Amir Adnan had the entrepreneurial bug in him since the day he was born and the monotony in his conventional banking job led him to foray into fashion design. Thus was the birth of Pakistan’s first international menswear label, Amir Adnan. Huma Adnan is oozing with creativity and passion, and it was her inspirational trip to Italy which made her realise it was time for Pakistanis to relish and appreciate their traditional craft and expertise. And that was the birth of FNKAsia.
This glorious duo’s contribution to Pakistani fashion has had no limits, and their dedication and perseverance to taking the industry forward is only increasing. And just recently, two of Southeast Asia’s most eminent stars were dressed by them on a local morning show. During the promotion of King Khan’s muchanticipated movie Dilwale, Shahrukh Khan was seen donning apparel by Amir Adnan, and Kajol by Huma Adnan.
Here, Amir Adnan a proud recipient of the Pride of Performance Award by the Government of Pakistan and Huma Adnan tell us about how it all began, where they see the industry in the coming years and their proudest moments in fashion.
Amir, you’re one of the pioneers in our fashion industry, and of course, an entrepreneur. Can you tell us about how you stepped into this field?
Amir Adnan: It all started in 1990 when I made a neck tie for personal wearing to my mundane corporate banking job. It attracted so much attention that I was impelled to make a new one every day just to gloat on the newfound glory of being a suave dresser! Soon, dozens of people showed interest in wanting to buy my selfdesigned, self-stitched knotted creations. Overwhelmed by the visible opportunity, and of course being a business graduate, I took the brave step of putting down my lifetime savings of 10,000 rupees into the making of 300 accessories which were exhibited after a month’s labour. The exhibition was a riot as it was the firstever fashion window for the upwardly mobile Pakistani male, and thus was the birth of the label, Amir Adnan.
Can you describe the Amir Adnan man?
AA: The Amir Adnan man is an achiever, believer and forwardthinker; he is confident,learned, globally exposed, culturally rooted, wellgroomed yet embodies grace and elegance.
Huma, tell us about how FNKAsia came into being?
Huma Adnan: About ten years ago, Adnan and I took a trip to Italy where we attended a couple of trade fairs and workshops. That was also the year embroideries and traditional accents were getting recognised as a fashion statement in the West. It was at that point when I felt this was something we, as Pakistanis, should be proud of — our traditional embroidery, techniques and block prints which others are inspired by deeply. I decided it was time a brand needed to come out which would give due credits to the country we belong to — it was time to pay back…
How did you come up with the funky name; and can you describe the FNKAsia woman?
HA: My creations are a mix of my Pakistani sensibilities and aesthetics, and my global outlook plus exposure to fashion. So the name FNKAsia and the essence of it all came about on the roads of Florence; the idea of breaking borders and setting new trends with a unique approach to colours, patterns and structure. So ultimately, FNKAsia woman is one who always experiments a wild bohemian at heart.
What inspires you when creating collections?
AA: Islamic art has always fascinated me. The rich colours and intricate geometrics exude masculine elegance in a subtle manner which is visible throughout my entire design sensibility.
HA: Tradition is a storehouse you grow up with; we may choose to use it, study it or even discard it but we cannot ignore it. Hence, traditional craft with modernday sensibilities with a strong influence of western silhouettes is what inspires me. I love mixing these up — traditional motifs/embroideries with modern silhouettes.
You must have a busy routine. What is your average workday like?
AA: I don’t work — I have fun 9 to 6, six days a week! And the rest of the days, I just enjoy life!
HA: I sometimes feel like I’m a juggler — I juggle between home and work, children and in-laws, friends and family. My day starts at 9am and ends at 6pm all six days a week. I have a good team that manages my house but they need constant delegation and supervision, hence I run the house via my phone while I’m at work. It’s a never-ending job, and we should be rewarded for it. [Laughs]
What was the most recent fashion fad that you wished never existed?
HA: The worst fashion fad which I wish never existed was the seethrough dress; it started off ►
with Rihanna’s appearance at the CFDA Awards. Many others including Miley Cyrus followed the ghastly trend. It was about revealing everything which ultimately defies the purpose of clothes.
Fashion has come a long way in Pakistan. Where do you see the industry in the next ten years?
AA: Fashion, in any country, is derivative of its economic state. If Pakistan goes through an economic boom, so will its fashion industry. Fashion apparel is still considered a luxury which is bought once necessities have been addressed. So, the higher the discretionary income, the higher will be the off take of luxury or fashion goods. I would like to believe that Pakistan is and will be going through an accelerated economic growth in the next ten years. Hence, the fashion industry has a very bright future ahead. Economic growth also means more people working which means less time to get clothes tailored or stitched. The need for readytowear products will only increase. This is the first requisite for fashion to grow as an industry.
HA: I feel we still have a long way to go. Fashion schools are doing an immense job, but we lack in quality and nobody wants to put in the hard work. Everyone is looking for a shortcut.
One good thing about the Pakistan fashion industry?
AA: We aren’t the first to start up this industry so we don’t have to invent the wheel; it has already been established in different parts of the world where the fashion industries are massive. There are examples of fashion trends and progress which we can use as guidelines in order to move forward. By doing so, we will actually be able to avoid mistakes others have made and benefit from their productive ideas.
HA: I strongly believe that Pakistani fashion has long been an inspiration, and is contributing to world fashion but has never been recognised enough. The individuality in our designs is largely inspired by our past —a precious traditional heritage of unique textiles, architecture, craftsmanship and cultural diversity. Our fashion industry looks very positive internationally but we need to market it heavily by attending international trade shows and we need to invite buyers to Pakistan as well.
One bad thing about the Pakistan fashion industry?
AA: There is a general lack of education and hence professionalism [in our people], and it is even more prevalent in the fashion industry compared to other industries because it is still relatively quite new. It will take some time for more professionally trained people to enter at creative and operative levels both.
HA: There needs to be more professionalism for sure. We need to learn from our past mistakes and all the stakeholders should work as a team.
What has been the most memorable or proudest moment in your career?
AA: My most memorable fashion moment was when one of our head of states requested to wear my designed sherwani to make a fashion statement while representing our country in another. This not only made him a fashion icon but also prompted the prime minister of the visited country to want the same fashion statement for himself!
HA: My most memorable moment was when I launched a brand t modern woman of today.
What has been the great career and how did you overcome it?
AA: The only setback I faced was in the initial stages of my career when I decided to switch from conventional banking to creative entrepreneurship. The biggest challenge was to convince my parents, and it was ultimately my professional education and Masters in Business Administration which helped me explain my viewpoint better.
HA: Since I am an avid traveler, the biggest setback I face is translating what I learn from the first world to the third world.
If you weren’t a fashion designer, you’d be…
AA: I am an entrepreneur; a business person. The product is not important…
HA: Since I am an innately creative person, I would probably be running my own advertising agency.
If you could collaborate with an international or local designer, who would it be?
AA: I would like to collaborate with brands that have large retail networks in Southeast Asia so we can come up with a strong regional partnership commanding high aesthetics and market penetration. I believe Southeast Asia to be a very large and strong market for my products.
HA: I would love to collaborate with Yohji Yamamoto for his eccentricity and being true to himself which is also my personal ethos.
Someone who inspires you…
AA: Achievement inspires me. I always look up to people whose work is larger than their words, and thus there are several people. Inspiration is personal; it could come from celebrated icons as well as those who aren’t in the public eye.
HA: I’m not inspired by any one person. Inspiration is like light which can be absorbed from every direction.
Huma, what kind of a mother would you say you are? Do you spoil your children?
HA: I am a practical mother and I know how to enjoy life with them at any stage. I feel like I’m a magician sometimes juggling between work, family and other things but it’s fun.
What do you like to do in your free time?
AA: All of my time is free. I only do what i like. I have liberated myself from chores and forced duties. Everything I do is by choice and sheer pleasure.I am a familybound person whose life revolves around parents, children, wife, extended family plus my garden, pets and office.
HA: I just want to sit in front of the TV in my free time and watch a good movies, and put my brain on ice! [Laughs]
Do you take advice from each other when designing collections; do you run your separate businesses or are you part of both design houses?
AA: Huma and I coexist on a 24/7 basis. We share opinions on almost everything we do. So a lot of loud thinking precedes the conceptualising of our collections. We are quite inseparable like the twoheaded monster. [Laughs]
HA: I do run every collection by Amir Adnan. It’s always healthy to discuss an idea or a thought with someone. However, our businesses are separate and our design philosophy is totally different.
What advice would you give to fresh designers who want to enter the market?
HA: New designers today must possess the basic education and skills required to produce fashion products. They also need to have an eye for the business of fashion, and being professional in their approach is as important as being creative; a creative garment may not necessarily be the most sellable one. Most importantly, they need to have patience and dedication to bear results. For any new fashion graduate, it’s very necessary for them to do an internship or work with a reputable design house to understand the philosophy behind creating a brand.