An up close and personal look at Ahad’s design Studios
By Farrah Naz, Photographs courtesy of Ahad’s Design Studios
had walks a fine design line by giving his clients the future and the past all at once. A fan of early Victorian, Georgian and French Eras and with a kind of futuristic vision that nevertheless speaks pure flamboyant revival of the 1900s – somewhat plain, yet elegant when adorned with gilt stenciling or impressive or excessive ornamentation. Ahad’s work looks to the past for inspiration, his favorite shades of plums shining through and the mystery of the middle ages combined with romanticism to produce a gothic revival that comes to us ready for placement in tomorrow’s many a socialite drawing rooms.
Raised in Lahore, Ahad’s first design impulses came via mughal architectural influences (He is an Architect by the way): he went to the National College of Arts to study Architecture, previously known as the Mayo School of Arts and later to U.S for some international exposure. After a few years of traveling, however, he was back in Lahore.
His breakthrough pieces, presented in his first outlet gallery in 1986-87, featured table tops which were made in much the same way as the intricate flowered patterned walls and floors of the mughal era — shaped or carved by hand from a block of Marble or wood. The success that his pieces earned him let Ahad pursue design full-time, where he worked on his creations with materials that were readily available in Pakistan i.e., Wood, Marble and pure silks. All the while his edge having been a furniture and Accessory production facility of his own where he was able to experiment and create. Somewhere down the line his niece Ayesha Asad joined him and has proved to be a very competent associate who manages his gallery for him since.
Years of traveling in and out of Pakistan, has proven Lahore to be his one and only true base, where, once again he created beautiful “Embroidered raw silk fabric chairs and blinds”, startlingly modern amorphous forms that he covered in the same pure silk fabric used by brides for their trousseaus. This kind of witty meeting of function and luxury is emblematic of Ahad’s design philosophy–one in which materials taken out of context become somehow rich, especially in combination with his heavy traditional forms–an approach that weaves its way through most of his work and given him a lot of recognition.
In furnishing a House or a Restaurant Ahad’s guiding rules are apparent all over, in the employment of color, walls well covered with mirrors, pictures etc., and strategic placement of furniture to give spacious feel. His work reminds us of an age of pleasant and elegant hospitality, agreeable conversations’, enlivening music, the home enjoyment of dance and elegant pastimes and all these provided without extravagance and real benefit as well as pleasure. ‘I can easily fill a space with a sense of scale proportions and design with a particular piece of furniture. My gallery has given a new dimension and is creating awareness about what home décor is’.‘I simply work on an Age old formula – ‘form follows function’. The important consideration always is that each project be appropriate for the client and the site. The architecture, interior and exterior must flow as one. If you stamp a room too definitively with your own signature, you’ve failed the client, who has to breathe there.’
Ahad eventually made his way to France, where he fell in with an influential furniture company that helped him reach a wider audience both critically and commercially, and which helped to garner him a committed international following. This in turn led to larger, more high-profile commissions for such projects and interiors…. ‘During my studies, as I had been into history as well that I was exposed to the European History and over the last few years I’ve traveled frequently to Europe to complete my projects, it was there that I had to conduct extensive research into various periods and movements in Arts and Crafts. After the Mughal Culture I found the French and Italians to be an inspiration for my recent collection.’
Along with an “adults-only” aesthetic that softens his brand of modernism with sex appeal, part of what makes Ahad’s work so genius is that his vision encompasses not just the big “important” pieces, but little ones as well. While other designers concentrate on copying the next trend, Ahad chooses to focus on his own style, tackling fabric, objects, decoration accessories, glass with etching, table tops with marble inlay with the same keen eye keeping the scale, proportion, detail, texture, color, quality all combined sharply to produce harmonic flow that the client may feel at ease in their environment, so that when they’re home, they can shrug off their outside worries and feel one with their environment. ■
This article was originally published in the print edition of the “The Knit-Xtyle Fashion Review,” Tkfr issue 13, January 2006