Her Ode To Lahore

By Sonya Rehman

When the Covid-19 crisis hit last year, 28-year-old Ifrah Khan turned to a craft that she had enjoyed practicing for years as a hobby. During the early months of the pandemic, she desperately needed to ground herself and find some solace in art.

Ifrah Khan’s recent line of jewelry under her brand, Zaamin. Photo: Baqir Mehdi.

For Khan, jewelry-making has always been a process that has helped her connect to her roots, but most importantly, it has offered her an avenue to express herself completely and freely.

A textile design graduate from Lahore’s famed National College of Arts (NCA), in Pakistan, Khan spent the greater part of her childhood in Krishna Nagar (Islampura), in Lahore. During her summer holidays in school and college, Khan would busy herself making jewelry out of thread, wire and stones and sell her pieces to students on campus. The money she would earn from her sales eventually aided Khan in covering her college expenses.

“I’ve always had a connection to jewelry,” she says, “I think the craft has shaped me into who I am today.”

A collection of ethnic rings by Ifrah Khan for her jewelry start-up, Zaamin. Photo: Mahoor Jamal.

Speaking about the start of the lockdown in Pakistan in March, last year, Khan reveals that at the time she was employed at a well-known fashion house in Lahore as an assistant art director.

“Businesses were badly hit and people were trying to adjust to their new work from home routines. For about five months I did nothing, work had come to a halt. That was when I decided I needed to start something on my own. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was also going through a period of depression.”

Through her own private turmoil, Zaamin (an Urdu word meaning ‘guarantor’) was born in August, 2020.

“There’s one piece of jewelry I’ve worn for as long as I can remember,” Khan states, “I’ve never taken my amulet off and never viewed it as just an accessory. I think my amulet inspired me to begin making pieces which incorporated a similar design. To me, these pieces signify security.”

Ifrah Khan, the founder of Zaamin. Photo: Amal Nadeem.

Working primarily with copper and brass, and using age-old jewelry-making techniques – known to the region – such as stamping, die cut patri and chillai, Khan’s pieces have begun to garner attention within just a year since the launch of her start-up.

“Since I haven’t studied jewelry-making, whatever I know is through the craftsmen I work with, they’re my teachers. I sit with them and learn their process.”

Two months after the launch of Zaamin, Khan mentions that she was called back to work. That’s when she realized she wanted to devote all her creative energies towards her start-up.

A necklace known as ‘pan patti’ designed by Ifrah Khan under her brand, Zaamin. Photo: Mahoor Jamal.

“It was a spontaneous decision,” she says with a laugh, “I made a little workshop for myself in the store room at home but then the regret hit. Had I made the right decision given I had no business plan? That’s when I called up my mentor and teacher, a fine artist in Lahore, and he said; ‘Look, what has happened, has happened – just believe in yourself and bring what’s inside you, out into your work.’”

For Khan, Lahore stands as her greatest inspiration. The city is an inherent part of her as an artist and she never tires of re-visiting the same bazaars to source antique pieces to weave into her ethnic jewelry collections. Each of her pieces are an ode to her beloved city.

A set of three ‘Suha’ bangles by Zaamin. Photo: Baqir Mehdi.

“The streets of Lahore are in my blood and I’ve been continuously using them as an inspiration in my work,” Khan states with affection.

“I’ve always wanted to make my work feel like an experience and not just jewelry. One way of doing that is by focusing on my packaging because I feel when you buy something, what it’s packaged in dictates your experience of the product. The reason why I chose mini steel boxes for my pieces is because everyone in Pakistan has grown up with larger versions in their storage. There’s a nostalgic element attached to it and that experience I’ve strived to re-create with my Zaamin boxes.”

With a signature old Lahore, nostalgic aesthetic that Khan never tires of, the young entrepreneur states that she enjoys approaching her work in a spontaneous fashion.

Beauty in the details – Zaamin’s unique packaging. Photo: Baqir Mehdi.

From working with materials on the spot and creating jewelry (minus preliminary sketches) and without deadlines, Khan feels restricted if she’s pressured or has to adhere to set rules.

“I’m currently working on a new collection but I’m not sure about a release date yet. I don’t rush my process; when it’s ready, it’s ready. I want Zaamin to remain a personal project and a safe space from where I can continue creating work whether or not it’s sold.”


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