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Interview With Pakistani Fashion Mogul Maheen Khan


Maheen Khan
Maheen Khan – a style extraordinaire is regarded as the pillar of Pakistan’s fashion industry. With successful labels under her belt – Maheen and Gulabo – Khan, at the age of 75, is still holding her own. With her expertise, she has dressed eminent figures to the likes of the late Benazir Bhutto, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, Jemima Goldsmith and Princess Sarvath al-Hassan among other dignitaries.

We chatted with Maheen about the state of the global fashion business during COVID-19, under-representation of plus-size models in Pakistan and the 2021 edition of Fashion Pakistan Week. 

by Haider Rifaat

How and in what ways has the fashion experience changed in the past year?
It has been a challenging time for the fashion industry. Some have weathered the change and some sadly, have not. The top and bottom end of the market have stayed afloat but as always, those in between have suffered. The small brands and emerging designers have not been able to sustain their businesses.

What do you make of the virtual fashion shows happening around the world? Can they save the fashion industry from losing business in light of a global crisis?
Virtual shows keep the imagery alive. Women all over the world are trapped in their homes like there is nothing better than to watch fashion! It is a breath of fresh air from the world outside. In my opinion, virtual shows cannot save a business but can keep the memory of a brand alive.

Maheen KhanAs the Chairperson of FPW (Fashion Pakistan Week), what more can you divulge about the anticipated event slated for next month? 
Fashion Pakistan Week, 2021 will be a two day, exclusive affair that would highlight fashion and design. The outdoor luxe setting is carefully curated with 100 guests.

FPW, 2021 will present the latest in menswear and womenswear. The event will embrace the new digital format globally through YouTube and the collections will also air in collaboration with our official media partner, ARY Digital.

We have decided to present the collections with a runway show to support the fashion system and the city of Karachi with a positive message. We value the importance of digital but also believe in the vital energy of live interactions.

Where do you seek inspiration from when it comes to designing?
Anything of beauty is an inspiration. Above all, the touch and feel of fabulous fabric!

How important is innovation in fashion?
Innovation is everything. It is the breath you take, the sweet perfume you inhale, the beauty your eyes can see.

Is Pakistan's industry ready to embrace healthier, plus-size models for magazine covers and ramps or are we far from it?
We already have. Fashion Pakistan Week saw collections from two designers for generous sized non-model women. What is important to understand is that fashion sells an image, and an important part of it is the packaging.

Maheen KhanWhat is Pakistan’s fashion industry lacking?  
To tell you the truth, the industry lacks a consumer base of women who understand fashion. In the present circumstances, can you blame designers if we see more embellishments and less or hardly any silhouette? How many women in Pakistan want to wear a stunning silhouette sans embroidery to a wedding? I rest my case.

How important is self-introspection in a field like yours?
Crucial, I would say. Self-introspection has enabled me to determine my future, my successes and my failures. Though it has not always been a pain-free experience when you have to face your weaknesses.

How has COVID-19 changed your view on life?
COVID-19 has possibly been life changing in many ways. The fast and furious pace of life has toned down, I believe for the better. Organic is the word that comes to mind. I have had more time for family and friends and like a lot of others, I have rediscovered my kitchen.

What has challenged you the most in life besides the pandemic?
Keeping my business afloat, at least to the point of sustaining all the workers.

What or who has shaped you?
The beautiful, strong, passionate, sophisticated women in my family.

"I like messy people; people who don’t fit in a box or stay between the lines, but whose integrity is greater than any rule book and whose loyalty is stronger than blood." Jim Wern

About Haider Rifaat: a writer for Arabian Moda, OK! Pakistan and Good Times magazine. He is an actor and also the creator and host of Pakistan's first web talk show - The Haider Rifaat Show. He can be reached via instagram and twitter.