Wardha Saleem is best known for her prêt-a-porter as well as lawn collections — modern and traditional embroidery, vibrant colours and block prints. Her latest collection Folk Play, a colourful exhibition of psychedelic prints, was one of the best collections to have come out of Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW4).
“I belong to Sindh and that is why this rich culture is so prevalent in my work,” says Wardha, referring to her Jhirki and Folk Play collections. “At the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture [IVSAA], I learnt about this craft in detail — how to take inspiration from this culture and turn it into a statement piece in today’s time.” The designer did her bachelors in textile design from IVSAA in 2003 and has been teaching at the institute since.
Wardha feels that if you want to reach the pinnacle of your career and “keep the ball rolling”, you need to love what you do. “We always put something special in our clothes,” she says, adding that people consequently try to copy the embroidery and overall style. “However, there is a lot more to a complete outfit than just that. It cannot be copied entirely.” Referring to the imitations of her lawn designs from 2011, she says, “I believe you need to be a trendsetter. People follow you and you should enjoy it and not get angry — it’s part of the game.”
For the designer, it is the constant support from family, friends and workers that has allowed the label to make a place for itself in the fashion realm. Her brothers look after the brand’s marketing and legal affairs while her friends, Tapu Javeri (official photographer of the brand) and Ayaz Anis, have been pillars of support. “A strong family system brings out the best in you,” she smiles.
“The craftsmen that work for us are very poor and I feel responsible for them,” she continues, talking about her workers based in Tando Allahyar who are responsible for patchwork, Tando Muhammad Khan for ajrak and Karachi for block-printing. “As designers, I feel it’s our responsibility to save our traditional craft. Look at India, their craft industry is blooming,” she says. “We have a lot of talent and skill in Pakistan too and we need to save it from falling apart.”
When it comes to the dynamic and stressful phenomenon of fashion week, Wardha feels anxiety and stress are prerequisites to a successful show. “I get scared at the beginning of every show, like it’s the very first time; but the element of fear certainly leads to a good show,” she says. She also feels that fashion weeks provide a colossal platform to designers and give them opportunities to grow. “I love the madness of fashion weeks and the competition that is out there — it challenges you and shows that you cannot be monotonous if you want to survive,” she adds.
PHOTO: TAPU JAVERI / MAKE-UP AND STYLING: RAANA KHAN
Up close and personal
For Wardha, a good life partner should have a “strong soul with family values and good morals” and should be open to others’ opinions. He should be “someone who doesn’t view life from one dimension and is open to other perspectives too”.
“Being in love teaches you a lot about life and yourself — it’s important to fall in love at least once in your life,” she says. When asked why she hasn’t yet been spotted with a significant other, she says, “I would love to be spotted — just waiting for my Mr Right.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2013.
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