Mahin Hussain speaks her mind on the brand-obsession amongst Pakistani women and how her collections are usually too edgy for everyone.
Mahin Hussainâ€™s aesthetic is faultless, especially if youâ€™re looking for unique, stand out pieces. Itâ€™s no wonder that her clutches have been seen in the hands of celebrities, fashionistas and stateswomen alike. One of her most popular designs, the Sequinned Flag clutch, was spotted in the hands of Dr Maleeha Lodhi on her visit to meet UN Secretary General Ban-Ki moon; Pakistanâ€™s Academy Award winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has also proudly carried it. The clutch is quite a star but not bigger than itâ€™s creator. Anyone who has seen her Hundred and Thousand Rupee Note clutches will know that sheâ€™s bang on the money. Mahin Hussain talks about her latest collection, an unusual tribute to the murgha and her biggest Independence Day collection yetâ€¦
You’ve been in business for several years now; are you satisfied with the growth of your brand?
No, I do think Mahin Hussain Accessories has a long, long way to go but having said that I do take great pride in the fact that I have been a pioneer of Fashion Accessories in Pakistan.
What are the challenges of being an accessory designer in Pakistan?
I have been designing and manufacturing handbags for the last 12 years and predominately the major disadvantage for me has been the mindset of our Pakistani women. A majority of the upper class women with the buying power pine for international brands with little or no individual style, taste or preference. Even a fake works as long as it has the logo! It has really been quite disturbing to see how deeply we are affected by this disease.
Do you think that bigger brands like Hub Leather and Jafferjees resist working with young designers like yourself and would it help them if they did?
Iâ€™m not sure if there is a conscious resistance or if itâ€™s just a matter of not feeling the need to work with trained designers as they already have their own teams. I think collaborations with designers are very profitable and exciting propositions for bigger brands or labels. It has worked wonderfully well for H&M, Target, TopShop & Uniqlo to name a few. I remember the seven years I freelanced for Khaadi; the collections were fresh, on trend and very popular. I have clients who come to me and fondly recall their first Pakistani bags from my Khaadi collections.
Is the Pakistani consumer open to your avant garde themes or do you feel you have a very select, niche market?
My designs and philosophy is certainly not for everyone but I am happy to say that the niche is definitely growing with each passing year.
Who do you consider your biggest competitor, if any?
I would think Charles & Keith and Jafferjees.
What can we expect from your Independence Day collection this year since your ID collections have become quite iconic amongst fashionistas.
I have gained incredible recognition through my Independence collections. I love how every year it penetrates different segments of society from the Aunty to the Fashionista and from the college goer to the expats taking home gifts. This year I promise another fun, bright and very patriotic collection. The iconic Sequinned Flag is being re designed and special attention has been paid to the very wonderful cities of Karachi and Lahore. A range of totes, clutches and shoppers are in store.
What plans do you have for your label?
My top priority right now is to launch the e store www.mahinhussain.com. The aesthetic that I promote in my designs appeals to non-Pakistanis too and I do hope to make my brand more accessible to them. I plan to re do my studio in Karachi and cater to more clients through it as in the last year or so since I started my bridal clutches, many clients seek my personal attention and wish to order through the studio.
(This interview was first published in Instep, The News)