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Tariq Amin, pioneer of fashion industry
Tough being Tariq, eh?
By Fouzia Mapara
I have known Tariq Amin for 15 odd (no pun intended) years, maybe more, maybe less. It is hard not to like this honest, vibrant, energetic, multi-talented, unconventionally good-looking man with a wicked sense of humour.
Fifteen years ago, he talked about hair like a sculptor talks about his medium. As the years went by, we saw Tariq raise a family, model, photograph, do shoots and shows, build careers, make stars, kick off fashion magazines, direct videos, and walk away with awards and multinational contracts with the ease and flair of a pro. He has sustained his position on the top for about 25 years, stealing superlatives for everything that he sets his mind to.
Today, Tariq Amin has come of age, having paid a heavy price for his maturity. Through his arduous journey of sustained success, Tariq has made many friends and even more enemies. In many ways he is still like he used to be — creative, dynamic, outspoken — but in his eyes you can see the hurt as well. “Initially, there was hurt, then anger. But it’s over now. This is a turning point for me and I’ll just move on to bigger and better horizons,” says Tariq.
Not long ago there was a furor in the media and fashion circles about his split with longtime friend Freiha Altaf. Is that what he’s hinting at? “Any relationship is based on honesty and loyalty. If that goes, there can’t be a relationship anymore. I had known Freiha for 25 years.
But there were money issues. Whatever ideas she has for her shows are our ideas, not her own. She is a user-friendly person and has a user-friendy purpose for everyone, whether she is borrowing a car, a place or whatever. She has done one fashion show after the other with the same concept sold out to one company after the other, the same haathi, the same mela, the dhol, the bhangra, the baradari, the mirrors … is there anything new?”
As one of the pioneers of the fashion industry in Pakistan, his hurt is perhaps justified. “Can I even attempt to make a list of all the careers of models and stylists that I have built and launched, the lives I have changed, the magazines or shoots or covers I have done, the stars that I have made? If someone asks me for my portfolio, am I going to send them a little slam book at 45 years of age? They are out of their minds. I can’t even start telling you how many lives I’ve changed, I have made stars, I have changed so many people into what they are today. So many people have learnt from me and gone out to do their own thing and have become famous in their line of work.”
Once actively involved with the Lux Style Awards, Lux Carnival de Couture and the Pakistan Fashion Week, presently Tariq’s role in fashion seems to be sidelined. “It is all a farce. Fashion is about education, culture and art. Not about 15 or 25 per cent cuts and profits. Who are these people that are involved in this? A bunch of tarts, some self-proclaimed stylists, half of them were made into something by me. The other half of the women involved have no business in modelling.”
“Music is in my bloodstream. The tablay ki thaap, the sitar ki twang. I have grown up with a lot of exposure to classical music and I truly believe music has immense potential in Pakistan as long as we get the copyright issue solved. People are blatantly copying each other’s work and then a channel like MTV would run it and I think that is plagiarism,” says Tariq Amin
He says he now feels that the Pakistan fashion industry “is being run by unprofessional upstarts. Do they think wearing Gucci and Prada makes them stylish? Fashion can be bought but style you are born with.”
Next, Tariq aims his canons on the current trends in advertising. Says he, “Just look at the state of our advertising and tell me if those dances are our culture. I am not a prude, I like a bit of action but this is disgraceful and makes up for nothing. It’s trash and we put it up on a pedestal and worship it. Khusris dictate the way we should live. They are all con artists.”
Continuing to lash out at the self-proclaimed gurus running the fashion industry today, he adds, “Mediocrity is everywhere. Getting up there is very easy but staying there is the real thing. Where’s the originality? Where is the power to sustain? Whatever I have done is original. I spend too much time in front of the mirror to be two-faced! I don’t belong to the “how are you jaan … muwwah muwwah … bitch league’!
“I demand respect for being original. I can’t be a fake. I have never copied any idea whether I am doing make-up, hair, a show or a video. What do they do? Mainay to apna kaam dikhaya hai TV pe, billboard pe, salon pe, har jaga, puri duniya dekhti hai. What have they done? I don’t have an audience of 500 people who buy these fashion magazines. A ‘madam’ sat on national TV and said ‘Tariq Amin does nothing ….’ Is that why I am all over the place? Nobody can work like I do. Nobody has my energy. I can work for 10 days without sleep. Can someone make Khamaj? Nobody did it before me and nobody will do it after me.”
Last year, at age 45, Tariq bagged the best male model award. “At my age, I have no business being nominated in that category. Someone with tight six-pack abs should be getting it, not me. I said on acceptance that I am so flattered, there is hope for budhas like me and the young guys should get their act together. They don’t know have a clue of what they are doing.”
Tariq feels he is resented for being honest. “Am I resented because I have an impeccable background. I don’t come from trash. Everyone knows my parents. My father was a hotelier and I cannot even compare my toe to the life he had. I can only aspire to have a life like him. My elder brother is a national golf champion, my sister is a designer, my younger brother is an interior designer. I have a background and these people don’t and they hate me for it. I can’t deny my birth right. I can’t change my species. I can just die out but I can’t become someone else. I can’t take a backseat. If there is a competition today I will win. I would not be in it if I didn’t know that I was going to win. They hate me because I am a winner. Is there anyone else like me? Is there anyone who has done as much as I have? I have groomed this country for 20 years. I can cook, style, create, direct and produce videos. I am a super dancer. Would anyone become a clown in a video? They are just not anywhere close to me.”
Tariq believes that values have changed over the years and that now lies, dishonesty and lack of integrity has become part of our culture. “We’re a user-friendly society and we rely on trash to give ourselves some worth. I have a clean business, no scans, no scandals, no whores. No whore can walk into my salon. If I am working on a show, Frieha or no Frieha, certain girls are not allowed to come to the salon. And I will not touch them. They will be styled by my assistants on location but off my premises. What bothers me is that I don’t want my kids to grow up and read nonsense. I want them to be proud of me like I am proud of them.”
Angry and hurt he may be, but Tariq is still a fun-loving person. “As the years go by, people say to me: ‘Aap to age ke saath bauhat aachay ho gaye hain’! And my answer to them is no botox ad no face jobs. I am so much more why don’t people talk about my positive qualities. I have raised a family of two beautiful children and recently celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary. I must be doing something right. People say ‘Tariq Amin apne aap ko kya samjhta hai’? Mein samjhta hoon iss liye ke mein kuch hun. Tum kaun ho? I can’t be more down to earth. The izzat that comes to me is from the fact that they have kids and the kids have kids and they will not be caught dead at ‘Parlor no 2’! Why would I survive being on top in this industry if it is anything but hard work and commitment that I put in. Do I get paid for this or laid for this?!”
There has been an endless comparison between him and archrival, Nabila. “Every second article is a compare and contrast between me and Nabila. I’m tired of this. Aren’t people sick of reading that stuff now? People have a short memory. I can’t do what she does and she definitely can’t do what I can. I have always been number one. She has always been number two. I can’t be anything else because that is what I am destined to be. I have been there and done that. And when I wish to retire from being number one, I will do so out of my own wish and not because someone tells me to.”
These days, Tariq is directing videos, launching singers and making stars with Indispensable Communications. “It’s because music is in my bloodstream. The tablay ki thaap, the sitar ki twang. I have grown up with a lot of exposure to classical music and I truly believe music has immense potential in Pakistan as long as we get the copyright issue solved. People are blatantly copying each other’s work and then some channel like MTV would run it and I think that is plagiarism. We are super plagiarists — we can copy anything. Jora banjaye ga, make-up ho jaye ga, bas tasweer dikha do! There is no creativity in the field except for a handful of people who believe in original work. Among the new ones that I like there is Maram and Abroo. I really like their work as it is funky and stylish. They have fresh ideas.”
Tariq launched Ali Zafar, styled to perfection, packaged with super hit music that resonated right across the borders. With his first album Channo, Ali Zafar became a star. Soon after, the Tariq Amin-Ali Zafar split ocurred. What’s the inside story? “There’s nothing much to it. I never charged him earlier, but when Ali could charge Rs0.7 million for a concert, surely he could pay me for the styling. If he wants to look like an oriental hooker, that’s his problem!” he says of Ali Zafar who no longer had the signature Tariq Amin look for his second album, Masti.
About Abbas Ali Khan, his other protégé, Tariq says, “A very talented young man from a very good family and a fine talent for music.”
Another accusation hurled Tariq’s way is that of being expensive. “I have never been a part of the mainstream. I deal with one per cent of the population in this country. I know their kids, their mums and dads and they don’t fuss about what they have to pay. There is no ‘chuk chuk’ about ‘aacha paisay barha diye?’ If you want to skrimp, don’t come. I charge what I charge because it takes me to sustain my life and my salons. Imagine having a fancy jora, designer shoes, a million-dollar car and home, and Rs50 hair that looks like everybody else’s!”
His clients come back because of the way he makes them feel. “People come to me because I am honest, clean, because they like my personality, they like me because I am Tariq Amin. The die-hard will not go anywhere else. All I need to do in my life is to sustain my die-hard clients. I am not worried about one client going here or there. I always say ‘Aap jahan khush hoon, waheen jayen, murh ke to idhar hi aana hai’!
“Whether it is two years or three years, you will realise where you get styled and where you get screwed and then you will come back. My clients pay international rates for my work, what they would pay for a top stylist in US. If I was there, my clients would be no less than Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Giselle Bundchen. It’s all about the confidence I instill in them to feel great about themselves. I never grudge people for going away to others neither can I force anybody to come to my salon.”
Although Tariq’s let off a lot of steam during the course of this interview, I feel there is plenty left for a future rendezvous. “I am doing a big film production in India, I plan to broaden my horizons and look forward to some serious restructuring and re-expansion. I will outdo them yet again. But I don’t really want to talk about my idea for now because they will get stolen again.” A phoenix dies in flames and is reborn from the ashes.