rafiq walks into the pool house of a stunning farmhouse on Bedian Road in Lahore on an August afternoon and the entire room is overcome by her star personality. The pool house is tucked away in a romantic little spot at the back of the farmhouse. “Hiii guys!” says Sona, looking impossibly cool in black flared jeans and a t-shirt. She greets the make-up artist and everyone else with so much warmth that you’d never guess this girl is the lead for every single campaign in the country this season.
Do you like the jet set life? Always travelling between Lahore and Karachi? “I love it. I just feel like I’m so lucky. When I visit Lahore, I get a break from Karachi. I come to Lahore and I feel like I’m fully refreshed. But I feel like the only drawback here is that I really really miss my dog Piku.” she says making a sad face. “And I miss my husband and my friends and of course, the food!” she adds quickly.
As she gets her hair and makeup done for the the cover shoot, Sona talks to me as if she’s known me for years. She’s open and honest about her experiences in the fashion industry. We all head over to the the pool area for the first few shots â€” dressed in a Sania Maskatiya outfit, she looks like something out of a movie. And once she steps in front of the camera, everyone is mesmerized. The camera absolutely adores her. Modelling and fashion, however, weren’t always in the books for Sona who is a major in Banking and Finance â€” a field that’s worlds apart from this one. “I feel like I always liked dressing up.” says Sona. “Honestly, in my third year in college, I knew I did not want to do this. I was like ‘why am I even here?’ but then I made my Instagram public and things just fell into place after that. Everything was perfect.”
And perfect is just the right word to describe her life. Sona is married to Taha Memon AKA Taha Dawat thanks to his Instagram username. Taha runs an event management company in Karachi called Dawat. Their wedding in 2018 took over social media and Sona’s photos went viral in India because of her unique wedding looks. But how did the two meet? “I lived in Saudi Arabia all my life and I would come to Karachi every summer. I met Taha at an event. We both got along so well. He just decided he wanted to marry me! And I liked him a lot too and the rest is history.’ says Sona. When I ask her about her wedding photos going viral she laughs it off like it was no big deal and tells us a funny story about how she fell asleep with her contacts in because she was so tired the night before her Walima only to wake up with swollen eyes. Taha and Sona really do make the perfect millennial couple. Independent, so in love, all the while giving each other the space and opportunity to live their own lives.
“What does a typical date night look like for you guys?” I ask.
“Netflix and chill.” says Sona. “And a lot of pizza. That’s perfect for us.”
Sona spends the next few hours changing between outfits, posing for the camera and by the end of it everyone is tired but Sona’s energy is still the same as it was when we started. Sona says: “I have fun at all my shoots. For me, work isn’t work. Even right now I’m having so much fun! With all the girls here.” Pause. “And the boy!” she says while laughing and pointing at the photographer. She makes sure no one is left out. I am struck by not only how polite she is, but how graceful her entire presence is. The owner of the location, a 60 something man, has put out an elaborate spread for us in the dining room. We all sit down for tea and Sona talks to him openly about their mutual friends and how beautiful his house is. She is polite, strong and self-assured but there is no air of arrogance about her at all. When I ask her how it feels to be a star, she lets out a laugh and asks sheepishly, “I don’t knowâ€¦ Am I? A star?”
In recent times, the modelling industry in Pakistan has certainly been redefined. We now see so many young, educated girls pursue the field. There is now much less stigma attached to it than there once was. But I’m sure there are still some drawbacks to being a model in Pakistan. My question makes Sona evidently uncomfortable but it seems like she knew exactly what she was going to say: “Honestly, it’s not a drawback, it’s my problem but I cannot wake up early. I’m not a morning person at all. I’m always grumpy in the mornings. But that’s about it. Everything else is amazing.” I don’t push the question again.
Sona is a model in Pakistan in 2022. Where modelling is just as important as her social media presence. Her transition videos on Instagram get tens of thousands of views and her fashion and Insta skills are remarkable to say the least. But how does she do it? “I edit my videos myself. But it’s so funny, sometimes my staff takes my videos. My cousins take them. And one of my best friends, she also takes them. I just ask everyone. I’m like please can you shoot my videos? But the editing and everything else, I do that by myself. I did not know how to do that initially and I would like check other influencers or look at tutorials. I always take inspiration. I take inspiration from so many influencers out there.”
I ask her who she takes inspiration from while modelling. “I love Kendall Jenner! But in Pakistan there are so many. Oh my God! There’s Zara Peerzada, Eman Suleman. My friends, Sasha, Alaynah and Fatima Hassan. I love them.” she says. We talk a little about how nervous she is about this interview. Surprising, since her breathtaking smile and confident personality would never have you believe that even for a second. She says she doesn’t want to say the wrong thing or mess up like some other models recently have. A valid concern since the ‘cancel culture’ in Pakistan is so strong these days. It also shows how important her work is to her. This is Sona’s first sit down interview. The first time she’s sitting with a publication and talking about her life. The first of many. What advice would she give to the young generation following her? “I would say don’t take things too seriously. Just have fun with it. And while having fun just work hard. That’s what I do.”
As the day comes to an end, I realized that Sona is that person whose coolness comes not just from her trendy fashion or hip social circle but also because of her genuine kindness and concern about others. She doesn’t have a diva attitude. She’s open and easy to talk to. I felt like Sona was actually someone I had known for ages. What’s next for Sona? “What’s next for me? The person I am, I feel like I don’t plan anything. I like to go with the flow. I’m very easy. So haven’t really planned anything. I don’t know, maybe launch my own brand? Maybe start acting? Let’s see where life takes me.”
Saree: Sania Maskatiya
Clutch: Be smart
Earrings and rings: Takhleek Handmade Jewlery
We talk to Lahore based therapist Izzah Zainab about mental health practices in Pakistan, tools to overcome anxiety and what you should look for in a therapist.
Can you tell us a little about your work and your education?
I am practicing as a mental health counselor in Lahore, Pakistan, and I work primarily with adults (ages 18-65). After my undergraduate from Lahore University of Management Sciences, I went to New York University as a Fulbright Scholar for my Masterâ€™s in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness. I received my professional training in New York City as well, at a mid-sized private practice in Soho.
What led you to begin a career in therapy?
My interest in psychology dates back to my childhood when I would religiously follow the â€œPsychologist answersâ€ section in every magazine I could find. I always had a penchant for understanding the human experience, but for some time, that inclination was overpowered by the drive for more â€œsocially desirableâ€ careers and the race to climb the corporate ladder.
I quickly found my way back when I realized that the most rewarding moments of my day were the ones in which I experienced raw vulnerability with another human being â€“ whether it was sitting with someone in their pain or hearing them talk about their dreams with a spark in their eyes. I thrived in those hours of connection and that realization made me commit to this field as a lifelong career. I couldnâ€™t be happier with that choice.
What, in your opinion, are some challenges of being a therapist in a country like Pakistan?
One big challenge is the lack of resources and formal networks such as support groups, rehabilitation centers, helplines etc. An individualâ€™s mental health is not a one-person job; it needs several systems to thrive. Those who finally seek counseling are often restricted by their financial, social, and systemic constraints in the face of their challenges.
There is also a huge gap in the increasing demand for therapists and the limited supply, and many therapists have months-long waiting lists. It hurts to send people away who reach out to you for support just because you donâ€™t have the space to accommodate them.
What are the different sorts of therapies and which one do you practice?
I use a trauma-informed, emotion-focused, and integrative approach to suit each clientsâ€™ unique needs and goals. I borrow from several modalities, including Psychodynamic theory, which looks at your unmet needs and the role of caretakers in your early childhood; CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy), which focuses on dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs; Gestalt and relational therapy, centered on the experience of â€˜here-and-nowâ€™; and Internal Family Systems (IFS), which explores how different â€œpartsâ€ of us interact with one another.
Has there been an increase in virtual therapy since 2020?
Definitely. 2020 changed the course of therapy services across the globe. Clients and therapists alike are exploring the newly discovered power, accessibility, and convenience of virtual therapy. In fact, many therapists now practice entirely online. However, telehealth comes with its own limitations. A lot of body language cues are lost in transmission errors and masked behind the 17-inch screen.
What should people look for in a therapist? What some important qualities a therapist should have?
Besides the appropriate training, experience, credentials, and adherence to established ethical guidelines, the right therapist meets you where you are, while providing enough challenge to encourage growth. Here are some questions to ask yourself: Do I feel understood by my therapist? Do I feel seen? Do I feel respected? Do I feel challenged?
The same therapist may be a great fit for someone else but not for you. Hence, the process of finding your â€˜fitâ€™ requires some trial and error.
What are some of the most common mental health issues you see amongst people in Pakistan?
Iâ€™ve found anxiety, depression, and emotional dysregulation to be fairly common across clients. Most of my work is with young adults struggling with difficult family dynamics, life transitions, and self-esteem issues. Particularly in Pakistan, I see clients repeatedly bring up the theme of societal pressure and judgement toward their choices.
What affect has covid had on your patients? Has there been an increase in the number of patients?
Certainly. For many of us, this pandemic marks a time of unprecedented uncertainty and collective isolation. The lack of human touch and social stimulation led many into a downward spiral with their mental health. In contrast, some of my clients with social anxiety found comfort in wearing masks and the reduced pressure to socialize.
Covid-19 also left a traumatic impact on our collective grieving process. Those who unexpectedly lost loved ones were often unable to travel, hug, and comfort their family members. I believe that even after the pandemic ends, the mental health repercussions will probably linger for generations.
What are some tools that you recommend to people who are struggling with anxiety or depression?
Many CBT-based tools for anxiety are easily accessible online. You can keep a journal or use a mood-log application on your phone to mindfully monitor your thoughts, feelings, and symptoms. There are also plenty of videos and helpful guides for learning breathing skills, grounding techniques, and mindfulness-based exercises (try the apps â€œCalmâ€ and â€œHeadspaceâ€).
With depression, it can be hard to find the motivation to even look for any of these fancy tools. So itâ€™s important to start slow and aim for motivational â€œbaby stepsâ€, even if they seem as simple as taking a shower or getting out of bed today. Remember: one baby step at a time.
What is your advice for people who want to embark on the field of therapy/counselling?
Start within. To empathize with someone else, you need to be connected to your own vulnerability first. Seek therapy yourselves and know your own biases, blind spots, and limitations.
Whatâ€™s your advice to someone who wishes to start therapy but is reluctant because of the stigma attached to it?
Itâ€™s okay to hold some shame around seeking therapy because the stigma is deep-rooted indeed. However, when a part of our body is hurting for too long, we seek a professional, a doctor, without any shame. Then why treat our mental health any differently from our physical health?
Contrary to what the stigma tells you, you are not broken for seeking help. In fact, it requires immense courage and vulnerability. And alongside the reluctance, thereâ€™s a part within you that wants to feel better. Connect with that part and embrace the compassion that it holds for you; you deserve every bit of it.
This saree was such a trendy moment for Zara. We love it when our favourite girls take risks and this one definitely paid off. The bright blue coat paired with the silver saree is practical and stylish â€” perfect for winter weddings!
Zara Peerzada has stolen the show at numerous occasions and we will always bow down to her but this look was absolutely amazing. No one bares a midriff quite like Zara. Also, how cool is that paranda? Weâ€™re obsessed!
Faiza looks stunning in a Sana Safinaz winter shalwar kameez. Her loose waves and middle part go very well with her look. The traditional khussas tie the look together.
Ramina turns heads in this gorgeous monochrome Amber Gohar outfit. She accessorizes the look with oversized shades and white heels. We especially love the sleeked back pony tail.
Shanzay is the epitome of casual chic in this little black dress. She pairs the dress with a cross body Louis Vuitton bag and chunky combat boots. Her red beret adds oomph to the look.
There truly is no fashion mistake Zahra can make. She wows us with her single-colour look and makes a statement with a Burberry scarf and vintage shades.