Brides & You caught up with the versatile designer Khadija Shah for an exciting insight into the life of this talented designer.
Élan, in a short span of time has become one of the biggest labels in the fashion industry. To what would you accredit such rapid popularity, which commonly takes many decades to surface?
Élan is a young label, but our commitment to quality and innovation has placed it amongst the leading fashion houses of Pakistan. With the explosion of social media people are ever more aware of global fashion trends and demand a similar level of creativity and quality from local brands. Élan has a highly creative and technically skilled design team that ensures that we give people exactly the kind of fashion experience that they are looking for.
Your mother Aneela Shah is also a designer with her loyal clientele and as far as we know your clients are completely different from hers, as is your designing, but to what extent is your mother responsible for instilling into your character the love for designing and how did it help you in getting your label established? Any memorable childhood incidences?
I inherited my mother’s love for fashion. As a teenager I remember going with her to source fabrics and embellishments for her designs which were completely avant-garde at a time when there was hardly any understanding or appreciation for designer wear. I loved seeing how her designs would develop and I started getting her karighars to make me little patches of embroidery that I would use on my own clothes. Even today, I troubleshoot with her and take her input on most decisions. I feel lucky to have her experiences to learn from.
Who and what is your source of inspiration when designing?
It is hard for me to define a source of inspiration. Anything or anyone beautiful in one or many ways can trigger the creative process for me. It can be jewellery, a decorative porcelain piece, vintage fabric, a colour, an architectural detail, a postcard or Olivia Palermo and Queen Rania- there is no end to it!
What qualities make a successful designer? Is it flexibility to change with the changing trends, boundless creativity and inborn talent, a good marketing strategy or a degree from a reputed fashion school?
Fashion like art cannot be created without an inborn talent. If you possess the talent, only then marketing strategies and fashion degrees add to your success.
How do you juggle work and family? Is it hard work or does everything fall naturally into place? Which is the hardest… being a mother, a wife or a career woman?
My family is wholly integrated in my work environment. My husband Jehanzeb handles the business side of Élan and my kids spend as much time at our offices as they do at home. With the kind of hours I need to put in at work, it would not work out in any other way.
The Pakistani client tends to be demanding and non compromising. We see a lot of delicate, flowy material, softer hues and detailed motif in your bridal dresses; what is the essence or idea behind choosing this type of workmanship? Do you make changes to suit the taste of the client or adhere to your original design strictly?
The clients who come to us do so for our particular design sensibility. Élan has a signature ethereal and intrinsically detailed motif based aesthetic. Staying within those parameters I customise creations for our clients, but rarely does anyone demand an ensemble that we do not feel comfortable designing, and if at all that happens, we amicably refer the client to another design house.
What kind of designing, colours, cuts, materials and styles can we hope to see in the near future by Élan?
Élan’s bridal collections are opulent and portray classic old world elegance. Luxe fabrics such as organza, tulle and tissue have been worked with floral tapestries, intricate beading, cutwork filigrees, gilded edges, and jewel-encrusted motifs to create textured surfaces with incredible detail. The cuts are classic but with a signature Élan twist. There is an eclectic array of jackets with ghararas, kalidars with Dhaka pajamas, hybrid saris, choli lehngas, angrakhas, and shift dresses with chooridars and cigarette pants. The collection has a beautiful colour spectrum; dewy mints, rose pinks, honeyed creams, silver greys, metallic gold, deep plum, saffron yellow, jade green, ruby red, tones of sapphire cobalt and midnight blue make it reminiscent of imperial grandeur.
How has the experience of jumping into the highly competitive lawn market been for Élan? What brought on this decision to diversify and which do you enjoy designing for more- couture or lawn print?
Lawn has been an amazingly rewarding experience. In our very first year we earned recognition and in just three years Élan lawn has become one of the most coveted lawn brands. Lawn gives me the chance to take my designs to the masses, and being loved and rewarded on that level is a different kind of high. It is very difficult to compare couture to lawn, both are on different ends of the price and value addition spectrum, but it is equally exciting to create them both and both give me invaluable experience in the field of design.
What is the most difficult part of working as a fashion designer in the local market? What is the one thing which you believe needs to be changed for the betterment of the industry in general?
In Pakistan designers do not have access to fabrics and embellishments which are available to international designers. I think specialist stores catering to the needs of the fashion industry would be a welcome addition. Apart from that we should strive for a spirit of healthy competition within the industry and avoid becoming political. There should be some amount of camaraderie and feelings of goodwill between designers in order for the industry to make further gains.