She commands respect as she enters a room, be it in her own country or in France, where she was awarded the Le Grade De Chevalier Dan L’ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres by the French government at the Governor House in Lahore on May 27, 2014. She is an iconic fashion designer with great fashion sensibility and trademarks: timeless soft blow-dried hair, classic clothes, signature jewellery, and a poise of royalty.
Shahid has had many international feathers in her cap. She has been lauded internationally for her dedicated contribution to art and fashion and bridging the gap between Pakistan and the western world for more than 35 years. This year her own people recognized the relentless efforts of this true couturier and Shahid was awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Lux Style Awards.
A glimpse into Nilofer Shahid’s timeless collections
You have come a long way since establishing yourself as a designer. To who do you owe your success to?
I’m a strong believer that God opens doors for those who strive and are passionate about reaching their goals. I draw my strength from my family especially my husband who has been extremely supportive throughout my career.
What are your feelings on achieving the Lux Lifetime Achievement Award?
It was a special moment – very close to my heart. Nothing compares to the feeling of being honoured and held in such respect by one’s own people. I’m a die-hard when it comes to Pakistan, so naturally I was thoroughly elated.
Couture has always been Nilofer Shahid’s essence – the brand Meeras is so exclusive that an average person can hardly imagine wearing it. Any plans to cater to a wider spectrum of people?
Definitely. The lawn collection I did earlier this year for Ittehad was a sort of testing the waters project and the response has been wonderful. More collections are following – hopefully to even better reception. I have always wanted to share my art with everyone and a good deal of my future work will be much more accessible.
In your opinion, is retail the new way to go in Pakistani fashion?
Yes, definitely! Social media and vast global connectivity has led to unbelievable brand awareness. Retail is the quickest way to bring a product to the market. Everyone wants to be seen in designer wear at every level and it’s most convenient to go to a retailer and buy off the peg. But having said that, I personally feel that intense commercialism has seeped into our culture and creativity, especially originality has taken a back seat!
What is the next target for Meeras– the brand?
Meeras has been around for ages, but during the last few years I’ve been doing a great deal of showcases around the globe which has left me inclined to do a little revamping. I’ve got a new team together and a few good things lined up for the rest of the year, Insha’Allah.
What is your personal style aesthetic?
Back in the day, I was experimenting well beyond the conventional ways and even ended up with a few ‘firsts’ to my name. Colour-combination has always been a key element in all my designs. I usually dabble in old-world classics, with a hint of Bohemian aesthetic, drawing inspiration from culture and heritage.
In your opinion, what are the three must-have items in your closet?
Well… the three must haves in my closet would be my different accessories, bohemian jewellery, great sandals/shoes and handbags.
What is the thing you love most about working in fashion?
When I am doing a collection on any profound inspiration, that’s a real high for me! When I can express my love and passion for that particular theme/icon/grandmaster, then nothing, no boundaries, can stifle my sartorial expression! Especially the message or tribute I need to project becomes my only objective.
What is the most annoying thing about working in fashion?
People without vision! And copycats, that’s so pathetic.
What are the work qualities you are most admired and hated for?
That’s tough to state but, could I be hated for not being in any particular group/mafia? I am truly modest and humble about my achievements, but wherever I have been in the world, I am admired for being totally original and creative!
A typical day in your life is like?
A hurricane. In the morning I go through my exercise regime before starting work. Sometimes, I eat lunch if I can manage to find some time for it and the rest of the day flies through. There are quite a few things happening keeping me and my team on our toes. You must watch out for my upcoming collection.
What has been the proudest moment for you so far?
Showing my collection alongside Balenciaga at the Haute Couture Week in Paris, 2006, would be right up there with receiving the Grade de Chevalier Order of Arts & Letters from the French Government.
Your favourite trend this season?
I have always been crazy with my work, I do not believe in being in a box of current trends. It is always a take on my theme and deriving authentic inspiration for my story.
THE SHE QUIZ
The craziest thing I’ve done for love is:
my first love are my kids and my work subsequently, and I can be as caring, loving, innovatively crazy as it goes.
The best thing about being a designer is:
being able to express my art without being inhibited by rules and trends.
I feel truly pumped up when:
I’m designing. My passion and my obsession to be true to my work is my adrenalin!
The finest advice I ever got was:
that in any relationship, a certain measure of distance must be kept in order for it to thrive.
My kids would probably tell you:
I must be in the office!
My ultimate dream is :
to put Pakistan on the global fashion platform!
I am terrified of:
oceans! The vastness reminds me of our insignificance as a species and how little power we have compared to nature.
The most fearless thing I’ve ever done was:
I guess I’ve been extremely fearless in my pursuit for my art form, also as a woman who dared to break the norms of being only a housewife, especially at the time I started in the 80s.
I stay fit by:
keeping up with my sporadic bouts of exercise routines, and focusing on my work usually gives enough of a push to keep going.
Best thing about me is:
contentment!! Good intentions for all; always avoiding negativity at all costs!!It takes a lot of strength to turn away from above and focus on the good and positive, but it gives you great inner peace.
Worst thing about me:
I am too finicky about small details, being a perfectionist and setting higher standards for one self has made me my own worst critic.
Advice for a younger me:
learn to balance and do not trust easily.