New Delhi: Her maternal grandmother is a direct descendant of Tipu Sultan and grandfather was a businessman in Bangalore. Well-known Pakistani designer Shamaeel Ansari, who calls Delhi a "home away from home", feels the Indian fashion industry is more established and is keen to have exchange of design activities between the two nations.
"I know for a fact that the Indian fashion industry has been a more established and older industry. India as a country hosts many crafts and exhibitions. I feel the entire sub-continent can learn so much from it. Perhaps an artisan exchange for vocational training would be a great idea," Ansari told reporters in an e-mail interview from Karachi.
"Pakistan and India share their roots, their culture and a common value system and heritage. This is what we already share and this is the right step to begin from and build upon," she added.
Ansari shares a special relationship with the capital and calls it a "a home away from home".
"Delhi for me is special, reason being people make the place memorable. My best friend from college resides in Delhi. I have had the good fortune of visiting Delhi consistently for 24 years.
"The place to me has been much more than what it can ever be to anyone. To me, it means much more than shopping or sightseeing. It is familiarity and a home away from home," she said.
"I have also had the opportunity of making some very close friends in Delhi through the years. I feel human beings bond at a level beyond national borders. Your joy, your sorrows are shared with people you love. At that point, it is not national frontiers or nationality we think of. It is the people you are close to, you desire to be with," she added.
Ansari`s strong and deep connection with India is no surprise as one can find traces of Indian cultural influence in the family lineage. Her maternal grandmother is a direct descendant of Tipu Sultan and grandfather was a businessman in Bangalore. In fact, their family had set up the Mysore silk weaving in Seringapatam at that time. Generations later, her family moved to Pakistan, a year before the partition in 1947.
So, her fascination towards designs is no surprise as Ansari grew up with south Indian tradition of textiles and colours and painted her dreams in all colours.
Coming from a business family, she went to the US to study finance to contribute and take the business forward. But destiny had something else in store for her, as before heading home, she took a brief two-month sojourn in London and revisited museums and art galleries and then life took a U-turn.
"Sitting at the Victoria Albert Museum (which was exhibiting the throne of Tip Sultan and textiles of that era), I decided to delve into the grandeur and richness of my ancestral history. Colours spoke to me, the fine embroideries captured my love for detailed craft, textures of velvet so sensual had me salivating," she said.
Hence she enrolled in the London School of Fashion and her debut collection was displayed at Cafe Royale in London for an Imran Khan Benefit Evening in August 1987, and after that she never looked back.
Today, Ansari has completed 24 years in the fashion business and and designs under the label `Shamaeel`. Her style of designing is laced with magnificence and grandeur. Her solo shows are a treat to watch as they are staged at historical venues with excellent presentation. Flamboyant and exotic would be the apt way to define her style of dressing and presentation.
Apart from designing for her label, she has now donned the hat of the chairperson of Fashion Pakistan Council (FPK) and is working towards betterment of the Pakistan fashion industry with her expertise along with a bunch of other veterans from the industry.
"I feel fashion must be developed into mainstream business models. Along side hosting fashion weeks, it is important for the council to develop the fashion industry. At FPC, we take this as our first agenda. The council is conducting monthly seminars on sourcing, supply, production chain management, retail management, fashion marketing, textile industry liaisons, craft development and integration into design and styling," she said.
"Each of these seminars is conducted by specialists within these fields. Not only in fashion but in the textile industry at large. Secondly, we are organising inter-city and international shows to develop and refine the new talent. It is the aim of the council to financially record the data and sales of the fashion industry," she added.