MM: Can you introduce your brand and yourself in a few sentences?
Shamsha Hashwani epitomizes the essence of the powerful, contemporary and sophisticated woman who is deeply inspired by tradition, I believe creating an inspirational fusion buoyed by versatility and a timeless elegance that speaks about my identity and who I am as a creator.
MM: Can you describe your creative process?
I am a very hands-on person; I like to feel and play with different textures and colours of fabric and material. Based on my emotions, my mood and the inspirations I have in mind, I set the tone for the design. Once I have a feel of what I want to create, I work with my team on the illustrations. When the illustrations are complete, we move to the mannequin for placements and an overall look. The next step is making a prototype. After the prototype is finalized, given that the required changes on the design piece are made, we begin the production process (dyeing, embroidery/embellishments, cutting and stitching). Every step is handcrafted.
MM: Where do you find inspiration in your day-to-day life?
Because of my passion to create, I am constantly (many times subconsciously) taking inspiration from my every day life activities. Going to the movies and being inspired by some of the landscapes shown on screen. Visiting the mosque and feeling inspired by the marble designs on the floor, or the architecture on the walls.
MM: What kind of questions do you ask yourself when you begin creating a collection?
The questions that I think are important and that I ask myself when I begin creating a collection are: How will my pieces look on a range of my clientele? Young and mature women. Will they physically feel comfortable with the silhouettes and the handcrafted workmanship? How wearable is it? How versatile are my designs? Are my designs in sync with the current season?
MM: How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
The first few Shamsha Hashwani designs were made in my home and as demand outpaced production, the team of only a few traditional artisans — beaders, embroiders, tailors— became a strong team of 150, that continue to create authentic handcrafted products in the Shamsha Hashwani Atelier located in Karachi. From offering one line of pret wear when I began working from home, I now offer a range of products and designs, which includes formals, bridals, shawls and couture pieces. I have showcased my bridal collections at fashion shows in Pakistan and Bangladesh, held numerous national and international exhibitions, as well as presented pop-up shops with my ready-to-wear lines.
MM: How do you find working as a designer in Pakistan? Has the culture/surroundings affected your design aesthetic? Do you feel connected to your home?
I could not be happier working as a designer, working on what I love everyday in Pakistan. My work has empowered me, as a woman, a mom, an individual. When I see women of all ages who appreciate my work, feel confident and beautiful in my attire, that gives me happiness. I have received an immense amount of support from my family, friends and my team of employees. Knowing I have a great support system, gives me more confidence and belief in myself and my work. I am very much connected to Pakistan and its culture – and I incorporate my learnings and my perspective of the culture in my work.
MM: What sparked your interest in fashion design?
Since my childhood I loved to dress up. Even among my siblings I was often called the “fashionista” or the “stylist” who loved fashion. However, I never pursued anything until much later. I got married, moved to Pakistan, had kids and that was my focus, my world. Once my kids went off to university, I had more time on my hands and then I began to wonder, what if? What if I tested the market and introduced a line of my own? Without much hesitation and lots of enthusiasm I went for it!
MM: How did you learn the business of fashion?
I never studied fashion, nor did I have any prior experience in the fashion industry. I have always been inspired and passionate about fashion. I am self taught, and through experiences have learned and grown both personally and professionally.
MM: What is your favourite part of being a designer? What drives you to design?
Passion. Emotions. Challenges. Foremost, my passion for creating is what motivates me to design. Designing is my happy place. For me and for all kinds of artists around the world, art is driven by emotions. My emotions are also very much depicted in my work from the colours I choose, to the types of work and detailing I incorporate. When I create, I feel grounded, I feel like that is my outlet and my way of portraying who I am to the world - my emotions, my personality, my learnings, my perspectives. Through creating, I have learned a lot about myself, who I am and who I strive to be.
MM: What is the inspiration behind your S/S19 collection to be showcased at Vancouver Fashion Week?
This collection is very close to my heart, as the collection ‘Shanaz’ is a tribute to my late-mother. Shanaz is a collection showcasing easy to wear, versatile, durable and quality pieces. I have incorporated the colours - green and red, to symbolize Bangladesh my hometown, and green and white, to symbolize Pakistan where I moved to after marriage. Although moving away from home was difficult, it was my mother’s support, teachings and love that taught me how to adapt to a new environment, embrace the culture, build my own nest and make it my own. Most importantly, I have learned to stay true to myself, who I am, and my roots. It is these values that I have taken inspiration from and incorporated into my collection. This will be my debut on a new platform, a new audience and a new culture. My silhouettes are versatile, my handcrafted workmanship and design concepts are a personification of my mother’s lessons and my love for her. My mother was an artist; I have taken inspiration from some of her paintings depicting beautiful flowers, hence, my designs are specifically focused on floral embroidery. This is my tribute to Shanaz, my memories of her and my never ending love for her.