When news broke out that Sapphire was searching for a new creative head after Khadijah Shah’s exit, the entire fashion world was kept in suspense. Everyone began to wonder who would be bold and daring enough to take on a coveted position as this one? A few weeks ago, it was revealed that Mahgul Rashid would be take on the position as Sapphire’s new creative head. Since the announcement, Mahgul has been hard at work engineering new ways to further expand Sapphire’s brand image as well as applying her unique take on merging western and eastern styles together. The passionate artist and designer, who began her fashion career with her own label Mahgul, is up for the challenge.
In this in-depth interview, Mahgul discusses the process leading up to becoming Sapphire’s creative head, what lies in store for her own brand, her strong dedication to the art of designing and what’s in store for Sapphire!
There had been a lot of speculation about the design house that would step into this coveted position after Khadijah Shah’s somewhat surprising exit. What was the conversation that took place with Sapphire behind closed doors and what made you decide to accept?
I believe Sapphire was in fact talking to a number of people from the industry – -prior to this however, Nabeel, Sapphire’s CEO had come to me years ago, when he was starting Sapphire and he mentioned he wanted a designer as creative head. Nabeel and I always had a good meeting of the minds with old family ties. My dad was in the textile industry so it was a very familiar sort of situation. But I simply wasn’t ready at that time: I had recently started my eponymous brand Mahgul and had a young son. I was making a few prints in house but the scale wasn’t at all what I was ready for. I didn’t want to rush into anything. When they started talking to us again, I was unsure and hesitant. I have great respect for Khadijah and everything she did there. I felt unsure about getting involved so I was dilly dallying for the longest time while they also met with several other designers. The reality was however that i knew it was a great career opportunity, especially for someone like me who is always eager to make more and do more collections, twiddling my thumbs waiting to create something. I always wanted to do mainstream mass with retail and that was the plan with Mahgul. Anyhow, during that time of acute indecision, HSY, or Sheroo, someone who has been akin to a guiding mentor for me since I started my brand, called me up and said something that really resonated with me: He said, “Listen, I heard you are hesitating. Why? Just take it and soar. Don’t over think it.” You could say that’s what really pushed me towards it.
What do you hope to achieve for Sapphire and yourself out of this creative collaboration?
As an artist I’m incredibly excited. The experience i’m having working with young, hungry and seasoned designers is incredible – I’m feeling fulfilled. The team at Sapphire is a beautiful family and everybody from the operations to the marketing to everything has turned out well. We have all made a commitment to each other to join hands to do something well. We’ve taken a positive note out and the work will echo the positivity. For Sapphire I hope that we are the best premium brand out there. Not only in Pakistan, but internationally where you see a sapphire shop and you associate it with their distinctive identity. Rooted with our culture, craft, art. We are definitely making a conscious effort to have a global context. I am trying to explore how we can create a language for design that speaks beyond Pakistan. My achievement would be if I could empower other designers and empower other people and together if we could work to make our creative minds that much more creative. We want to be the best R&D department in the country. Push people to find their essence in design and thought process. Recently in my life, i find I am always questioning the bigger purpose in and of life. Looking for a purpose for yourself. Here I have the opportunity to better the standard of our country rather than make Sapphire into a project. Wherever I can find that creative source to bring that together.
What is your creative vision for Sapphire?
To create mindful fashion that has its innate signature. I always make a story behind a collection and we’re going to be weaving these stories from where Sapphire stands. I always tell the designer and myself to have a global language because you have no boundaries. One should always be able to flow into various worlds and anybody should be able to pick up a Sapphire kurta and wear it as a nice tunic abroad. Fabrics should be done with an international standard of quality too. I want to create a whole new point of view and look beyond surface level design.
In that respect choosing to work with Mahira Khan was a natural decision too – its not simply because of her popularity but rather because she encapsulates what i want Sapphire to in its creative vision: strength, grace, beauty, ease, restraint.
As Creative Head, how do you plan to keep the 2 brand identities from getting lost in one another. What is your strategy for preserving the Mahgul brand from dilution whilst bringing your design ethos to Sapphire?
Well other than Mahgul lawn, we won’t be doing pret a porter with print. I’ve generally decided to cut that part off and hadn’t done that last year either. But principally, the Mahgul aesthetic is different from Sapphire and will always be as we are designing for entirely different audiences. I am very conscious of the fact both must be distinctive; Sapphire isn’t a niche brand so the language has to be more consumer oriented. With Mahgul I set the rules for what I want to do. Here I set the rules but play for the consumer. My client is everything to me. If a client is upset I don’t sleep at night. I’m incredibly particular about the fact that someone has chosen me for their design and style and I plan to honour it 100%. If it’s easy it’s not good. I learned that from my grandmother as I used to work with her growing up. To this day if a client is in the house after work hours, my grandmother will make it a point to meet them.
What is the partnership term period you have signed up for?
There is none! I’m in it for the long run until I realize I’ve made Sapphire a well-oiled machine, I might decide that I’m done with this part and I don’t need to design on a mass scale Or vice versa!
What role will Kamiar Rokni play in this collaboration and can you describe how the creative process plays out?
When I joined Sapphire I wanted a very stellar team. Kamiar and I are close friends; creatively we share a lot. He’s like family to me. That’s why I asked him if he’d be interested in joining Sapphire’s design team. For me and pretty much everybody, he’s brilliant. Not just as a designer but as a fashion force: he has the eye and has a strong aesthetic and you need that in such a big production. Thankfully, he was also excited. Outside doing couture, this is more fast paced and fun! We’ve got great energy at work and it’s always laughs and creative ideations that take place.
Your debut lawn was met with extreme applause and immediate recognition. What do you have in store for us with Sapphire’s multiple spring summer collections?
It’s going to be lots of fun! There’s a lot of variation and design. There’s something for everyone. The way that we’ve styled it isn’t heavy with accessories. Very clean and restrained. Our vision is to put forward the concept of restraint; the beauty in holding back rather to give and give and give on one outfit. I’ve tried to also to give these designs a staple understanding as well. I want people to have versatile function. It’s just lawn at the end of the day! The purpose is wear this every day in comfort and style, in equal measure.
Within our aesthetic, you’ll have crafty looking kurta’s and then you’ll have artsy and then pretty florals playing with the color palette. We will ranges from Eastern to a hyper modern and entire in between. It’s a taster – mind you we designed this in three months which I’d say is pretty unheard of!
What was your biggest concern when considering this position?
It’s a huge project and I’m generally very conscious when I take something on. I take full ownership. Not just in my role at Sapphire but with each and every consumer – I tend to feel like I am answerable for everything I put out. I’m taking the responsibility of those who come to the shop so that they can fulfill their purpose. It’s an amazing challenge and I’ve taken it in my stride. I have to work hard and make it work for everyone. Sapphire is a platform where you can mesh all kinds of creativity and make special things for Pakistan and bring excitement and positivity.
Where is the lawn market headed in 2018/19?
I’ve always posed this question to myself in fact given how saturated lawn is turning into. The bottom line is however, Lawn is a staple. It’s the Eastern equivalent of jeans and a t shirt for us – there is always room for lawn. My goal is to give the best possible design and aesthetic for lawn. Good and honest design. Value for their buck. That’s how I’m going to be taking this notion in lawn. It keeps you cool and comfortable. Try to develop more fabrics that are easier to wear and breathe. Main obsession is tackling the see-through aspect and to develop more textures in different fabrics. Digital isn’t going to be the only means in creating lawn, so creating different surfaces in creating prints. Hopefully play on the fact that how to develop this concept called unstitched and make it more convenient for today’s woman. How to include value. Working on things that are more organic. Maybe recycled fabric. I’m very aware of how overdone it is. I’m remembering lawn from when my mother used to buy it. Back to basics. I am trying to keep it aesthetically strong and old school.
Will your role with Sapphire also extend to the accessories and home segments and how so?
Yes and yes. It will be directed through me. we will work for our aesthetic to seep in to all the different mediums and products Sapphire has.
Along with Sapphire will you also be launching Mahgul lawn this year? Tell us more about that collection?
Yes! Mahgul lawn will be launching in March with Al Zohaib textile and it is completely different. It is as a designer lawn is: premium, We have created a lot of hand painted dupattas designed especially for the collection.
What are the traps you steer clear of when designing your lawn? (What are you careful not to do)
Well for one, I am particular that the designers don’t use Pinterest! I also steer away from what’s happening in the market. Also as a design exercise I give myself barriers. Where not to go and what not to do. I find when you’re limited it pushes you to think outside the box. I love letting go.
What were the strongest lawns in your opinion last year and who are you looking forward to seeing this year?
I’m always interested in Sana Safinaz. I feel nobody does lawn the way they do, from the mood to the styling. Élan also, they’re always strong with their design and they’re a powerhouse when it comes to their campaigns. Zara Shahjahan – very strong and restrained lawn campaigns. Loved her 2017 lawn collection. This year I’m looking forward to Sapphire and Mahgul and how the consumer will react to them. And of course Sana Safinaz again!
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