November Issue 2009

By | Fashion | Life Style | People | Q & A | Published 15 years ago

“Fashion designers often create stuff that’s only suitable for the runways”

– Sanam Chaudhri

Sanam Chaudhri is one of the new designers who showcased her collection at Karachi Fashion Week. Her designs are flirty and feminine, with attention to cuts, textures and detailing. Chaudhri, although a fresh entrant to the industry, has a steady clientele that raves about her ability to understand different body types. In her first fashion spread (see the slide show below) she has moved away from the norm. Instead of professional models, her models are real women: her friends and clients. These include a literature teacher, an architect, an economics and business teacher and a make-up artist. Not afraid to speak her mind (she absolutely dislikes the LV bags everyone seems to be obsessed with), Chaudhri speaks to Newsline about her love for design.

Q: How and when did you start designing clothes?

A: I love clothes, and sometimes when you can’t afford to buy designer clothes, you start to make your own. I like to sketch and I actually sketch my own embroidery patterns. That’s how we were taught to create our prints while we were in college. I have a degree in textile design from IVS and I’ve been designing for about eight-and-a half years now.

I worked with Asad Tareen where I started off with product design, then moved onto interiors. I also worked for Naheed Mashooqullah for almost four years. I loved what I was doing but within an architectural firm there’s only so much you can do. I was the executive designer and I decided to move on. I still work on independent interior design projects, but designing clothes is my main focus now.

Initially it was just something on the side, till I left Naheed’s firm. I began with a small exhibition of 30 outfits. Friends and cousins would come and then I started having exhibitions thrice a year which became larger and larger and eventually totalled 200-250 outfits. Without exaggeration, the collection would be sold out in about two hours.

Q: Why do you think the major chunk of our fashion industry focuses on bridals?

A: You see, that’s where the money lies; you can charge this incredible amount of money — but not everyone can do bridals. I just got married and everyone told me I should design my bridal outfit. But I didn’t want to take on such a huge responsibility, it’s such a headache. I went straight to Bunto Kazmi because I think she’s amazing at bridals. I’m not undermining other designers but I just wonder why designers get into bridals when there’s so much more [to do].

Q: What’s the price range of your prêt and couture collection?

A: The safest thing to do is to work around people’s budget. I’ve come across designers who say they can’t do anything for Rs 20,000, which is fine because they’ve established themselves. But I don’t want to be that person in the next five years, because you see something can be done in Rs 20,000 or whatever the budget is. Tell your clients  how much can be done, don’t mislead them. True, things are really expensive, the prices of raw materials have gone up, but, still, humein kissi ki khal nahi udherni hai. You’ve been in the same shoes — and you shouldn’t forget that.  My ready-to-wear collection is priced between Rs 9,000 to Rs 25,000.

Q: Is this your first shoot? Why haven’t you used the known models?

A: Yes, this is my first shoot. I have nothing against professional models but everyone doesn’t look as fantastic because everyone has a different physique. And I work with every shape and size so why not show that? I cater to the real woman. Fashion designers often create stuff that’s only suitable for the runways. That’s great but we should also design keeping the real woman in mind.  All of my models are friends and clients, and none of them needed convincing. I just pitched the idea to them and they all jumped at it.

Q: What inspires you?

A: My muse is this friend of mine who loves clothes and is a shopaholic. She has the perfect figure and anything she wears, looks good on her. When I started designing, I would think of her sense of style and how she would wear a certain outfit.

Anything that is three-dimensional inspires me, like interiors, art and sculpture.

Q: The one colour you dislike?

A: Lilac. It’s such a blah colour. It reminds me of those candy-like, frilly bridesmaids dresses that people abroad wear.

Q: Your favourite designers both local and international?

A: On the local scene, I think Bunto Kazmi is phenomenal.  Then I really like the designs by Iman Ahmed of Body Focus.

In the international market, I love Cavalli.  If I had the money, I would buy a Cavalli dress. His clothes are dynamic, sophisticated and, at the same time, there’s something wild about them. Then there’s Oscar de la Renta, Valentino — the oldies, the vintage guys.

Q: One trend that you think should have never been in fashion?

A: The patiala shalwar with a short shirt. Not everyone can carry it off. In Lahore, all these skinny girls would wear it and they would look cute. But if I wore it, I would look like this overgrown child. So, I’m glad it’s over.

Q: Favourite fragrance?

A: One by Dolce and Gabbana.

Q: Treasured outfit or accessory you own?

A: It’s a gold mesh bracelet by Kiran Aman that I got made from my first bout of savings.

Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t designing?

A: I’d love to be a cordon bleu chef. I love cooking, but sadly I’m good only at the desi stuff. It’s also because I prefer desi food to continental food.

Click on any photo to begin a slideshow of Chaudhri’s designs, featuring her friends and clients as models:

Text: Amna Khalique
Make-up and hair: Sabeen Butt
Photography: Noor-us-Sabah Gailani
Designer: Sanam Chaudhri