Fashion designers Xenab and Raja Farhan share their challenging fashion career with Fashion Central. They reveal some of their hobbies and the way to get in Pakistanâ€™s fashion world.
1. How long have you been in the industry? How did you start your own label?
I’ve been in fashion designing for about 2 years approximately. I started out small by buying shirt pieces, having them embroidered and selling them to friends and family. Slowly and gradually my partner Raja Farhan came in the picture and started investing and building a business plan to work ahead, and the rest is history.
2. Where did the idea of designing clothes come from? Are you equally in love with your accounting, profession?
I love accounting itself as a subject, but Chartered Accountancy encompasses many more subjects, all that are equally dry. Being an artist, creativity is part of how I think, and I always had a tendency to go towards ideas and work that required more than just standard practices and standards to implement. There is so much to the world of fashion than what people usually perceive, and I am very happy I chose this field over Accounting.
3. What is the biggest challenge that you had to face in the industry? Did people welcome you or you had to pave your way?
In business, there will always be obstacles and hurdles that impede the rate at which you succeed, but we as a team always maintained rapid damage control in all situations we have come across. Problems never end, and the biggest issues always stem from the supply side, which is our workforce, so we always need to make sure everything is going smoothly and ensure our clients get the best we can give them. This industry has a reputation of having cut throat competition with people who will pull the rug from under you given any chance, but frankly speaking that has not been the case with us. Save for a few examples, we’ve always found great people to work with and have not seen any barriers to our work since we started.
There are a lot of emerging designers. Does that scare of competition?
It dilutes the integrity of the field if anything. There are “designers” now in almost every street of the country, with replica designers coming in hordes and ruining the market for other designers. I don’t believe that you specifically require formal training and education to be a fashion designer, but some sort of training in regards to the field is necessary. We had a business and arts background to complement the various aspects of the field to begin with, but many people today don’t have anything in common with this field, and go on to become designers, except their good taste. Trust me, no ones getting scared of the competition.
4. Tell us about your family and how they support you? Any specific member?
When I started, my parents and siblings supported me from the first day. After her, my chachi supported me in many different ways. She is Saba Ansari of Sabs Hair and Beauty, and she has always been an icon for me. Both Saba chachi and Kaukab chacha supported every photoshoot, launch and show of ours, helping us get on our own feet. What is more interesting is that my very first client was also Saba Ansari, encouraging me from the first day in my work.
5. When are you the most happiest? Any hobbies in specific?
I’m a bit of a work-o-holic myself, so I enjoy every minute of my work the most. After that always comes reading, and I’ve been an avid reader since I could start reading. I also enjoy arts in all forms, be it paintings, fashion illustrations, a fun wall mural project, photography or silk painting.
Farhan is a big movie and car junkie, and music is his passion. Its always fun to sit with him during the Autocross and listen to his description of the cars, their history and more specifics. The same goes with music, as he loves all genres and has more knowledge about each type of music than anyone else we know.
6. How do you strike a balance between family and work? Do you find it difficult to do so?
Work is demanding, and since we’ve been growing on a very rapid pace, its getting more and more difficult to handle both at a time, but our priorities have always been very clear from the start. Come what may, no family dinner goes unvisited, and no friend in need goes unnoticed.
7. What do you like about living in Karachi? Does the current situation in Karachi make you sad as a Karachite?
We’re not sad as much as frustrated. This city has such massive potential and its all these egos killing everyones dreams and aspirations. When we take an order, we cannot give a guarantee anymore to any client on when the outfits will be made. Many times, when the situation gets really bad here and work halts for a couple of weeks, our clients do become a little unreasonable and press us to make the outfits, when as a fact we can’t. As a result we lose out on our customers, get bad reviews for our time extension and lose a lot of money over this deal. It seems unfair that we and so many others have to pay the price for someone else’s inhumane practices.
Having shifted to Karachi 8 years ago myself, I could feel a huge contrast between here and our very green capital, Islamabad. However it didn’t take too long before I completely fell in love with Karachi. The city is always fast paced, bustling with life, and our people very brave as we come out of our houses everyday to maintain our routine, knowing very well that anything can happen the very next minute. Many are dying daily, and more families terrorized, but the city will continue to grow as if all these stories were of people far away and unattached to us.
8. What does it mean to be a Pakistani for you?
It means chicken tikkas, close family members and amazing mehndi dances. At least that’s how I feel every time I’ve gone abroad. Also the fact that you don’t need to be brilliant to be a president here.
Farhan: Our country is as beautiful as any other country in the world. With the right utilization of resources, we can easily be a first world country and as Pakistanis it is our job to make sure that we play our part in society and culture as they should be played.
9. What kind of Music keeps you going?
Im a fan of jazz and the blues, though I could listen to anything from Britney Spears to Guns’n’Roses as well. Farhan shares the same diverse taste in music with me, though his tastes have always had much more variety than mine. He’s a great singer and musician himself, so I guess his relationship with music will always been more intense.
10. Something not many people know about you?
I am crazy about Astrophysics, though not so much nowadays because I don’t have the time. I also love combining Quranic facts with astrophysics, because every things been revealed before, we’re only just discovering it through science.
Farhan: Im an open book, theres not much people don't know about me.
11. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
On a hydro-powered jet going to a hotel I bought in Milan.
Farhan: My biggest dream ever has been to create a conglomerate. I see myself working in that direction and maybe achieving some of it in the next 5-10 years.
12. What is your designing philosophy?
We don’t have a design philosophy, as we don’t feel its correct to restrict ourselves to one style of producing attire. We make anything and everything both us and our market like.
Tell us about your current and upcoming projects?
We have just recently started an online store by the name of The Shoe Snob, where we have multiple suppliers manufacturing high quality shoes in all prices, from the lower end to the very high end. We want to bring that quality into Pakistan at good prices as well, as we definitely suffer from a lack of very good shoe suppliers here (no offence to the shoe suppliers who are actually good, but they’re so few in number, and we would like to bridge that gap).
Along with this, I personally would like to start a high end shoe collection on my own to be available exclusively in a few stores only. I want them to be purely original creations, a form of art that can be worn as well.
Other projects include a new silk painted line in formal Eastern wear as well. Silk paintings are also a rare commodity, and of that which is available, many lack the quality we’re looking for. So we’re recruiting people who have the skill and talent to create beautiful artwork on clothes for our clients all over the world currently.
13. Any message you want to give to our readers? Any fashion tips?
Don’t wear something because its in fashion, wear it because you’re comfortable in it.
14. Your comment on our fashion industry the pros and cons?
It’s a very dynamic industry with amazing designers leading the way. Our fabrics, designs and concepts are by far much superior to a lot of other countries, but we lack basic organizational skills that could help us launch ourselves on a much bigger global platform. Most of it comes from our thinking that as Pakistanis, we are inferior to anything the Western world creates, but that is not the case. We can do it, if we can remove the red-tapism and politics that come hand in hand with our biggest fashion platforms locally.
15. Your favorite quote or book?
Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art - Andy Warho
I have Social Disease. I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs - Andy Warhol
Don’t even start with the books, I read everything from baby boomer classics, Wilbur smith, james micheners and Mario Puzo to Stephen King, Robin Cook, Frederick Forsyth, John Grisham and many more.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade - anonymous