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Myra Qureshi – Because Natural Beauty Shines Best

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“Myra Qureshi is co-founder and CEO of Conatural, Pakistan’s first certified organic company that manufactures, retails, and exports organic skin and hair care products. In 2014, Myra capitalised on her 13 years of management consultancy expertise by launching Conatural, a pioneer in the Pakistani market for certified organic skin and hair care, and took the company international.”

What was the idea behind the label “Conatural?”

Our market is flooded with adulterated and toxic creams and cosmetics and the average consumers really don’t know what they are putting on their skin. Our mission was to create organic, unadulterated, pure, and wild-crafted beauty products, so we decided to call the company ‘Conatural’ meaning a “company that is natural.”

What motivated you to quit your job in the corporate sector and opt for an entrepreneurial venture?

I had worked in investment banking abroad for over a decade. When I completed my Exec-MBA and returned to Pakistan, I knew I wanted to start a business that took entrepreneurial principles to organise, mobilise, and manage a for-profit business that has a social mission at its core. I studied the local market, and realised that organic products were something that I was really passionate about and that there was a market for them as well.

Which product is highest selling and why?

We have different products for different age groups that are bestsellers. Our hair range does very well though across gender and age groups.

Which segment of society makes up for most of your customers?

As we are using certified organic ingredients, the cost to source and manufacture is high. So we can never be a mass product in Pakistan. As such, our customers are usually those who seek and can afford genuine organic products.

What does your average day look like?

I wake up and check e-mails, and then spend quality time with my one-year old baby, followed by yoga. I usually leave for the factory at 9:30am and have breakfast in the car, as I am always pressed for time!  En route, I catch up on the news, reading, and responding to e-mails.

At the factory, we always have our R&D meeting first (when our brains are fresh!), followed by procurement and production planning meetings. I then meet with the warehouse team and leave for the head office around 1:30pm. The first hour is usually spent doing finance-related activities, followed by marketing and sales updates. I try and spend at last 2-3 hours on business development, laying the foundation for future growth and opportunities. I spend a lot of time directly engaging with my teams on their tasks and usually leave the office around 7:30pm.  After an early dinner, I put my baby to sleep and then usually make a few work calls, after which I spend time with family, zone out with Netflix, or go see friends.

What is your brand ideology?

Conatural is a pioneer in Pakistan in the use of ingredients that are certified organic (where possible), natural, wild-crafted, and pure therapeutic grade essential oils. Our product ideology is a mix of exotic essences, Ayurveda, and modern aromatherapy. Our products are 100% cruelty-free and we never test our products on animals. In terms of our brand ideology, you could say it is to promote a lifestyle that is wholly organic and in tune with Nature.

What are the biggest challenges of operating in this industry?

The challenges of establishing and running a holistically organic company in Pakistan are numerous. The big ones, though, are lack of education on ‘safe’ beauty products, zero government regulation within the personal care sector and pretty much no protection of intellectual property rights, and difficulty sourcing organic ingredients.

We have to spend a tremendous amount of time, resources and effort in educating consumers on how to read labels, make better and informed choices, and know what certified organic actually means. Few people understand what ‘certified organic’ actually means; many believe that ‘organic’ is synonymous to ‘natural’. However, just because something was grown in your garden doesn’t make it organic. ‘Certified organic’ is a lengthy, expensive, and rigorous process; from thoroughly scrutinising each ingredient to be non-GMO and checking the water that is used to irrigate the land, to inspecting the soil, and quality-testing the raw material itself to ensure its 100% natural.

When it comes to regulation, there are no safeguards or checks in place to ensure quality control. Some companies are guilty of producing products that cause can cause irreparable damage to the skin and many creams sold in the market are a dangerous cocktail of compounds like mercury, steroids, hydroquinone, and tretinoin, the long term use of which can lead to lethal health concerns – all under the labels of ‘natural’, ‘herbal’ or ‘organic’. Meanwhile, companies like ours spend years researching and developing products, only for copycats to come in and literally copy the packaging and product design. In most cases, they are able to copy the outer packaging very well, but not actual cream or lotion; but when consumers get the fake product, our brand gets a bad name.

Then, as I mentioned, sourcing certified organic ingredients locally is very tough. Our food chain is massively compromised due to the amount of chemical pesticides and fertilisers used, so it not economically viable for growers to stop growing anything on their soil for years so that they can even be close to fit the criteria of organic to get certified. I spend at least two months of the year travelling the world to source certified organic ingredients.

What are your future plans with regard to this venture?

We are looking to expand into Europe.

In your product line which product is close to your heart and why?

The Skin Renew: Organic Age Defying Cream is pretty close to my heart because it took us nearly two years to research and develop it. We wanted to make an organic cream that promised results within two weeks of usage. It was a tough one, but in the end I’m super proud that we got there. This cream is fabulous for anti-ageing!

Conatural recently made its debut in UK. How was the experience and response?

The response was fantastic. We made our debut at the prestigious Asiana Bridal Show held at the Grosvenor House in London. Not only did we generate sales but to represent Pakistan at such an important event internationally was a humbling experience.

Why UK instead of Dubai, which has a larger South Asian population?

We launched the brand in the UAE in October. We stock with souq.ae which covers the entire UAE and most countries in the GCC.

Celebrities Interviews

Sadya s Salon

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Brides & You got a chance to catch up with Sadya of Sadya’s Salon. Read on to find out some interesting things you would want to know about this talented makeup artist:

Did you discover your talent accidentally or were you always sure about what you wanted to do?
Like every girl, I have always loved makeup. I remember doing my own makeup, sitting on my mother’s vanity table as a child. But education has always been a priority in my family. So after getting my degree, I began learning makeup properly from my mother, Mrs Nazli Iftikhar who is the owner of House Wife Home located in Lahore. Then I started teaching girls at her salon. That’s how it all started.

You have been in the business since 2002. What is the pull that draws you to this profession?
When a bride is ready and her face lights up with joy, it inspires me. I thank God for making my passion my profession. I graduated from NCA with a degree in Communication Design and did my masters from London in Interactive Media. But through the years the art of makeup has always been by my priority and now my profession.

Name one person who has been your support throughout the years?
My mother. She has been the pillar of strength in my career. She was one of the pioneers in the field and learnt makeup from London in 1982. I can’t thank her enough for being my mentor, friend and support through the years.

Sometimes the fame goes to one’s head but you seem like a really down to earth person. How do you maintain a low profile?
Everyone has ups and downs and time teaches you a lot. I stay focused on my work and believe that no one can be perfect- we must all improve every single day, that’s what keeps my feet on the ground.

What is the one thing that makes you relax, after a tiring and busy day?
My family. The smiles of my kids really lift me up.

With cutthroat competition in the market what is it that sets you apart from others?
My work speaks for itself. Personalized makeup is all about giving personal attention to the bride. I go into the minutest of details, from makeup to hair to dupatta setting, paying personal attention to everything, making sure that it is done with utmost finesse and perfection. I do not let the bride go out of my salon, till I see the spark of satisfaction and confidence in her eyes.

How do you make sure that the bride is satisfied on her big day?
Wedding day is a huge day for every girl and we are honored to be a part of it. We try to make sure she is comfortable, relaxed and confident. One week before the wedding day, we have trials for hair-do and a session about the overall look and styling of the bride. This helps the girl be happier about how she will look on her big day.

Do you offer bridal deals for brides who cannot afford expensive make up packages?
Yes. We offer to pre book your wedding package in summer for a winter wedding. The package costs between Rs 30,000 to 60,000. We highly respect the appreciation girls have of our work and for those we have special Summer Packages.

What brands of make-up do you use?
There are so many amazing brands in the market now, some have amazing foundations, others have an amazing colour palette. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation is one my favourite foundations. Two faced has amazing bronzer/ contouring colours. Mac has unbelievable lip shades with pigmentation. Dior has great glosses and the list goes on.

Which lipstick trend do you promote- classic or matte?
I love classic but only with a little gloss.

Do you enjoy teaching your trade? Do you ever feel insecure?
It is a blessing to have a skill. To me it is important to share it with others. The best part is when you teach someone, you inspire them, you motivate them and that is fulfilling in itself. It gives me a sense of achievement, not insecurity.

What is one thing you like most about being a beautician?
The most beautiful thing is the smile of a bride or anyone who is made to feel beautiful after the services have been completed. As the bride walks out of my salon feeling beautiful, I feel pride.

If stranded on an island which product, do you feel you cannot do without?
If I have to choose from makeup products, it would be lip balm.

Which products do you feel a girl on her honeymoon cannot do without?
Sunscreen, face powder, mascara, blush and a lip gloss.
Do visit Sadya’s Salon which is located on Maratab Ali Road. It is worth the time, effort and money. We at Brides & You wish Sadya, a future full of even more success and expansion.

Celebrities Interviews

Hina Butt- Juggling three jobs and looking gorgeous doing it

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Hina Butt, MPA & Director of TEENA by Hina Butt, debuted her eponymous womenswear luxury brand in 2010 and the brand has since skyrocketed to great heights due to the exuberance, style and panache that it represents. We sat down with the stylish entrepreneur, politician and the hands on mom to talk about her work, life and her passions.

1. How did you come in this field?

I always had an eye for fashion. Everyone loved what I used to wear as I always used to stand out. While studying at LUMS all my friends wanted me to design clothes for them. Right after my MBA, I knew I wanted to open my business of fashion. I launched my fashion house in 2010. 

2. What is your definition of the term, “fashionista”?

Fashionista is an avid leader and follower of fashion.  For me a fashionista is someone who leads in fashion by bringing out new fashion trends. A fashionista does not need support from brand products to look nice. Sometimes you have it in you. You can be minimalistic but make a fashion statement by mixing and matching.

3. If you had to dress up in another Pakistani designer’s outfit, who would it be?

I personally love Elan. Their outfits are elegant and chic. I also like Karachi based designer Sania Maskatiya- love the way she plays in cuts and prints. 

4. What is your ‘to go’ perfume?

Oud Isphani from Dior is my favourite perfume. I don’t go out of the house without it. It’s an exquisite and mysterious scent and everyone always asks me what perfume I’m wearing. 

5. What is that one shade of lipstick that you always carry in your bag? The one that you think can go with all your designed outfits?

The Spirit by Mac and recently I am loving the new matte lip gloss from Huda called Trendsetter. 

6. What is one difference between your clientele from Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad  (the regional hubs of Pakistan) 

Clientele from Lahore wants to wear whatever is in fashion. The clients from Karachi only like trendy fashionable stuff focusing on cuts and minimalistic work. Clients from Faisalabad want over the top gaudy stuff. 

It’s innovative, bold and unique. Our designs are minimalistic yet luxurious, capturing the individuality and confidence of today’s women. 

8. Who in your view is that one designer that has left a lasting impression on fashion world?

Hands-down Coco Chanel! Her ‘little black dress’ collection of the 1920’s gained universal popularity and greatly helped to move women’s fashion forward. Her uncluttered styles, with their boxy lines and shortened skirts, allowed women to leave their corsets behind and freed them from the fashion shackles of that time. 

9. What differentiates your work from that of other designers in the current fashion scene?

My designs are chic, trendy and fresh. We’re constantly innovating and embracing new trends. For example recently we started tulip pants and scalloped kurtas in fun vibrant colours which sold like hot cakes! I never compromise on quality and try to give my clients gorgeous outfits for the best possible prices.

11: How do you deal with the pressure of being a young mother, an entrepreneur and an MPA? 

It’s all about balancing and work delegation. Sometimes it gets overwhelming but the key to success is hard work and persistence. For my business I have set up a team but I am involved fully in the design and management. In politics the drive is to do something for the country and bring change especially towards Women Empowerment so it’s my passion and it never tires me. My son is my priority and my best friend; my best moments are spent with him. 

12. What does Eid mean to you?

Eid means spending relaxed and happy time with family but I spend some part of Eid with needy people like going to the orphanage and spending time with kids who have no parents. Giving back to the society is the key to happiness. Giving them small gifts for Eid and the smile that brings on their face is irreplaceable. 

Interviews

Pakistan Fashion Week 10 London

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Pakistan Fashion Week London’s 10th edition has rocked the fashion world. Designers like Maheen Khan, Shamaeel Ansari, Deepak Perwani, Rana Noman, Hamna Amir, Aisha Imran & Sadaf Amir participated. The hair and make up was done by Nabilas.

Features Interviews

Taufiq Hussain-The Dream Merchant Strives On Customer Experience

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What started off as a hobby for Taufiq Hussain became his life’s work, passion and legacy. It was almost some 30 years ago, when the Pakistan Fashion industry was in its infancy that he ventured into fashion designing and took the industry by storm. Not only did he establish himself as a fashion pioneer, but also played a hand in breaking gender stereotyping and paving the way for today’s generation.
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Today, his name is revered as the ‘dream merchant’ of the Pakistani Fashion industry and his clientele pans over three generations, not only because of brand loyalty but because of the exquisitely custom experience catered to his clients. No matter how much the industry has evolved, Taufiq Hussain remains a brand that is synonymous with creativity and quality.
Here are 8 reasons why you should consider Taufiq Hussain for the upcoming Wedding Season:

1.) Pioneer in the fashion industry
Taufiq Hussain has built his brand on creating exquisite bridals and luxury formals and even after three decades has sustained the quality of his work and customer service.  The designer sticks to his forte and only works on bridal couture and formal wear. He has been in the industry for almost 30 years creating exclusive designs and styles for each of his clients and his solid years of experience are enough for us to trust him blindly.

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2) Customization
All Taufiq Hussain designs are customized according to the needs of the client. “I try to design something truly unique for each client” says, Taufiq. Your big day should be just that, your own. He does not believe in mass producing and focuses on creating one of a kind art pieces that will be your own unique experience.

3) Striking colour combinations
The colour combinations will definitely leave you all spell bound. Truly unique colour schemes with the perfect bling give the ensemble a much needed oomph factor. Taufiq believes that the foundation of any creativity is the colour palette. Therefore, at his studio you will experience the whole spectrum of colours and decide which suits you best, keeping up to date with what is on trend for the season! Be it soft shimmery pastels, or vibrant va va voom pop shades, he has proved his expertise at handling colour blending and creating magnificent timeless pieces.

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4) Research into the bride herself – what would suit her most?
This is an occasion every bride dreams of and Taufiq understands the pressure and stress she goes through. He believes in building a relationship of trust and accommodates his customers with utmost care. Unlike many in the industry, he personally meets with the bride to understand what she truly pictures herself wearing and also gives her suggestions on what would suit her the most according to her physique and personality. His business philosophy is that an outfit should not only complement the wearers physical attributes but personality as well. He spends time with the clients and discusses their wishes creating a comfort level and bond of trust that is rare and many a times develops into the greatest of friendships due to his easy going charm.

5) A true artisan
Taufiq’s creativity is not limited to his fashion designing alone. His fine aesthetic sense can be witnessed in everything he does. As a student he earned an art distinction and was encouraged by his teachers, peers and close family. Therefore art is something he is innately drawn to and that is precisely what you will experience. Not only will you have a custom created stunning outfit, you will receive sound advice, regarding what all you need to make your outfit and event simply the best it can possibly be!
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6) Personally involved and meets deadlines
Taufiq Hussain is personally involved at each step. From the stones to the threadwork embellishments he ensures that everything he uses is of fine quality, therefore, purchases all items himself. He is extremely professional about meeting deadlines and makes sure he delivers the outfit on the time promised. No one needs the added last minute stress.

7) Reasonably Priced – specialized
In this day and age when other designers are charging exorbitant amounts for bridals, Taufiq’s bridal range is priced reasonably and quite affordable. He caters to all his clients by customizing the design according to one’s preference (and budget). He agrees that bridal outfits are expensive but it is due to the high production costs.

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8) Quality fabrics are used
According to Taufiq, the most challenging and fun parts are to find the perfect materials to complement what he has envisioned for a client. He uses only the best of fabrics: pure tissue, kimkhab, jamawars, French lace and at times something completely new and radical to create his iconic pieces. There is absolutely no room for compromise on the quality of work put into his masterpieces. Taufiq’s skill and aesthetics are truly one of the best in the industry and highly commendable.

We at Brides & You highly recommend Taufiq Hussain for the upcoming wedding season.

 

Interviews

Heaven on Earth: Gilgit Baltistan

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Nature, history, serenity, adventure. Gilgit-Baltistan has it all. One of the most beautiful locations in the sub-continent, located in the extreme north of Pakistan. The region is home to more than 100 exotic peaks that are 7,000 metres and above, covered in snow throughout the year. The world’s three famous mountain ranges – Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindu Kush – meet there at one point, providing it unique landscapes. A number of rivers starts there, especially River Indus that ends up in lower Sindh. The region is a paradise for tourists, mountaineers, climbers, trekkers and hikers. The land is full of lakes, sand dunes, high mountains, glacier, meadows and what not.

PLACES TO VISIT

Hunza

Three hours from Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway while you follow the ancient southern Silk Route to China. Hunza is the centrepiece of tourism with its exotic panoramic views. Karimabad is the main village to stay at, not far from the main Karakoram Highway. It is the base for short walks and excursions, a place to relax and unwind.

A small road in the village leads up to the main market that offers shops of local handicraft. It won’t be odd to spot European and Japanese tourists, hiking and strolling in the streets. The street then goes ahead to the old settlement of Baltit and ends up on the 700-year-old restored Baltit Fort, now open for tourists as a museum providing an insight to the Baltit culture and history.

In Karimabad, go and try Walnut Cake with coffee at Café de Hunza. While travelling along the Karakoram Highway, do pay a visit to the sacred rocks of Hunza, a famous archaeological site of 2,000-year-old inscriptions by the ancient travellers. The KKH then leads to the 26km Atabad Lake that offers a boat ride to the other side of the valley.

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Skardu

Skardu is the main city of Baltistan, flat with sandy plains and flowing River Indus, surrounded by giant brown snow-capped mountains. It has the highest airport in Pakistan.

The main town has not much to offer except a fort (Kharpocho) on a hill top besides River Indus and the K2 Museum that was made through the collaboration of the Italian government. The museum has records and pictures of previous climbing expeditions made in the region.

Thirty kilometres west of Skardu is the famous Shangrila Resort, known for its Chinese architecture and a converted passenger airplane café. The resort is by the side of a beautiful lake called Lower Kachura. A short 20-minute hike above the resort is another beautiful turquoise-coloured lake called Upper Kachura, best known for its trout.

Eight kilometres to the south of Skardu is another lake called Satpara, which is now converted into a dam. As you travel two hours ahead of the Satpara lake, it takes you to one of the highest plateaus (4,000m) on earth called Deosai, beautiful and uninhabited, with rolling grassland surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It provides a wilderness experience that is hard to beat. Deosai is covered in snow up to eight months a year. Wildlife lovers can go and easily spot Brown Bear, Golden Marmot and more than 100 varieties of flowers.

Khaplu

Hundred miles north of Skardu is the principal town of the Shyok valley, a sprawl of Tibetan-style houses encroaching up into the mountains above the river. On top of the town is the palace of Rajas of Khaplu, now a preserved heritage hotel run by Serena Hotels. Experience the perfect breakfast at the palace in one of their royal balconies.

The town is calm and more pleasant in summers and is less crowded. One should only go there to experience serenity. Take a short silent walk besides the Shyok River. Short trips can be made via your hotel to the nearby Fish farm in Saling.

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Surrounding Valleys of Gilgit

Gilgit itself is a crowded city, lots of traffic but has a pretty good market. Short and sweet day trips can be made while staying the night in Gilgit. At a distance of three hours from Gilgit on the main road to Shandoor is Khalti Lake in Gupis, a deep blue aquamarine lake, photogenic and an ideal spot for fishing. Going further two hours is the town of Phander that offers an impressive view at the hillside of deep blue Phander Lake, green farm fields and a river that offers camping spots. It’s a perfect postcard picture location.

If you find lakes more romantic and wish to spend a night, there are PTDC motels besides both the lakes with newly built huts.

Shighar

Thirty kilometres northeast of Skardu is the gateway to ancient village of Shigar. Lush green valley of apples and apricots in the middle of sandy mountains. The famous attraction is Fong Khar (Palace on the Rock), a 400-year-old Shigar Fort, restored by the Agha Khan Cultural Services Pakistan and converted into a beautiful hotel and museum.

Shopping

Most of the tourists go back with local handicraft, souvenirs, tribal jewellery, clothing, precious and semi-precious stones that reflect the rich resources and diversity of the country. The region also produces hand-woven and hand-knotted carpets of wool and silk. Buy the locally dried apricots that are easily available in major towns.

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Food

I would suggest you try nothing except the local delicacies. The food in Gilgit-Baltistan is rich and delicious.

Try local Balti tea in Khaplu, called paiyu cha (salt tea) made with butter, goat milk, salt, baking soda and specific tea leaves.

Try traditional pancakes called kisir, conventional Balti bread made from flour, milk and eggs. Try Mantu dumplings (also known as mamtu) that are steam boiled with spiced mixture of minced meat, couched along onions and spices wrapped in dough, served with black pepper, vinegar and chilli sauce. It is available in Gilgit bazaar.

Despite all that, the local soups are a must try. In Gilgit region, try Daodo made with noodles, vegetables, chicken pieces and thin, spiced syrup. While baley is famous in Baltistan with different variations of wheat and barley.

Interviews

Amna s Cutting Edge Highlights 5 Tips For Autumn Season Brides

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As a service provider Amna’s Cutting Edge is catering to the needs and wish list of the brides. Their main aim is to tell brides how special they are and to make sure they look and feel beautiful on their wedding day. We at Brides & You asked them for 5 Tips that the brides-to-be should follow this season.

  1. Hydrate your Body: All you lovely Brides to be don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated. The human body is 70% water. While you are all busy with the wedding preparations do not forget to have at least 12 glasses of water each day.

amnas 32. Hydrate your Skin: Whether you use La Mer or Ponds, you must remember to keep your skin moisturised. Follow a simple cleansing regime at home. Clean your skin and moisturize twice a day , along with scrubbing on alternative days usually at night time.

amnas 4 3. Hair Matters: Oil your hair regularly and avoid excessive styling as it really damages it. Do not be too experimental right before your big day. If you have dyed your hair stick to that shade and avoid a new look as it is not the best time to do so.  Make Use a shampoo and mask/conditioner so keep the healthy.

bb2 4. You are what you Eat: Include a lot of fruits in your daily diet. Eat healthy and try to exercise for at least an hour each day. Exercise is important to not only maintain your body but also for a naturally glowing skin.

amna's 2 5. Bridal Trends: This autumn, bridal hairdo should not be as messy and elaborate as they have been since the past year. We at Amna’s Cutting Edge are focusing on neat hairdos, giving emphasis to the face. The foundation should be more dewy and natural along with more elaborate eyes. Ensure that your make-up is more natural and not too overdone.

Interviews

Amna Of Ramsha s Bringing In Diverse Design Aesthetics

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It was almost 17 years ago that Amna Sohail of Ramsha’s ventured into fashion designing and gave her 100%. Fashion has always been a very integral part of her life as she followed her passion at a very young age and designed clothes for herself and friends.

Ramsha-2 new Today, she’s creating exquisite bridals and heavy formals that shine on a bride on her big day. Her forte is to design exclusively detailed bridals after understanding the mood and needs of the bride. Amna feels it is extremely important for a designer to thoroughly know the bride in order to understand what she wants to wear on her D-day.

“Clothes depict the personality of a person, therefore, my aim is create an ensemble that a bride truly feels beautiful and confident in, ” says Amna.

Ramsha-4darkerFor the designer, all clients are extremely special and caters to their preferences by customizing an outfit  in terms of design and budget. She believes in involving the bride at each step to ensure she gets the best quality. Known for  traditional and elegant bridals in hues of red they are truly ethereal creations. Her team’s specialty is making use of tilla and zardozi to create a very delicate and intricate piece of art.  The brand Ramsha’s draws its inspiration from all elements of nature and incorporates those elements in her designs.

The variety in her clothes, the details in her craft and her distinct art proves that she is one designer to look out for.

We at Brides & You wish her tonnes of success ahead!

Photography: Studio Life Photography

Make-up: Hifsa Khan Dalon

Jewellery: Samreen Vance