Ruby Shakel is one of the leading designers of Pakistan, famous for her innovative and exotic bridal outfits. Her fame has spread beyond Pakistan, and the demand for her stylish clothes has compelled her to open her outlets in Dubai, England and America. Those living in Karachi can now sample her delightful dresses at Feathers, Forum Mall. Lahorittes need not despair! They can buy the latest and exclusive ensembles from Ruby's Eid collection at Fashion Pakistan Lounge, Gallery 2 near Fortress Stadium. You! got a chance to chitchat with Ruby, who was all aglow at her success at the recently concluded Bridal Couture Week.
You! How long you have been into designing clothes?
Ruby Shakel: Umm... let's see. I think it's been about 18 years. It started simply enough; my relatives and friends used to admire my clothes and somehow or the other I ended up designing outfits for them. My reputation was established through word of mouth and soon I was creating party-wears and bridals for friends of friends, neighbours etc. Their appreciation and encouragement from my husband gave me the confidence to launch my label formally.
You! When did you exactly launch your label?
RS: It was 12 years back, in 2000. I had already started catering to TV artists but when morning show hosts like Ayesha Sana, Shaista Wahidi and Reema were seen decked out in my ensembles, my business snowballed. I must say that these girls carry their clothes with style and flair! Previously, I had not thought about launching my label, for I was doing pretty well from home, but the interest from viewers of different channels culminated into Ruby Shakel line.
You! Did you study fashion designing?
RS: No, I just had a natural flair, and loved to play with colours, fabrics and designs.
You! Your first show?
RS: My first solo collection was at Marriot Hotel in 2002. It was held during the Women Festival which, at that time, was an annual feature of National Foods.
You! What is your design philosophy?
RS: Every woman has a right to look her best. I take each client as an individual, and try to make sure that they get their money's worth. Designing for women is not something that can be done generally... each woman has a unique personality and needs to have her clothes that would enhance her personality.
You! You mostly work from home, but we understand you now have outlets in malls?
RS: That's right ... you can buy my clothes from Feathers in Forum Mall and then there is my outlet at Fashion Pakistan Lounge, Gallery 2 for my clients in Lahore. In Manchester, UK, Salt n Pepper restaurant is the place to visit if you want my latest outfits and of course Poshak Boutique in Houston, USA, caters to my clients in the states. My clothes are available in Dubai, as well.
You! Your favourite show so far?
RS: Bridal Couture Week was my favourite show. I basically love designing bridal clothes! You have such a lot of room to play with colours, fabrics, embellishment - the different 'kaams' all blended in to create one perfectly gorgeous bridal dress!
You! Why should women go for designer wear? Isn't it more expensive?
RS: Not in the long run, to answer your second question first! You see, recent years have witnessed a lot of awareness in women about clothes. They watch TV and see new styles in fashion journals and want to dress up to the nines. They buy laces, fabrics and various embellishments, but when they see the finished product from their 'darzi', they are more often than not disappointed.
You! What are the difficulties faced by designers in getting their work done?
RS: Mostly problems with good 'kaarigars'! You have to know how to handle them and I thank God mine have been with me for years! Then there are power outages that you have to manage. The only recourse is getting generators, for a professional would never miss his/her deadline.
You! What are the high points and low points of being a designer?
RS: High points are many; you get a lot of love and appreciation and get to meet a lot of wonderful people, but the low point is that your family gets neglected. People talk about maintaining balance between work and family by spending quality time with your family members, but it's just talk! In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time with my daughter. She is now married and I miss her. Then, I don't have time to meet my siblings.
You! What are the latest trends this summer?
RS: Flowing chiffon, pure materials... net is in as it is cool. In Karachi, you can carry dark colours in the evening, but soft shades for daytime are in. Young girls stress more on cuts and style. 'Kaliyaan' are fading - 22 and 32 are out now, but the length remains the same.
You! Do you think there is potential for new designers in our fashion industry?
RS: There is a lot of talent in Pakistan, waiting to be tapped. We have seen the potential of new designers in the fashion weeks, but the problem is that these promising and budding designers have no resources to go into business. I feel students, after graduating from fashion institutes, should intern with established designers to learn the ropes and establish their name before their bid to fly solo.
You! What are you currently working on?
RS: New collection for Eid, and then the wedding season that starts right after Eid. Plus, the foreign stores need constant restocking! Also, I have now introduced Ruby Shakel Junior line for the age group of two to six years, which is basically the initiative of my daughter-in-law, Fatima Fahad. It is especially for those moms who want their daughters to dress up just like them!
You! Your favourite national and international designers/labels?
RS: Among local designers, my favourite is Rizwan Baig. Then I love the creations of Roberto Cavalli because he deals in animal prints, which have always held a special place in my heart. He really inspires me and is my all time favourite.
You! Your favourite photographer?
RS: Tapu Javeri - he is a true professional.
You! How do you dress up in daily life?
RS: Simply - not the way I used to dress! I used to be very fastidious and had to have jewellery to go with my dresses, but now I wear less jewellery.
You! Your secret of good looks?
RS: The way I carry myself (laughs). On a serious note, I like the way I tend to connect with people. I am a friendly person by nature. Some people have spread this rumour that I am rather surly, which is not true! When Reema first met me, she was surprised because she had been told I am 'khatarnak'! After meeting me, obviously her opinion changed.
You! What are your future plans?
RS: Kapray, kapray, kapray... kaam, kaam, kaam.
You! Your outlook on life?
RS: Always be sincere and truthful. In life, we often have to make compromises and must try to understand the perspective of relatives and people we work with.
You! What's your beauty regimen? Do you go to a salon regularly?
RS: Beauty comes from inside. If you are good at heart, you will always look good. Strangely enough, Reema said the same thing when she was asked about the secret of her looks in an interview. I, too, believe that if you don't bear animosity for anyone, you will look pleasant. Inner beauty is reflected outwardly, too.