She’s quirky, fun and flamboyant in an effortless way. The fact that she lives in Karachi (a city which can never look beyond black, white and beige as epitomes of sophistication) just adds more to accessory designer Mahin Hussain’s charm. She is a hot favourite amongst the fashion coterie, who love her bags for the loud and funky statement they make. Not only has Hussain made colour fun, she has also introduced a ‘pop-art’ take on going green ala Pakistan and cool patriotism like no other.
Why did you decide to do accessories instead of the usual designer clothing?
I got the opportunity to design some printed fabric bags while working with a fashion designer, and before I knew it, I was producing handbags for a retail giant. I decided to pursue a one-year diploma course in fashion design from London to understand the field better. Upon my return, I took a leap of faith and launched my own accessory brand ‘Mahin Hussain Accessories’.
How difficult is it being an accessory designer?
Sometimes, just being an accessory designer in Pakistan is the biggest challenge I face. It’s not just the customers’ wants, desires and needs that I have to address — I have to constantly battle a mindset, which promulgates designer handbags as a benchmark for social standing. For the majority, buying a handbag from a local designer is almost a taboo. I call it deep-rooted insecurity — the need to follow the crowd because you don’t possess the aesthetics or design sensibility to actually choose a fashion statement for yourself; the desire to have ‘arrived’ along with an overwhelming lack of individuality.
Each year you do a patriotic line. What do you want people to expect from it?
When I started the Indep-endence collection in 2010, the floods had just wrecked the lives of millions, and we all felt the need to belong. This collection was just an attempt on my part to reach out and instill a sense of patriotism. It was a collection of freedom quotes of Jinnah, emotionally charged lyrics of Noor Jehan’s war songs and some graphic images of the Pakistani flag in shiny sequins. This year’s independence collection was entitled ‘Made in Pakistan’. I wanted everyone to be proud of our indigenous products.
What other themes would you like to pursue through your work and why?
I am very interested in working with rural women, to create our own version of fair trade production. Aside from improving their economic conditions, we need to give them a sense of pride in their work and their life.
How would you encourage other designers to devote themselves to accessories?
Designers who have a real passion to be part of a change should step into this field. Accessories are far more difficult than apparel, maybe less viable financially (unless you happen to be designing with Swarovski crystals) but definitely more rewarding. There is a need for more accessory designers, because competition is what lets brilliance surface. I would like to see Iman from Body Focus in this line of work.
You recently started a home accessories line; what else will we see from you?
I started out nearly 10 years ago with the aim to do multiple products/ranges but giving all of them the ‘Mahin Hussain touch’. I never like to limit myself; I follow my heart and go wherever it takes me.
If you did clothes, what aesthetic/design ethos would you explore?
Simple. Edgy. Mismatched. Bold. Retro.
If you weren’t a designer, what else would you be/do?
A fine arts artist who made mad wall art.
What drives you in your work?
The thrill of a new collection. I get bored easily; I need change and I need the new, shiny and happy. The desire to suppress bad design with the super good and shock people with wild ideas along the way.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2011.
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