Award-winning Pakistani designer Erum Khan has us psyched for summer with her collection, The Untainted Shine. Organza skirts, flirty ruffles, sheer capes and exquisite beading dazzled the runway in the freshest shades of white and gold. Smitten by her work, I spoke to Khan about her collection, the appeal of Pakistan’s fashion industry in the West and her advice for aspiring designers.
A version of this article appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Zardozi Magazine. Check out the latest issue for more South Asian style, beauty and culture – available for free online.
Tell us about “The Untainted Shine” collection. What’s behind the name?
The collection has been inspired by royalty and features interesting motifs such as 3D flowers, pearls and diamanté crystals. Likewise, the fabrics used are also very luxurious such as organza, pure silk and georgettes, which have a touch of shimmer.
From ensuring each bead and sequin is sewed in place correctly, to choosing models, doing fittings and shooting photos — how do you manage when preparing for a high profile fashion show like PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week?
To stay on top of things in any field, one should be very well organized. I plan everything out with my team far in advance so that there are no chances of any mishaps occurring at the last minute. That’s how I work.
Pakistan’s Fashion Industry
The popularity of South Asian designers has grown lately in America with Prabal Gurung, Naeem Khan and Bibhu Mohapatra. Where do you see Pakistani designers within the western fashion industry? And how can they become more mainstream among non-desis?
I think Pakistani designers have a lot of potential in the Western market. In the past designers such as Maheen Khan and Nilofer Shahid have received great responses internationally. In order to become mainstream, we definitely need to market ourselves better. We will also have to master the art of fusion designing. Our ethnic embellishments can be infused beautifully with western cuts, and this is one aspect which I feel our designers have still not fully explored.
To make it big as a designer in Pakistan, you have noted finding the right talent and raising capital as key. Based on your success, what other tips do you have for aspiring designers?
Don’t decide to become a fashion designer if you are smitten by the glamour. There’s a lot of hard work involved. Fashion designers spend most of their time working in their studios till late hours. You have to be very passionate about designing, but also understand the business side of fashion. Be very realistic for your customers in terms of designing and pricing.
The pressure on young girls to look thin and flawless is overwhelming these days with unattainable ideals set forth by the fashion/beauty industry. What’s your philosophy?
I always make sure that my clients are comfortable in whatever I design. I understand my clientele and make clothes accordingly. The media worldwide has set up unrealistic expectations from women, which I strongly oppose. Everybody should dress up to feel good, not to meet certain societal expectations.
What is the most satisfying part of your work as a designer?
I get a chance to use my strongest talent: designing. It used to be a hobby initially, so I am lucky to be making a living from what I truly enjoy doing. The positive feedback I receive from my customers worldwide is what makes it all worth it.
All images courtesy of eBuzzToday.