1. When did you start your venture as a designer and what were the major milestones you wanted to achieve at that time?
“I graduated from Saint Martins with a degree in Fashion Design Marketing andafter that I took Fashion PR as my first job to learn how to sell and eventually in 2006 I started my work as a designer selling my clothes to friends and family on a trial basis to know whether they would like them or not. And Masha’Allah, it got a lot of recognition which encouraged me to start my brand.”
2. What challenges did you face while starting your business and who have been the major forces behind your start up?
“Doing a business is a challenge in itself because you own and run a business and your staff and labour rely on you for your decisions and your instructions.Their wages ought to be paid, whether or not you start earning. Finding those appropriate Karigar (labour) and setting it all up is a normal challenge that everyone faces and because my parents’ and my husband’s support I’ve been able to take those challenges as a normal course of business. Of course, Zahir Rahimtoola, the CEO of the most renowned retail store in Pakistan called ‘Labels’ and his wife, Sherezad Rahimtoola, who is a top notch jewellery designer have been two HUGE forces to put me up. Also, both my parents really appreciate the idea of a woman working and encouraged me to work. People help you along your way and Masha’Allah I have had my luck with that because I believe in doing and NOT QUITTING.’’
3. What are your cutting-edge strategy and core competencies at the moment that set you apart from the rest of the designers?
“I won’t look at it as a competitive edge but rather I’d say that I make what I love to wear and to me that’s called being true to myself. Some people tend to like your work and some tend to dislike which is why I’m very particular about the finishing of my clothes and what I deliver to people. When I see people coming back to me for more of my clothes, it feels good to me. My repertoire is to sell premium luxury clothes that people can wear on special occasions.”
4. Any plans for the next cover with any magazine? Who would your cover girl be, if so?
“Right now my focus is to make people ‘wow’ with my new Autumn/Winter Collection to be launched at PFW15 to be held in November and I think this is the season to do more toward clothes. But I definitely plan to do it sometime soon and instead of telling whothat model would be, if any, I’d tell that I enjoy working with Amna Ilyas and Fayeza Ansari. I and Fayeza started our respective careers together and she did my first shoot which was just so fantastic. I also like Neha.”
5. Are you the sole creative mind behind ‘Maheen Karim’ or do you have any other creative head working for you?
“No, I’m the only designer for my label.”
6. Your personal favorite creations of yours?
“I like most of the pieces, otherwise I don’t show them. If I don’t like something, I scarp it.”
7. What is your Autumn/Winter Collection about?
“Evening wear, lace, glamour, lots of bling, rich velvet and total western!”
8. Where do you see the fashion industry of Pakistan moving toward and what would be your role in that? Specifically, what other initiatives, apart from designing your own clothes, would you ever like to take with regards Pakistan’s Fashion sector?
“It’s growing fast and so is the retail business and I’m very happy to see this development. I myself am on the board of FPW and would do anything to help this industry progress, within Pakistan and across borders.”
9. Who is that one woman you’d call a ‘Woman of Substance’?
“Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy! I know her inside and out since I was a child and I can swear by the fact that she is a woman of substance. We have been together since school and all our lives. People like her, Malala or even Madonna, there are tons of women across the world who are making difference within industry and outside industry and putting themselves out there!”
10. How does being a designer fit in with being a wife?
“My husband knew my passion for designing before marrying me and I have my balance intact between my work and my family. I don’t party much and my working hours are quite flexible to let me spend time with my family. My husband or his parents have never stopped me from working as a designer which makes it fairly compatible for me to fit in both the roles. It’s not so much about the respect that I get from people for being a working woman but it’s the satisfaction I get from working. My work makes me “Maheen Kareem’. That’s my thing and that’s my world! Women are climbing mountains these days, the Governor of State Bank has been a woman and our own Prime Minister has once been a woman and compared to that I haven’t done even a half of that.”
10. What message would you like to give to the women of Pakistan who lack an ambition to do something?
“If they are not following their passion they are wasting their lives. Our lives are not just to be a mother or a wife. Some people like to dance, some are into finance like my sister, some are into politics, whatever it may be, we must do something for ourselves! I don’t believe in ‘waste of time.’ I’m a very active person and I’m out and about at 9 in the morning even if I sleep at 4 at night.So I think one should have some drive and passion in life and if one is not motivated then it’s a total waste in itself.’’
11. Your business plans in future?
“I plan to open my own store in the basement of my parent’s house. Fingers crossed.”
12. Who is your favorite international designer?
“It isn’t just one! I’ve grown up in love with Azzedine Alaia and these days there are tons of great designers working across the globe like Zuhair Murad, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano. I get inspired by them and I love them.”
13. A short message for our followers who count on you?
“My message for the girls is that they should dress according to their body type. There’s no need to follow the trends. One needs not be skinny or vague to pull something off but analyses what works for you! Because if it doesn’t work for you and you are wearing it because you saw it in a magazine, then you’re gonna look clumsy!’ – Dress according to your body type!’’