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Q&A with Zahra Saeed

Q&A with Zahra Saeed

A Pakistani-American, Zahra Saeed’s journey as a fashion designer started from a studio in New Jersey, USA in 2008 when she gave up her career in mortgage banking and her position as the executive vice president, to pursue a passion for fashion and design, which she had nurtured from childhood. In a short amount of time, Zahra’s fashion reach expanded tremendously to encompass Pakistan, Europe, the Middle East with both stand-alone retail outlets and Zahra Saeed stockists.

Zahra Saeed was first recognised and acclaimed for her Western aesthetic in America, for being undoubtedly urban yet chic, after which she began designing a separate line of Eastern wear, more suitable to her Pakistani and Middle Eastern audiences. Indeed Zahra Saeed prides herself in the quality of the fabric and tailoring that goes into each outfit as finesse in dressmaking has come to be her labels’ forte.  It is this adherence to international design and quality principles that has led her to showcase at the much coveted platforms of international fashion, including Fashion Week at London for S/S and A/W 2009 and also Fashion Week in Paris S/S and A/W 2010. 

From a design perspective, Zahra draws inspiration from history’s different eras, manifest in designs that are classic and wearable in both her Eastern and Western wear. Indeed the very ethos of the brand demands fashion and design that is classic yet affordable with equal priority given to cuts and silhouettes. The designer takes a lot of pride in the impeccable finishes and classic silhouettes; she loves using fabrics that she has collected from her travels around the world and blends them in her inspirations for her latest collections.

In Pakistan, Zahra Saeed has moved towards a lifestyle brand, with the launch of her flagship store at 10 Q in Lahore. At her store Zahra Saeed’s Eastern and Western wear is retailed along with a custom diffusion line, alongside international retail brands such as Juicy Couture, Armani Exchange, Bebe, Polo Ralph Lauren and Pink for which Zahra Saeed is a registered retailer. Zahra Saeed hand picks each item made available for retail in her shop from across America.

Further, in response to the increasing demand for the latest trends in international home décor,   Zahra Saeed introduced a range of international home décor brands. In Pakistan, Zahra Saeed’s flagship store is currently based in Lahore at 10 Q. The fashion label is also available in Labels Lahore and will soon be present at Labels in Karachi and Faisalabad. The designer also looks forward to having exhibitions in Karachi and Islamabad on a regular basis. Internationally, Zahra Saeed is currently retailed in Dubai, India and across America in San Francisco, Houston, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC.

She talks to Blue Chip about her work, design philosophy and venture into the Pakistani market.

Please elaborate your journey towards becoming an internationally acclaimed fashion designer?

Zahra Saeed: “I started my career in mortgage banking over 10 years ago. In February 2008 I decided to start my own business and registered my brand Zahra Saeed. Initially I showcased my collections in London and Paris Fashion Weeks and opened my flagship store in Philadelphia in 2009, followed by one in New Jersey and Connecticut. My clothes were initially manufactured in Manhattan and later in India, since that proved more feasible. At that point I visited Pakistan after many years and decided to open a unit in Lahore.  The Zahra Saeed brand decided to venture into fusion eastern wear a year ago and it has been a huge success since its launch. We opened our first home store 3 months ago at Ten Q Lahore which offers a range of home accessories. Although the brand has a stronger presence in the US, UK and the Middle East, we are now aggressively working on growing our client base in Pakistan for the Zahra Saeed Lifestyle Brand.”

How did the transition from Zahra Saeed Fashion Designer to Zahra Saeed Lifestyle Brand come about?

ZS: “When I started coming to Lahore almost every two months, I decided to have a second home here and decorate it. That is when I realised that there are not many places one could go to for basic interior/home décor items. And if you do find something you like, it is extremely expensive, so I decided to open a European style sampler store, with a little bit of everything related to home decor. The label houses an assortment of accessories, from lamps, frames, candles, office accessories, bar accessories, pillows to bathroom accessories, all of which I handpick during my travels. The setup is only a few months old, but it has been received well.”


Who is the target market for your clothes in Pakistan and abroad?

ZS: “In Pakistan as well as abroad we cater to the sophisticated woman, who knows her style and appreciates our flawless construction and timeless pieces.”

What drives your design philosophy and inspires your designs?

ZS: “Simplicity is the key to my design philosophy and I take inspiration from it.”

What prompted you to expand your brand and introduce it in Pakistan?

ZS: “It was not a planned expansion. Once I started a manufacturing unit in Lahore, I decided to have a local presence as well. Although initially I was only promoting western wear, but a year ago we initiated an eastern collection and it has been a success, so we are still expanding that at the moment.”

After your success and popularity in the U.S., how were your clothes received in Pakistan?

ZS: “I did not start marketing in Pakistan till about a year ago. The response has been pretty good. Women in Pakistan love to shop!”

Who are your favourite fashion designers?

ZS: “Gabrielle Bonheur AKA ‘Coco” Chanel.”

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