Style-star, a full-time mother and ace designer Mahgul Rashid’s closest pal, Ayesha Noon Khan, takes us behind-the-scenes at Mahgul for Al Zohaib Textiles’ latest lawn collection. Follow us to Ubud, Indonesia to find out why Mahgul’s debut lawn collection is such a sensation already
The journey: was never ending! I have flying anxiety, which I have been battling for eight years now, and somewhere in my head I thought the flight Doha onwards was five and a half hours. So we board the flight from Lahore to Doha still making our way through the isle and Mahgul casually mentioned that the flight from Doha to Ubud is 10 hours long. I wanted to run off the aircraft at that point. I counselled myself all the way to Bali – this lawn definitely made me a stronger person!
The food: everything there was organic and fresh. There were lots of smoothies and exotic juices. More than mineral water, Indonesian’s drink coconut water which was amazing. The best thing we ate there were these cod croquettes at a restaurant called Hujan Locale, a must try for anyone visiting Ubud.
The weather: The weather there is similar to our monsoon season. Strong sun, rain showers and extreme humidity. It was awesome for the skin but a definite bye-bye to good hair days!
The model: The model was super-professional. She flew in from Australia for the shoot. Hair and make-up calls would start at 5:30am everyday, and she was always on time and never complained once about the food, being tired or uncomfortable. She was excellent to work with and stunning to look at!
The schedule: was tight. We had a total of three days, one day to scout locations and two days to shoot a total of 28 outfits including cover shots and editorials. We would be ready to shoot by 7-7:30am. The shoot would go on till the light allowed, so the team had 12-13 hour days. However, we all had such a blast and everybody was so professional that it felt like more of a holiday.
The hotel: Our production manager recommended that we should stay at the location where we were meant to shoot and booked us at this fabulous eco-resort called Bambu Indah. American architect and jewellery designer, John Hardy has curated it. It has breath-taking views and incredible raw architecture, but it definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted. I definitely recommend it to nature lovers visiting Ubud.
Foreigners understanding of lawn: was very limited. They hadn’t seen the material before and weren’t familiar with the concept of the three-piece shalwar kamiz and dupatta. However everyone was totally intrigued by Mahgul for Al Zohaib Textiles’ prints and they say kept saying how the dupattas’ would make such beautiful sarongs.
How long did it take you to find the perfect location?
The process to find the perfect location was one of the hardest parts of the journey. Essentially it started while we were still in Lahore. We first spoke to the production team in Bali, gave them a project brief and shared the Mahgul for Al Zohaib Textiles lawn mood boards, after which they started scouting locations for the campaign. The production head then sent us images of various locations that we narrowed down while in Lahore. After getting to Ubud we physically went to check those places and of course there was the stressful chopping, changing and relocating but luckily we found some gorgeous properties, perfect for the shoot.
How many locations did you look at?
We looked at four or five locations out of which it was narrowed down to two. On the first day we shot at Bambu Indah and were thrilled with the results of day one. While wrapping up on set the production manager came to us and said that the next day’s location had fallen through. So here we were thinking it was time to finally relax and unwind, but sitting without a location at 6pm we were ready to drown ourselves in the resort’s natural spring pools! The production team was very supportive and helped us narrow down a few more places. We all loaded up in our van and drove around Ubud to find a new location. Finally we visited a fabulous place called Warrick Ibah. An old properly which was previously owned by royalty, it was exactly what we were looking!
What was your favourite location and why?
Bambu Indah for me was just stupendous! I’m heavily inspired by nature and the raw, natural vibe of the resort was nothing less than therapeutic. A perfect 10/10!
List three unexpected things that happened at the shoot:
1. So we are at Lahore airport and we see our photographer Alee Hassan (who was meant to have left for Ubud on a separate flight)! Apparently when he arrived at the check-in counter earlier that evening the airline informed him that the agent booked him for the 20th of April instead of the 20th of March. There was absolute chaos, as he had to be rebooked to leave with us two hours later. God bless Amir Rashid, Mahgul’s husband, for saving the day because this shoot couldn’t happen without Alee’s genius, I still don’t know how he managed it!
2. The location getting cancelled last minute in Ubud.
3. We were down in the make-up area and everything just started shaking. First we thought that someone was jumping around because the stilted cabin was purely made of wood and bamboo, but we soon realised it was an earthquake and ran out, It surely got our adrenalin going for the shoot!
What was your favourite Mahgul lawn design?
One that is pale-grey with white embroidery, it has white pants and a printed black and white dupatta — it’s amazing so be sure to keep a look out for that one. Then there is one with a green and white geometric print shirt and black and cream pants. What I love most about it is that the dupatta is lawn (not silk) and is completely embroidered in Mahgul’s signature chaddar style, making it an extremely versatile piece that can be used in so many ways. There is also this lotus print, which I really adore. She made a conventional three-piece suit for it but also developed a gorgeous lawn sari with it, a definite number for summer dinners and dholkis!
What was the strangest thing you ate?
I wouldn’t call it strange, but this drink called jamu was very interesting. It’s a turmeric drink that is made with lemon juice and ginger. It is high in antioxidants and is often referred to as the drink of life. It has a slightly bitter taste but I found it quite delicious — it is served everywhere in Ubud.
What was your favourite shot from this shoot?
One of my favourites was the first image that was released. It’s a very intense shot of just her eyes with the rest of the face covered by one of the dupattas in beautiful hues of greens, blues and yellows. And of course all the sari shots are just gorgeous.
Name a new friend you made on set:
Our taxi driver Joko! He was our handyman, tour guide and he assisted us on set — he’s quite multitalented. If I go back to Ubud he would be the first person I would call. Rosario, our Italian make-up artist who recently worked in Bombay for two years and had a good understanding of our culture and traditions. He was very open and down-to-earth, and became a good friend.
Did you learn anything new about Mahgul on this shoot?
I’ve always connected with Mahgul on her fashion aesthetic but after observing her through this process I feel she’s an even bigger genius. For someone who doesn’t wear lawn let alone design it, the way she harnessed the challenge and made it her own was amazing. At a time when designers were shooting their lawn campaigns, Mahgul had just signed her first lawn deal. In two months, understanding, designing, styling and shooting 28 prints is nothing less than remarkable. But more than that it was the honesty to her work which was the real spirit carrying this campaign. She was relentless and there was no compromise at any point, I have nothing but admiration and respect for her work ethic!