By Fareeha Qayoom, Photographs courtesy of Zubair Gumman
ubair Gumman is a successful entrepreneur, a designer, and a photographer. He is a big name in Lahore’s designer’s roster; yes, you guessed it; he owns his own label – Nee Punhal.
He has outlets in Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi. His next target is India. He started from Islamabad back in ’89. He does not have a degree in design. Initially, he worked as a photographer, working with the professionals in the business. Money was never an issue since he comes from a moneyed, feudal background. “I create under extreme pressure; the customers make you limited though. They are so conservative. Most of my peers are elite’s glorified tailors. I don’t call them designers. They are catering to a select class of customers. To design for them is easy; their customers have acquired an aesthetic sense because of their exposure to other cultures. It is comparatively simpler to design for say, Jemima Khan than for an ordinary woman! You know what I mean?”
“It’s tougher to cater to the masses. I know — I design for them! My customer is from the middle class. My collections are always different, and my designs wearable and glamorous. I try to be innovative and totally radical. I was the one who revived the mirror-work, placing them in outrageous places in the dress. I introduced some new cuts and colors. Being a photographer, I know how to fill each frame”
“I would love to design for the professional woman. However, I don’t do basic silhouettes. They are too easy to copy. All my creations have to be intricate and a virtual work of art! Still, I see replicas of my designs in the boutiques. I have loyal customers though – they will not buy cheap imitations. I have six lines – daily wear, semi-formal, formal, and over the top formal. I am also launching a knitwear line. It is totally radical. I do not copy and I don’t store my work. I have no catalogs, nothing. This way, whatever I do is fresh and new. I am obsessed with artistry and craftsmanship in my work.”
“It’s really tough to make a woman look beautiful and modern in a Shalwar suit. I always try to create clothes, which make the woman I design for, look feminine, sensual and glamorous.”
“There’s no such thing as an Indian culture or a Pakistani culture anymore. Now we have a global culture. I customize my clothes for the domestic crowd, keeping in mind our heritage, history and civilization and combining it with the global culture.” ■
This article was originally published in the print edition of the “The Knit-Xtyle Fashion Review,” Tkfr issue 5, 1998