Where do you get your artistic streak from?
I have always been into drawing and painting. My grandmothers used to sew Pakistani clothing. I was intrigued by the process of selecting fabrics and creating something beautiful and functional out of it.
I learned how to do mendhi when I was nine by observing other henna artists and practicing on my sister. I used to apply henna on women for holidays and festivals and for brides. I monetized my skills at an early age.
I was always hustling.
My parents encouraged my creativity by enrolling me in art class after school. Every summer I used to visit my grandparents in Kansas. I would make a schedule for all the projects that I wanted to complete by the end of summer and get supplies from craft stores. We would often go to garage sales and buy wooden crafts and transform them into something completely different. My sister and I used to ask my uncle for his old undershirts to cut them up and make dresses out of them for our youngest sister.
What inspires you to create?
Designing is only ten percent of the job. The rest is marketing your product and making sure it gets noticed, at least in the beginning when you are doing everything yourself.
“I wanted my clients to get the full luxury experience of buying a high-end designer bag without having to pay a ridiculous amount. Every woman deserves to treat herself.”
I wanted to create a brand that carried affordable luxury bags. I wanted my clients to get the full luxury experience of buying a high-end designer bag without having to pay a ridiculous amount. Every woman deserves to treat herself.
How does your Pakistani heritage influence your work?
I appreciate the detailed craftsmanship put into Pakistani clothing and handicrafts. The artisans there have carried on their craft for several generations and are truly experts at what they do. You don’t have to look far for inspiration in Pakistan. The country is full of life and colour. From the colourful buses to the intricate wall carvings. There’s no way you can’t feel inspired.
Where are your bags made and what is the process?
All of our leather is hand-selected by me in New York. I love to add shimmer to my leather. The materials are sent to New Delhi, India where the artisans are experts in zari work and beading. All of the bags are embroidered and assembled there. The country has a rich history with handicrafts and ornate embellishing. I really wanted that to translate into our bags.
How long does it take for a design to finish?
Designing a bag usually takes a month. First I sketch it out and choose the materials which include lining, beading, fabric or leather. It just depends on the intricacy of the work involved to create that design. Some bags only take three months to create and perfect while others take as long as a year.
Tell us some of the challenges of starting your own business?
Money: You have to be ready take on losses before profiting. I think that’s been the hardest part. Giving away products to influencers and paying for expenses like storage, website fees, packaging and of course manufacturing costs. It adds up fast.
Confidence: Appreciate your victories. Sometimes your website won’t get as much traffic or you won’t get as many sales as the week before. Rather than assuming people don’t like the product, change your marketing approach. Rather than reaching out to influencers, create new content for your social media or attend local trunk shows. Sometimes people will undermine the work you do and you may feel like what you are doing is setup for failure. Don’t let other people’s opinions hinder your success. You are hustling every day to achieve your vision. Stay focused and positive.
“Don’t let other people’s opinions hinder your success. You are hustling every day to achieve your vision. Stay focused and positive.”
Inventory Delays: Initially when things are starting out you will have to work with vendors and negotiate deadlines for your shipments. Receiving your inventory can be a waiting game. Often time you will have to face custom delays or other unexpected problems that may put your entire schedule off by a month or even more. What I have learned is that you always have to keep your deadline a month prior to when you actually need your inventory because problems can arise.
What tips do you have for other female entrepreneurs?
Community is key to being an entrepreneur. Get to know all the creatives, designers, doers and dreamers. When you meet people doing the same thing as you, you want to learn from one another and grow together.
Why was it important for your brand not to involve child labor and pay fairly?
I personally didn’t want to fund an institution that had children working. They should be in school. I also wanted to make sure the artisans for my bags were not working in harsh conditions, getting paid unfairly and working through holidays.
What inspired you to create the Landmark bag?
I wanted to help out in a meaningful way so I designed a bag with Syrian landmarks that are now destroyed. Syria has some of the oldest churches and mosques in the world and it is painful to see the destruction of these irreplaceable sites. What is even more painful is to see innocent lives taken by this war, especially children. All of the proceeds will go directly to UNICEF to aid Syrian children in need.