Arjumand Amin, fashion entrepreneur and head designer at Mahnoush, thought it fitting to celebrate five formidable Pakistani women on the fifth anniversary of her label. “Celebrating these women was my way of paying homage to what these Pakistani heroes have achieved. I relate to them, albeit on a tiny level, as I launched my lawn and faced many difficulties along the way,” says Amin. “I admire them all unequivocally. Their real achievement is that they have done all this while staying so warm and accessible, without the least trace of hubris.”
The label Mahnoush represents a number of attributes beauty, spirit, empowerment, ambition and passion. Here are the five women that Amin feels embody these qualities and represent Pakistan in the best light — master couturier Bunto Kazmi, the fearless filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, artist-extraordinaire Shahzia Sikander, dynamic social entrepreneur Roshaneh Zafar and leading athlete and sporting entrepreneur Naseem Hameed.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
Amin says that Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy was chosen for bringing worldwide fame for Pakistan as the recipient of both an Oscar and an Emmy, and highlighting the plight of the less fortunate through her critically acclaimed work.
The first non-American to win the Livingstone Award for young journalists, Chinoy was conferred the Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan and was also included in Time magazine’s 2012 annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
“Mahnoush has chosen to celebrate Pakistani women who are passionate and dynamic and who represent the best of Pakistan, and that speaks volumes about the brand and its vision. Women in Pakistan are spirited and ambitious and I support a brand that looks to embrace and espouse these values.”
“I am honoured to be celebrated in such auspicious company. I feel the brand is authentically connected with people instead of on a surface level by shining a light on women who have defied the odds and succeeded,” adds Chinoy.
“It’s no secret that I have always had an ambitious spirit and I’ve always been passionate about the empowerment of women and communities. I always endeavour that my work as a filmmaker and a voice for Pakistan embodies the very ethos of passion, empowerment, truth and spirit.”
Bunto Kazmi was chosen for the way she has reached the pinnacle of her career with her customary grace, according to Amin.
She creates not just beautiful clothes, but works of art, heirlooms to be passed on from one generation to the next. With intricate workmanship and motifs that ultimately save the best of our sartorial traditions for coming generations, she is a living legend.
“I feel extremely humbled to be celebrated as one of Pakistan’s most formidable women,” says Kazmi. “I think I embody passion the most, as I have always gone the extra mile to fulfil my work commitments, and ensure that each outfit is a labour of love,” she adds.
Shahzia Sikander was chosen for her immense achievements in the international art scene, according to Amin.
She is responsible for re-inventing miniature painting as practised in Pakistan today. Her multimedia work in video, animation, mural and installation has pioneered a new discourse in the arts by bringing contemporary miniature painting into the international arena. She was recently awarded the MacArthur Genius Award and is currently working on a new project commissioned by the Samdani Foundation, Dhaka.
“I am proud to be a Pakistani Woman and to be celebrated in the company of other women I admire and respect. For me, art is not just an impulse to make aesthetically pleasing objects. It has been an instinct to think and imagine the future. Ideas are a powerful entity. In re-imagining lies the ability to break moulds and re-examine the norms,” says Sikander.
“Creativity is genius and the more we strengthen and build cohesion in the creative capital drawn from the diverse communities of our great nation, the better we will be to address our current and future challenges,” she adds.
Athlete and sporting entrepreneur
Naseem was chosen by Amin not just for getting a gold medal in the SAF games, but for setting up an academy to train young sportsmen and sportswomen.
“It’s a great honour for me that I was selected as one of these five women being celebrated, and being part of the campaign with the likes of Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Bunto Kazmi, who have promoted the positive image of Pakistan in the world,” says Naseem.
“I believe my spirit, passion and ambition are reflected in everything I’ve done and hopefully in all that I will do as an athlete and as an entrepreneur,” she adds.
Social entrepreneur /founder Kashf Foundation
Amin says that Roshaneh Zafar was chosen for the wonderful work she has done for bettering the lives of thousands through micro-finance opportunities.
She is renowned for her pioneering work in helping women in lower-income groups achieve economic parity. The Kashf Foundation has disbursed over 2.2 million loans and redirected the lives of thousands of households.
“For me, this is about upholding Pakistan’s traditions of art and design. It’s about combining the classic woman with modernity and about promoting one of Pakistan’s most vibrant industries — textiles. At one level it’s also about being a supporter of women led businesses, which Mahnoush as a brand represents,” says Zafar.
“I am sure there are many other women who deserve this title, especially the low-income women entrepreneurs who I work with, who are truly formidable. I have deep respect for the women of Pakistan who despite all the challenges they face are able to realize their dreams. I hope being part of this campaign will encourage other women to excel in other fields,” she adds.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2014.