Sana-Safinaz inspires Valentino

They’ve inspired Valentino with their designs. Safinaz Muneer, of Pakistani designer duo, Sana-Safinaz, says Pakistani fashion is about paying attention to detail

Deblina Chakravorty

Tell us something about the fashion scene in Pakistan…
In the last 10 years, Pakistan has seen a surge in the number of fashion designers showcasing their collection. So, the scene has become highly competitive. There have been fashion weeks both from Lahore and Karachi as well as a bridal week that is being held regularly for the last three years. All these factors help to build a strong base for Pakistani fashion.

India and Pakistan are neighbouring countries. There must be something that differentiates your design philosophy from ours. What is it? Or is it the same?
Essentially it is the same, yet we differ slightly in aesthetics and, of course, because of Pakistan’s cultural boundaries, the approach is a little more modest. I do believe that our work is finer with more attention to detail whereas fashion in India seems to be dictated more by what celebs in Bollywood are wearing. The Pakistani woman experiments with the lengths of her kurtas. The choli-lehenga, which is evergreen in India, does not figure at all in Pakistan.

In the beginning of this year, there was a little buzz that a Valentino advertisement featured a model wearing a gown similar to the one from your collection. Did it enrage you?
Enrage! Absolutely not. We were more flattered that people thought that there was a similarity in our (Valentino and Sana-Safinaz) design sensibilities. For us, it was like, “Wow, we are being compared to the Valentino!” We were blown away. It just goes to show that fashion has no boundaries.

Do you think that the Anarkali style of kurtas should make its way out from the fashion radar?
Very frankly, the Anarkali has been so traditional that we were never influenced by it since our designs are more of a fusion of the East and West.

Your lawn collection embodies billowy cottons in wide, comfortable cuts whereas your prêt collection focusses mostly on western silhouettes. Have you kept it purposely Westernized? How do you fuse East with West?
Our entire collection that ranges from lawn, prêt, diffusion, export and bridal, are actually infusions of Eastern and Western influences. There has never been one collection that doesn’t have that strong strain of East and West which has become the Sana-Safinaz identity.

What kind of interest have you received from Indian buyers and fashion lovers? Do you see any potential in India when it comes to marketing your designs here?
We’ve been working with Indians now for the last five years and our experience has been amazing and the feedback has been wonderful. Indian women have loved our designs. Nita Ambani wore our outfit and that was a high for Sana and myself.

There’s Dolce & Gabbana, DSquared 2 etc from the West, Falguni & Shane Peacock, Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, Gauri and Nainika etc from India. You guys are a duo too. Aren’t there creative conflicts?
We have been working together for 20 odd years and have grown together rather than apart. We have been childhood friends and are blessed with having the same artistic outlooks. Very frankly, I don’t think either one of us could have done it without a partner.

How would you dress an Indian woman?
Exactly the way I would dress a Pakistani woman!

Finally, name one trend you see continuing well into the next season.
We introduced the churidar last year and it is finally been taken on by the masses, so it will be a nice alternative to the capri.

A model wears and outfit from Sana-Safinaz’s Lawn collection
Sana Hashwani (left) and Safinaz Muneer
( First published in The Times of India, 13 May, 2011)
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