A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever
In the course of my journalistic career, I have had the chance to interview many well known figures of the fashion industry and some of them, I have interviewed even twice with a good ten years time span having elapsed in between. Kamiar Rokni more lovingly known as Kami is one such personality. Over the years, I have come to realise that criticism comes quite naturally to me, whereas praise remains sporadic- a cumbersome, exhausting task which I prefer to avoid. But there is one scenario in which praise simply flows out effortlessly, in limitless quantity- that is, when it is genuine! It was a joy to sit with him back when he had just started out in the field and had created ripples of excitement, bringing something atypical to the field and so many years later, even today it was pure pleasure to find myself in the company of such a truly gifted designer.
Even though talent is the first premise of making it big in any industry, I have witnessed it plenty of times and in excess. Kami more than amply qualifies to be amongst the abundantly talented. But that is not what is most impressive about him. What I found most appealing about team Kamiar Rokni which has Tia Noon and Rehan Bashir working alongside Kami, was that delicate touch of refinement, culture and class that eludes so many of the rest of us.
I would if I could, dedicate this entire piece to the designer’s eloquence, grooming, courteousness and so much more that make him a complete person, affable and articulate; focused and confident, knowledgeable and well-bred and of course being actually good at his job! But let us suffice by putting it very simply- he is truly likeable! That makes him fit into the spot-on definition of a client’s dream designer offering as much creativity as well as flexibility as one would expect from the creator of a timeless dress for you.
We bring you an insight into the workings of the House of Kamiar Rokni- one fashion house that stands tall amongst the very best of Pakistan fashion, through excerpts from our little tête-à-tête with Kami, Tia and Rehan.
Q. Tell us about your current team of key players for the House of Kamiar Rokni?
Tia: We started out with just Kami and myself- we are cousins and were later joined by our third cousin Rehan. As a family we all tend to be inclined towards the arts and have always been surrounded by creativity. The aesthetic sense in us is something that has been nurtured throughout our lives.
Kami: All three of us are co-designers but to be more specific I am the creative director, Tia is the CEO and Rehan is productions and operations. But we design together, sometimes in collaboration and sometimes working on individual aspects of a design. The three of us share DNA that ties us together and we come from a feudal background where we have been brought up sharing a philosophy, heritage and aesthetic of an old world charm. The quest for art and elegance is common amongst us. Our imaginations are not inhibited by any typical norms. That is what makes us a great team when put together.
Q. Apart from being a full-time designer, you used to host a talk show for a TV channel, dabbled into writing and being RJ for a radio station. Why did you branch out in so many varied directions?
Kami: I did what was offered to me and came my way. I explored everything. I am receptive to opportunities. But when I found certain things were not quite meant for me or found them to be frivolous, I quit. At the moment I am teaching ‘History of Costume Design’ at Beaconhouse National University. I am also on the board of Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design school.
Q. What are some of the features of your designing that set you apart from others?
Tia: The finishing of our product is one of the things that sets us apart. The quality of the ensemble and eye for detail in the design are what we pride ourselves on.
Kami: The scale, colour and pattern are also part of it. We will not toe the line. We are elegantly rebellious! I can easily mix the traditional with elements taken from world heritage. Our collections have Ming Dynasty reflections as well as those of Mughal era. A revivalist approach is what you find most refreshing at the our design house. Tia is more fanciful and artistic when it comes to design, Rehan covers the commercial angles and together we all compliment each other when we gather at the design table.
Q. You have taken your own good time in producing your collections, which is usually much longer than most other designers in the field. What is the reason for that and do you feel you need to change that in order to compete?
Kami: Design is about expression. I cannot be done with it in five minutes and produce something that will please the masses. Along the way I am working on refining the craft. Very candidly put, producing a collection is also a matter of managing the financials. It not only takes time but also money. We show once every two years because we feel we can do justice to what we have created over this time period. But I will not say that I am bound by any time frames or limitations. If I felt like it I would show twice a year or maybe just once in three years. There is no point in following a pattern that is working for my competitors. I like to build pieces which will be treasured for generations to come.
Q. What are some of the negative aspects of working for the Pakistani fashion industry? Have you done anything to bring about a positive change in the way things are done locally?
Kami: There are many issues when it comes to production. To achieve consistency is a challenge. Procurement of materials such a sequins and beads might become troublesome. Then there are human resource and labour issues. Power cuts will present another set of problems. Copycats will set up a small workshop in their garage and start producing our design replicas. Unfortunately, all the designers suffer from these issues but we are a long way from being able to enforce any legitimate protective measures for the industry.
Q. You say that your grandmothers have been influential on your work, tell us how?
Tia: Our grandmothers were an epitome of class and all that is glamorous. A Bohemian elegance is what surrounded them and us while being under their influence.
Kami: Perhaps they were more refined and glamorous than all of us combined together. That generation believed in always being at your best, even in daily dressing.
Rehan: I think we have been very fortunate to have such figures shape the course of our aesthetics and sensibilities.
Q. How was the experience of participating in shows internationally? How do you find it different from our local shows? Give suggestions to help improve our fashion shows.
Tia: We have showcased thrice in Paris. We have showed in Mauritious and a couple of other countries. The export promotion bureau of Pakistan has worked consistently in this area. The idea is to build a better image of Pakistan in the world and highlight the beauty of our rich cultural heritage while at the same time promoting the superior quality of our craftsmanship as well as creativity of our designers.
Kami: Shows held abroad have a simplicity which our local fashion shows lack. We have come a long way in the last few years but a sheer simplicity in presentation is what is lacking. We like to over decorate and overdo everything. It is something that we need to be conscious of across the board, as a nation, in all disciplines.
Q. Who are some of your favourite designers locally and internationally that you find inspiring?
Kami: Bunto Kazmi and Faiza Samee are great when in comes to use of colour. Mohsin Ali, currently working with Sana Safinaz is good. Coco Chanel has a vocabulary and character which is fascinating. Chanel has defined fashion in the 20th Century.
Tia: Coco Chanel has a very active philosophy which is unparalleled. The brand literally shifted fashion and led to evolving it into shaping and giving direction to the lives of women.
Rehan: I love Bunto Kazmi’s work. I like some of Nilofer Shahid’s creations. Valentino has a luxuriousness of the old world combined with the contemporary.
Q. Tell us about your latest collection showcased at PLBW 2015. What’s in store for the coming bridal season at House of Kamiar Rokni?
Kami: The last collection ‘Orientalist’ was designed two years ago. The latest one ‘Alchemy’ takes a few elements from that collection. It encompasses a western perception of the East. ‘Philosopher’s stone’ and the desire to turn metal into gold were some of the ideas going through our heads while designing. The collection was very well received and got raving reviews with the media touting it for the unbelievable intricacy of design, the exquisite colours and gorgeous fabrics.
Q. For a bridal dress, must a girl follow a set of ongoing popular fads or should she follow what suits her best and heart desires?
Kami: A designer creates a bespoke piece for the client. It must be the voice of the wearer herself. We do not like to press upon the client our own ideas, but we surely will guide her into a better judgment. The bridal outfit is ceremonial- it needs to be able to serve its purpose of making a memorable statement. It is often preserved through decades and passed onto future generations, wherein lies its true worth and value.
Q. Future plans?
Kami: We aim to have a more regional approach expanding our clientele to the Middle East. The Arab world is the new market. We also want to focus on reviving the craft. Certain stitches, certain weaves and natural fabrics which we have lost need to be brought back. We want to grow as a business in prêt and bring work to our local craftsman creating job opportunities. Lawn is another area that is important. It is a way to influence people on a large scale and I admire the designers who are doing it.
We wish this amazing team tons of success for all their future endeavours.