Nomi Ansari, fashion
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Nomi Ansari, fashion
‘Know me’ says Nomi Ansari
By Kashif Hanif
The first thing that Nomi Ansari tells me is that he is exhausted and really tired. As I stare back at him with a hint of concern, he smiles sheepishly and clears the air by saying that it is his “creative side that needs to be satiated as the regular kind of work becomes a little boring at times.”
Though the fashion designer who is known to be quite temperamental tries to make the best out of his designs, at times one has to oblige commercialism and the clients’ needs and demands. Plus, he says it is all work, work and work these days and it has been a while since he’s gone on a vacation.
Contrary to his inner state, Ansari exudes quite a refreshed appearance with a new look (which, according to him, is a combination of his fashion statement and lack of time to shampoo). Also, his bedroom where he seems completely serene, appears to have come out as a combo of all his colorful designs with vibrant hues strewn around everywhere from walls to bedspread. The only things that could be attributed in true black-and-white form are three paintings representing different forms of zebras. So the thought of talking about colours seemed like a pretty good idea to get him started with the interview.
“I love colours. The very idea of playing around with them fascinates me. Initially, I saw that our designers were a little hesitant to be bold with colours and I still remember the first colour I used was shocking pink. Then along came lime green, turquoise and so on and so forth. I don’t like restricting myself so I started fusing them in my designs and started amalgamating two colours went on to designing with three to four at the same time. I wonder how anyone can hate a colour, they are all to be cherished.
“The only colour I did not like working with was mustard, but recently I worked on it and I have to confess I enjoyed it. I took it as a challenge and they are the hot sellers these days. I also remember that working with white was an agonising experience but that helped me come out of my comfort zone and do something that I had never done before. But now I am working with blacks and whites and greys and it is equally exciting.”
Nomi says his favourite colour is red and although he has not used it much in his works, he is trying to incorporate it in his upcoming line. Speaking of which, he says his upcoming collection is “something that he has never done before with totally different cuts, materials, embellishments and fabrics. It is something that caters to everyone and has enabled me to do what I have wanted to do for a long time.”
In defense to accusations hurled his way by fellow fashion designers that Nomi plays it safe by using too many colours and textures, he laughs. “Issi mein to creativity hai! While playing with multiple textures and bold colours you have to keep in mind that it doesn’t look awkward or end up being gaudy. I work with all kinds of fabrics be it chiffon, georgette, velvet... even plastic, anything’s possible. Toning it down is a very sensitive and technical thing. I think my work is more difficult than others’. If it’s that easy, why isn’t everyone else doing it?”
He goes on to remember the time when his first shoot appeared in a magazine and he was apprehensive about how it would be received.
He says he got the shock of his life when the next issue of the same magazine was full of colours by different designers. “Other designers may be copying it, but the original idea is still mine.” Not only does Nomi claim to have adorned Pakistani fashion with what he calls his “flying colours” but he thinks he has a major hand in what the shalwar kameez has become today. Again, he says that his work is difficult because he specialises in shalwar kameez and that one cannot change the basics. “Of course you can play with textures, embellishments, surface, cuts and designs but at the end of the day it is the shalwar kameez and I love designing it.” He likes doing western outfits for friends and for the red carpet as he thinks it is inspiring. And although he thinks his bridals and saris are his bestsellers, Nomi has yet to enjoy making them.
On a more personal note, he says that he does not belong to the breed of designers who have a “philosophy of design” simply because he cannot grasp the concept of it at all. “At the end of the day I want to design clothes for Pakistanis that look the part and not Indian because that is what most of our designers are not doing these days. If you are truly a creative person then you can get inspired by almost anything.”
Nomi Ansari feels that he should have also gotten a degree in human behavior along with graduating from fashion school. He elaborates that he has to sit with his clients and customers for hours, convincing them what would look good and what would not gel well. He thinks we are a conservative nation and do not accept change easily. “I have learnt from my mistakes in the past and have become more responsible towards my work. The only time I see other people’s designs are when I’m flipping through fashion glossies and I appreciate their fine work, while the criticism I have learned to keep to myself.”
“I love colours. The very idea of playing around with them fascinates me. The first colour I used was shocking pink. Then along came lime green, turquoise and so on and so forth. I wonder how anyone can hate a colour, they are all to be cherished,” says Nomi Ansari
While he respects and values healthy competition, according to him his intentions are misunderstood most of the times so he’s learnt to keep a tight lip about things that could enhance his already iniquitous image. Ansari thinks being blunt and straightforward is not appreciated and more often taken as rudeness and sarcasm of the highest order and lowest degree. “And if people still want to talk about me, let them. They have the time to do it. I don’t.”
He claims he has friends in the fashion industry like Freiha Altaf, HSY, Vinnie and Tooba to name a few, and even denies having any enemies with a smirk. “I don’t have any enemies though I can say for sure I am an enemy to a lot of people!” He concludes the issue by stating that at the end of the day any kind of publicity is good publicity.
The designer also stands accused of having very strong favourites, especially when it comes to fashion models. He defends himself by saying that at the end of the day he wants his product to look good and feels sad that most of our models are only interested in giving a pout, putting on a good hairstyle and a glowing face. On the contrary, what makes Vinnie and Tooba his favorite models is that they are hardworking, talented, creative and give a personal touch to his shoots. “I need attention and input when you are working for me. I don’t use models who cannot give variety with their expressions and body language. Most of my shoots are on the wild side, so I need someone who can corroborate it and most of them shy away from the challenge. I also don’t like women without a waistline,” he asserts.
Nomi claims he can work within any budget and answers my brow-raising by assuring me that it is true. But at the end of the day he has to make money, too. Whenever he mentions his work he always uses the term “we”. When asked why, he explains, “I tab hota when it was just me doing the whole job. When I talk about myself it’s ‘I’ but when I am talking about my work it’s definitely ‘we’. Of course the basic idea comes from me but then it involves my workers, embroiderers, tailors, supervisors, etc. There are people who are working like anything with me for years now. How can I take the entire credit? It’s not a one-man show, it’s definitely teamwork.
“The Pakistan School of Fashion Design (PSFD), where I graduated from has a major role to play in my success as getting formal education before venturing into any creative field is quite essential,” he opines. However, when it comes to the new breed of graduates from fashion schools, he thinks they lack hard work and dedication. “They are more passionate about being successful than about their work. Everyone wants to be the next Nomi Ansari and wants models hovering around him/her.”
Moreover, he thinks the new breed is lucky to have a relatively groomed fashion industry. He also acknowledges learning from the designs of Umar Sayeed, Faiza Samee while still in fashion school. Munib Nawaz has caught his attention in this regard because Nomi likes the fact that he does not hesitate to ask him for technical help.
While on the topic of the fashion industry, Nomi gives a wry smile before acknowledging that it is limited to a few people only who dominate every event be it the red carpet, major shoots, award ceremonies, contests, etc. These people even throw tantrums and he hopes the monopoly breaks down pretty soon. “I make my bread and butter through this medium and I don’t agree with those who criticise it. It is not the industry that is gloomy but some components representing it that give it a bad name.”
He says that success has made him more organised and responsible. If anything he has started giving more time to his work though he never brings work to home and Sundays are totally to himself. He is also a travel freak and a shopaholic. “I like watching TV but I don’t watch Desperate Housewives because I deal with them every day. That’s part of my job.”
At the same time he does criticise fashion sensibility in Pakistan. “Most of us don’t know how to wear clothes. I feel like screaming my head off when I see some of the aunties in see-through fabrics clinging to their not-so-flattering figures.” Likewise, he steers clear of criticising other designers, thinking people don’t have to agree if he does not like anything and vice versa. “If people could hurt each other by saying things about them, then I am sure none of us would survive today.”
A section of the local fashion industry has always maintained that Nomi Ansari is a one-season designer and he would not go a long way. But he has proved them wrong every single time. There is also the buzz that he’s gradually losing his touch and his latest line was not well-received. Nomi laughs off the allegation, labelling it as wishful thinking. “I don’t believe in what people say.
If you are truly creative then nothing or no one can hold you back and you move from strength to strength. I go to work at 10am and come back at 8pm; I have personal clients as well as loads of commercial work; I get email orders from clients living abroad. If I am a has-been why do celebrities still flock to my label? How come I have new outlets opening up all the time? Why am I invited to represent Pakistan at international forums? Is that what is meant by losing one’s touch?”
Before concluding our conversation, I ask Nomi about his plans for the future. Trust him to come up with a different reply. “I’m not one of those people who like to waffle about ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that’. People get to know about my work as soon as it is out. My ‘friends’ make sure of that.” So is it going to be a men’s designer collection, a lawn label or a Bollywood venture? Keep watching this space for more.