Saadia Mirza – The Elusive and Elegant Pakistani Fashion Designer

By Sonya Rehman

She has never been one to strive for maximum media exposure and press coverage. Since her entrance into the local fashion arena years ago, Mirza has worked at her craft in a meticulous, quiet and cautious manner – qualities she still nurtures today, even after all her success and recognition as one of the better known Pakistani fashion designers.

Saadia Mirza – Photo: Maram & Aabroo

There’s something about Mirza’s work that is offbeat yet luxurious, desi yet Victorian, with an emphasis on fabrics, cuts, and inimitable styles that perhaps have been, and are, distinctive – something that local fashion could do a lot more with to bring forth a futuristic bent to Pakistani fashion, at the same time, not disregarding or overlooking tradition.

Having designed (and still designing) clothes for the royal family in the Middle East (in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Ras al-Khaimah) Mirza states that the orders are for clothes which are heavily embroidered. “Some are crystal-based and some are traditional embroidery-based outfits,” she mentions, adding, “They love the zardozi technique – you know we have this notion that they love crystal work, but they also love embroideries which are very elaborate.” Designing clothes for the royal family, Mirza states that the experience has given her finesse. This is because, as Mirza puts it, the women are used to buying apparel from high-end brands such as Chanel, YSL, Dior, etc. “You can’t imagine,” she says with emphasis, “They have clothes coming in from everywhere.”

“As far as our techniques, finesse and patterns are concerned, I think we have a long way to go,” Mirza answers in response to the question of Pakistan’s current standing regarding fashion and whether or not the ‘boom’ really and truly is an indication of immense growth, or, if the boom is solely indicative of shallow, fledgling growth. “From my own experience, I had to learn on the job – there’s no training for that,” she states, agreeing that Pakistan’s media scene has aided in bringing fashion to the front vis-à-vis coverage and exposure.

Stressing the fact that the country’s older, established designers have created a platform for upcoming, new designers, Mirza states that the young lot “has to now take the industry forward.”

“I think we have a lot of talent, but we need the grooming and the support to make it happen,” she says, “We’re on the right path.” Regarding ensuring a balance between tradition and Western influence in Pakistani fashion, Mirza states that one’s identity should not be lost or disassociated with. “Look at India,” she says, “The designers have kept that Indian influence in their clothes – retaining their identity.”

“Because fashion has really evolved in Pakistan, fashion is mixed – everyone’s trying everything,” the designer says, speaking about current trends in local fashion. “From dresses to denims to traditional shalwar kameez to everything! We’re struggling for one line now – but from this point, we’ll mature into defining that one, proper Pakistani ‘look,’ which people will identify with as ‘Pakistani.’ After experimenting you realize what’s right and what’s wrong. Young designers these days are trying to do everything for one collection – but that’s how they’ll learn…that’s what we did as well.”

As far as brands are concerned, Mirza thinks ‘Khaadi Khaas’ is producing “really good work,” while from the new crop of designers, she mentions Zaheer Abbas and Khadija Shah (of the brand, ‘Elan’) as having solid potential. “There are quite a few,” she says, “It’s good, there’s so much competition now – in our time it wasn’t like that.”

Currently working on a collection called ‘Nur Collection,’ Mirza states that she adapted the zardozi technique into the line, all the while “bringing it to a new silhouette.”

“I’m planning a show for the collection – hopefully – in November,” she says, adding that her inspiration behind the collection was old havelis and Mughal architecture. “That’s what I’m doing as far as my bridal line is concerned. But I’m also doing a collection called ‘Web of Deceit’…,” Mirza states breaking out into a grin, “That’s my inner…how do I put it? After all my experiences in the fashion scene – the good, morbid, the bad, I’m bringing that into this collection.”

So will it be Western wear? “Very Western,” Mirza affirms, “After this traditional line I really wanted to do gowns. Some friends who’ve seen some of the outfits think it’s very morbid.”

‘Web of Deceit’ will be showcased in December, this year. “It’s not going to be a typical fashion show,” Mirza says, elaborating that the show is due to be very “theatrical.” Interestingly, the designer has always had a penchant for bringing a bit of theatre into her shows – it’s always been like that for Mirza, who has a penchant for giving her shows that ‘wow,’ edgy factor. “I like theatre a lot,” she says while smiling, “I have no theatre background, I’ve been too shy to actually participate in theatre in school and college – but the passion for it has always been there.”

HELLO! Pakistan


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