Showing for the first time at a fashion week in Pakistan, couturier Nilofer Shahid is all set to make a magnificent comeback on November 30, with a “humble tribute to Rembrandt.”
By Aamna Haider Isani
Nilofer Shahid has been out of the picture for far too long. Her label – House of Meeras, that outstanding, opulent brand that created works of art and grand productions in terms of concepts and clothes – has not been part of the fashion narrative since 2007 when she showed at Paris Couture Week, to much acclaim. She has been making sporadic appearances – at a BCW finale in 2010, a showcase in Ankara in 2012, to receive a prestigious French Award in 2014 – but there has been nothing befitting for a couturier of her stature. All that is about to change, she speaks to Aamna Haider Isani, in this exclusive conversation.
“Staying away was a personal choice,” she puts it simply. The trajectory of one’s work and career is always influenced by the ebb and flow of life and Nilofer’s ‘break’ was just that. “Personal reasons kept me away but I’ve been obsessed with this collection for quite some time now and I believe it was the right time to show.”
Art and literature has always been the core of Nilofer Shahid’s collections; she has historically built on tributes to Chughtai, Omar Khayyam, Khalil Jibran and most recently in Turkey, a dialogue between Iqbal and Rumi. Her fashion week collection promises to be no less magnificent.
“I was in Holland in 2011 when I visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and was mesmerized by Rembrandt’s masterpieces,” she shares. “I couldn’t move away from those paintings and I’ve been wanting to do this collection since then. There’s always a time for everything and I hope this is it.”
As can be expected from Nilofer, obsessive research has gone into the making of this collection.
“Yes, I have been obsessed,” she laughs. “This has been a passion for four years. I have explored Rembrandt’s techniques and researched his work in depth. Rembrandt remains the greatest individualist of his time; he was a rebel, who abandoned convention with an extraordinary extension of technique, transcending all typical norms!
In his later years, probably because of his deepened awareness of himself as an artist, he moved away from the clamor and extravagance of gesture and adopted a calmer style with more restrained emotion. I feel that I can relate to him on a very basic level. This collection will be a very humble tribute to Rembrandt. I’m always on edge when doing a new collection and I hope I can justify it,” she says.
There’s no doubt that Nilofer will manage to put up an impressive collection, which is being customized inhouse from the clothes to the shoes and accessories. But the social and sartorial landscape has changed since she was last seen. Designers rarely have the luxury of spending years on a collection; the turn-over is speedy and the competition cut throat. How does Nilofer expect to adjust to this temp?
“Things are very fast paced now,” she admits. “It has become a scary jungle and I’m amazed at the speed at which the young designers are churning out clothes. Commercialism is overwhelming everything.”
“That said,” she continues, “I have a defiant nature and I don’t like doing what is being done, especially if it is at the cost of doing things right. When things get too fast the quality suffers. The kinds of collections I create take time. The only thing on my mind right now is how this collection is going to turn out. I want everyone to be in love with Rembrandt when I finish; that’s what I need to achieve. His canvas is not just a painting; it’s a whole story. My collection needs to move as a story too. It has been created like a script.”
Once she has shown at what can, somewhat ironically, be marked as Nilofer Shahid’s debut at a fashion week in Pakistan (the House of Meeras is almost 30 years old), she will work on her bridal collection. There are other things in the pipeline, she shares, but it’s unlikely that she will ever participate in the rigmarole of fashion as it is created and marketed today. She will maintain a certain distance from the madding crowd, catering to her loyal, private clientele.
“I’ve been hearing people say that Nilofer is history,” she concludes. “I would say I’ve always made history and will continue to do so.”