MUMBAI: Well-known Pakistani designer Shamaeel Ansari calls Delhi a “home away from home” and feels the Indian fashion industry is more established and is keen to have an exchange of design activities between the two nations.
“I know for a fact that the Indian fashion industry has been a more established and older industry. India as a country hosts many crafts and exhibitions. I feel the entire sub-continent can learn so much from it. An artisan exchange for vocational training would be a great idea,” Ansari told IANS in an e-mail interview from Karachi.
“Pakistan and India share their roots, their culture, a common value system and heritage. This is what we already have in common and this is the right step to begin with and build upon,” she added.
Ansari’s strong and deep connection with India is no surprise as one can find traces of Indian cultural influence in her family lineage. Her maternal grandmother is a direct descendant of Tipu Sultan and grandfather was a businessman in Bangalore. In fact, their family had set up the Mysore silk weaving in Seringapatam and generations later, Ansari’s family moved to Pakistan, a year before partition.
So, her fascination towards these designs is no surprise as Ansari grew up with the south Indian tradition of textiles and colours. Coming from a business family, she went to the United States to study finance to contribute and take the business forward. But destiny had something else in store for her, as before heading home, she took a brief two-month sojourn in London and revisited museums and art galleries which then made her life take a U-turn.
“Sitting at the Victoria Albert Museum (which was exhibiting the throne of Tipu Sultan and textiles of that era), I decided to delve into the grandeur and richness of my ancestral history. Colours spoke to me, the fine embroideries captured my love for detailed craft and textures of velvet were so sensual that they had me salivating,” she said.
Hence she enrolled in the London School of Fashion and her debut collection was displayed at Cafe Royale in London for an Imran Khan Benefit Evening in August 1987, and after this she never looked back.
Today, Ansari has completed 24 years in the fashion business and designs under the label ‘Shamaeel’. Her style of designing is laced with magnificence and grandeur and her solo shows are a treat to watch as they are staged at historical venues and paired with excellent presentation. Flamboyant and exotic would be the apt way to define her style of dressing and production.
Apart from designing for her label, Ansari has now donned the hat of Chairperson of Fashion Pakistan (FP) and is working towards the betterment of the Pakistan fashion industry with her expertise along with other veterans from the industry.
“I feel fashion must be developed into mainstream business models. Along with hosting fashion weeks, it is important for the council to develop the fashion industry. At FP, we take this as our first agenda. The council is conducting monthly seminars on sourcing, supply, production chain management, retail management, fashion marketing, textile industry liaisons, craft development and integration into design and styling,” she said.
“Each of these seminars is conducted by specialists within these fields, not only in fashion but in the textile industry at large. Secondly, we are organising inter-city and international shows to develop and refine the new talent. It is the aim of the council to financially record the data and sales of the fashion industry,” said Ansari.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2011.