Vaneeza Ahmad Ali is a busy woman. On the work front, she travels between Islamabad and Karachi to negotiate between the demands of marriage, a fulltime job as CEO of her own brand/outlet ‘Vaneeza’ and the work she does for lifestyle channel Style 360. Her next project is in Lahore where she is organising Style 360 Bridal Couture Week: An event featuring three days of continuous shows and an exhibition area.
Ali explains the nature of Style 360 Bridal Couture Week as a smorgasbord of everything shadi related. “I mean you’ve got everything to do with weddings under one roof — from designers to florists, you name it,” she adds. Style 360 Bridal Couture Week Pakistan has earned its share of popularity over the last three seasons. This overnight fame shouldn’t come as a big surprise since the local fashion industry tends to oscillate a great deal between bridal wear and the latest lawn print.
Ali’s new range of bags and shoes — which has already been launched in Karachi — also takes up her time. “Keeping international trends in mind, we did a lot of animal motifs and broaches,” she says. However, the generic and done to death ‘leopard print’ is not something she’s after since to her, ingenuity is next to Godliness. While vouching for the uniqueness of her designs Ali shares, “I have done peacock, dragon, lion and even sea-horse motifs.” The diamond encrusted dragon motif she displayed on one of her chappals is inspired from the sinuous panache of Japanese tattoos.
She believes it’s crucial to keep one’s own country in mind when coming out with a line — which is why her shoes have a strong inclination towards national preferences. Lots of gold, silver and Swarovski diamantes are used for ‘Vaneeza’ chappals and short heels to keep the ware according to the taste of Pakistani women. “I feel like what we make is more like jewellery for the feet with an eye for both comfort and design. I mean, why do something that’s not appealing to our culture?”
Next she pulls out one of her bags, a genuine leather creation, mostly white with brown panels. “I import the material from Italy and Germany but we’re exceptionally good at crafting the designs locally.” She claims that a large chunk of the female population in Pakistan fail at differentiating fake leather from the real thing. Genuine leather ages slowly and is durable and lasting, yet she prices modestly at Rs5,000-7,000 for a bag.
Ali and many others who work in the fashion industry are also living proof of the way politics and fashion collide in Pakistan, especially when you open shop in a volatile place like Karachi. “The current situation in Karachi is so tough that it’s making it difficult to stock. The entire industry suffers, all the way from management to production,” states the designer.
Consequently, she has set her eyes on taking her wares to Punjab, as Ali believes, “Once you have a store or outlet, you need to have stuff coming in constantly.”
Where many would throw their hands up in frustration due to the situation in Karachi and give up entirely, the ever-enterprising designer has set her focus on greener pastures. After she launches in Lahore, Islamabad and Faisalabad are next on her list.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2011.