One on One: 9 Lines

Published: November 6, 2018
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Hasan Iqbal Rizvi and Saad Shahid are the founders of the bold and quirky fashion and lifestyle brand, 9Lines. They are known to make your everyday, mundane items vibrant and fun. From artsy home accessories like mugs, coasters and cushion covers, to retro stationary and notebooks, the brand truly aspires to add a creative edge to everything around you. We caught up with the two and they tell us their inspiration behind the brand, the challenges they faced and advice for anyone wanting to kick start a creative career

What inspired you to establish a brand like 9Lines?

Hassan: I’ve always been into quirky and artsy things. Ever since I graduated from NCA, I knew I had to channel my aesthetics into something that will sell. And look where we are today!

Saad: Being a marketer, I discovered a gap in the market. There wasn’t any place where you could buy quirky and fun stationery, outfits and accessories. Starting from stationery we developed into nine other categories which cover everything. It is like you drink your morning coffee in 9Lines, you wear 9Lines, you write your resolutions in 9Lines and you carry 9Lines… You don’t buy from 9Lines, you live 9Lines!

Talk us through the creative process behind coming up with a new collection for the brand.

Hassan: There is an oddity and sense of innovation that is a virtue of 9Lines. This oddity or ‘quirkiness’, and an implicit need to be original and fun, is our unique selling point for 9Lines.  We are always looking for inspiration everywhere, not only on international catwalks but we look at fashion blogs, art shows, travel and what people are wearing on the street. High-street collections especially, because they do end up influencing trends here in Pakistan – but Pakistan as a whole has its own trends too that are defined by our climate and weather so we do incorporate those as well.

Saad: 9Lines is about innovation and originality. We strive on creating concepts which are fresh, fun, have international appeal, original and of course quirky. Everything that we do at 9Lines is completely inspired by real life, places, people, and things in our environment. We take inspiration from everyday life, what we see and feel.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Hassan: We at 9Lines are inspired by our experiences. It is after all our experiences that changes every day and allows us to reflect in our design. We are creating what we enjoy and what we find fun. Having studied and lived in Lahore, South Asian art, artists and pop culture became strong influences in my design education, graphic design being definitely a dominant factor. Pop art, Andy Warhol, the 60’s era, vintage photographs and Pakistani truck and rickshaw art are my main inspirations for designs. Pakistan traditionally has a huge database for design, clothing, food, architecture, home decor, transport, festivals and weddings. One always sees a riot of colours, patterns, textures and kitsch elements. We also love Hindi/Urdu movies and Saad is a diehard Bollywood fan, whereas I’d prefer to focus on Lollywood/Hollywood in my designs. I often find inspiration in yesteryear silver screen icons, retro blockbusters, famous on-screen couples, cheeky dialogues and the extinct art of poster painting. We create what we enjoy, what we find fun.

Saad: We draw inspiration from Pakistani cultural ethos and truck art. Desi pop art is a huge element in our designs. We believe that Pakistan has always been portrayed as not good enough, and it is up to us to change that perception through art and colours.

Since the inception of 9Lines, what has been your favourite piece of work/ collection?

Hassan: For me, it’s our Pret Collection 2018! It stole inspiration from truck art and desi culture. Designing that collection was also a challenge; finding the right match of colours and incorporating the right elements! And it’s safe to say we are almost sold out on that collection!

Saad: Our luxe sunglasses collection! They’re definitely the most stunning piece of work!

What is the most challenging part of your career?

Hassan: We bring original art to a broad spectrum of audience by changing the medium of the canvas to fashion. To be able to alter people’s conception of art and design, and make art accessible through affordable price points required getting several factors of production and design organised to be able to make this a viable concept. Constantly re-inventing, creating original work to stay ahead of the game, along with trying to keep production costs low, without having to hamper the quality of the product, is a constant challenge.

Saad: The biggest challenge we faced was people’s lack of confidence and appreciation of our quirky design aesthetics and ironically the challenge we face today is closely linked to the one we faced five years ago. We now face people who shamelessly copy our designs even knowing they are all protected by law. What used to be our biggest challenge, turns out, was our biggest strength.

Describe a day at the 9Lines office.

Hassan: I love the working environment of design studios. It’s great to be surrounded by like-minded individuals on a daily basis. Sharing ideas stimulates so much creativity – that’s what I thrive off.

Saad: Hassan creates some of the most epic playlists in our office. Check out our weekend playlists to know more or just sneak into our office some day! We promise to change your playlist forever.

If you guys hadn’t established 9Lines, what would you rather be doing?

Hassan: I guess I’d be making art and exhibiting it all over the world!

Saad: I’d still be a professor at Lahore School of Economics and I’d still be running a marketing consultancy firm!

What do you guys enjoy doing when you aren’t working?

Hassan: Scrolling through my pictures from 10 years ago!

Saad: Netflix and chill!

Any advice for people wanting to start a creative career?

Hassan: Always do what you want. You’ll find people discouraging you for following your dream but stay focused. You’ll achieve big!

Saad: Never settle for anything less than you deserve and don’t let others put you down!

What is in store for 9Lines in the near future?

Hassan: The online market is growing tremendously and 9Lines is highly active on social media platforms. Digital marketing and promotions along with collaborations related to art, fashion and design are a few things we are working on currently to expand its reach into diverse markets across and beyond Pakistan. Art, design and fashion will always be the soul of 9Lines. We have never really looked at creating any future plan so far, we go with the flow. All we know is that we’d like to have at least one store retailing our brand in all major Pakistani cities. We’d really like our fans to be able to buy our products right from where they live. Eventually we’d want to spread out to other countries too.

Saad: We also want to evolve 9Lines into other categories like cutlery, footwear, rugs, bed spreads, curtains, furniture, saris and even branching out into a restaurant chain! 9Lines is a Pandora’s box! With the wide range of ideas we have and the appropriate mix of skills, we would like to be a cross between Paperchase and Moschino with a little cheating on the side with John Lewis (wink!). Having taken names of the three inspirational brands, 9Lines takes pride in originality, our heritage and quirk. Our ambition to be better with each new collection will guide our way forward. The sky is the limit! We are ambitious and we intend to capitalise on this ambition and keep on thriving in future.

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