June issue 2006

By | At Home | Life Style | Published 18 years ago

An unlikely crusader/artist is quietly penetrating the highly coveted luxury-end of the international home textiles market, carving a name not only for himself, but for Pakistan’s highly skilled but little credited artisans.

Pakistan-born actor/dancer/choreographer and designer Omar Rahim recently opened a New York city showroom for his luxury brands, Soof Designs and Omar Rahim NYC. He kicked off with an opening party at his Manhattan showroom on May 12.

Until recently, Omar has been best known for his work as a performer. His career began as a principal dancer with the MacArthur Award-winning, Susan Marshall and Company, from 1997-2000 in New York. He subsequently signed a small role in the Hollywood film The Guru, and went on to choreograph some numbers for two of the Lux Style Awards in Pakistan. The artist is now focusing on his parallel calling as a textile entrepreneur.

Soof Designs was founded by Omar Rahim in 2001. Fuelled by his interest in Pakistani, particularly Sindhi, arts and crafts, Omar started curating a collection of one-of-a-kind handmade Sindhi textile crafts. He marketed the products not only as emblems of Pakistan’s rich cultural heritage, but as fashionable accessories that are relevant to today’s international urban design market. Omar’s product has since been featured twice in the New York Times and even in Oprah Winfrey’s influential ‘O’ magazine. His product graces the homes of many celebrity clients including Steven Spielberg, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Julianne Moore, Kate Hudson and Goldie Hawn.

Whereas Sindhi handicrafts have often been traded to Indian middlemen through transit points like Dubai and re-sold to western buyers as “Made in India” products, Pakistan is finally getting its due share of credit. As a direct result of his work, designer communities in the States have begun to grow interested in embroidery, quilting and weaving traditions from Pakistan. “However, we need to diversify our export products,” says Omar. “There’s a profitable new vista within the textile industry as well.”

Soof Designs is fast growing into a premium home textiles brand and sells at retailers, including Bloomingdales, Paul Smith and the famed ABC Carpet and Home in New York as well as exclusive boutiques all over the United States. This summer, Omar is launching a jacquard silk bedding collection for his new brand, Omar Rahim NYC at ABC Carpet and Home. Currently he is also developing a furniture collection featuring vintage designs in reclaimed teak. “Moving from home textiles into lifestyle is a natural transition for the company,” says Omar.

Will Pakistanis have the chance to see these indigenous wares?

Omar says he is very interested in showing and selling his designs in Pakistan. “All of the design work for Soof Designs and Omar Rahim NYC is inspired by Pakistan. From our quilted throws, to our jacquard silk line, to our vintage teak furniture, the source is Pakistan. We look forward to setting up a retail presence in the next year or so in Pakistan.”