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Spotlight: Nabila Maqsood

It's show time!
Commercials, fashion shows, music videos and image consultancy for the prestigious Lux Style Awards Nabila has done it all. talks to this style diva to find out what she's been doing these days...

2006 marks the third time the Lux Style Awards have roped Nabila in as creative stylist. This time she is responsible not only for the looks of the stars but also for the styling of the segments. It's a bigger platform to work on and as Tariq Amin steps out of the LSA loop, she has no real competition. Twenty years into the business, Nabila is an icon in herself a diva who in fact has more star power than most of the celebrities she serves. And with Pakistan's A-class superstars on her client list actors, actresses, musicians, cricketers, vjs and models included that is no small feat. Nabila's success lies not only in professional excellence and hard work but also her addiction to perfection; she believes that the image she gives her clients must always be as meticulous as her own. Professional to the peak, she takes her job personally.

With the addition of Zinc and Nail Express, Nabila's empire has expanded. And with this expansion, one notices a change in her outlook. There is almost an acceptance of everything she has always lashed out against, the overindulgence in culture and tradition especially. She may still not condone it, but she is definitely more open to working with it. Which is a good thing. When someone like Nabila recognizes the potential Pakistan's entertainment industry has and helps build it up instead of cutting it down to size, she becomes a stronger force to reckon with.

caught up with Nabila to find out she planned the mammoth LSA event last night and what she has been doing these days...

You came up with the idea of giving celebrities a cultivated style for LSA. How did it begin and why is it important?
It happened about 3 years ago when I participated in the LSAs for the first time. Unilever wanted me to do a segment for them but I put my foot down. I couldn't separate my segment from others. On television, how could one tell what I had done and what others had done and I did not want to endorse someone else's bad taste. I asked for exclusivity and told them that I'd handle the whole thing no matter how hard it was. Between my Karachi and Lahore team, I had an army of people who are trained to make it happen. It was a very big challenge and I said that I wouldn't just do hair and make up.

Why not?
I can do drop dead gorgeous hair and make up but if people are wearing the wrong clothes, wrong jewelry and the wrong shoes, then the hair and make up can't work on their own. The style goes head to toe. I would rather be responsible for the entire look. It was a very far fetched idea at that point because it seemed unmanageable. But I told Unilever that this is how it is done in the west. Celebrities and stars go to designers. It's good publicity for the designers, the red carpet exposes who's wearing whom and one gets a lot of backstage publicity. I'm quite flattered to see now that everybody is doing the red carpet now. I'm sure nobody remembers but thank you for asking and remembering that this was my idea.

How does it work between you, a designer and a celebrity? Do you pick out designers for a particular person or do the stars do it?
It's almost like planning your daughter's wedding. You have to know what she wants, know what the occasion is. You have to go to the right designer and get their input and get make all the involved parties happy within your budget. Imagine I had 280 brides! What we do is firstly look at a designer's portfolio. We look at his/her work, interests, and style of designing. We ask a celebrity if he/she has any preferences. If she is flexible, I'll go back to the designer and tell him or her that this celebrity wants to wear your clothes or I'll give the star other choices and whichever designer she picks, I'll coordinate with them. We have a pool of designers who are keen on working with us. And that includes everyone from your top tier to the struggling and upcoming designers. I want to promote anyone who is showing the right design and enthusiasm. It's not about labels only.

How is this 'image consultancy' different since this is Lux's 50th year and the fifth year for the Lux Style Awards?
I'm just a part of the team. The briefing comes from Unilever. One hopes that the awards will be smoother than last year because every year has been progressively better than the previous. This year is going to be more glamorous, festive, grand and formal. Last year was more MTV. This year, it's more like the Oscars. It will be much more regal and grand. Designers like Sana Safinaz, Sonya Battla, HSY, Karma, Nomi Ansari and Tazeen Hasan all are on our list. Maheen is not in town but I'm sure when she gets back, I'll grab her for something.

There are also new names that we are involving like Maheen Karim, Arshad Tareen, a few people from the Karachi fashion school (AIFD) as well as Lahore. There are a lot of new portfolios that I'm getting.

Have there been problems with you being incharge?
The reason that all these designers are comfortable working with me for the third time is because I don't come across as a dictator. If you ask me to stitch something, I won't be able to. I've got aesthetics but I'm not a designer. I just sit with them and say what do you suggest and this is the girl and she would like to look like this. I give my suggestions but it's mainly teamwork.

We've got Amna from Arts and Gems who is amazing and has been the jewelry designer for LSA for the past four years. I'm talking about diamonds, pearls and platinum. Each piece is crafted to go with a particular person's outfit. Last year, Vinny was wearing red so we made her a big gorgeous ruby with a white pearl rock. My job is to mediate between the designer and the star.

IMG will do a fashion week later this year. How do you feel about them coming in?
Well, I'll be very happy to see it. I've been hearing about it for at least 12 years now. A couple of years ago, Maheen called me up and she asked me how stylists come in. I told her she'll be very lucky if she could get 10 designers in her council and not have them bitch each other out. This is a very bitchy industry and people have egos bigger than their portfolios. And I think it's a huge challenge that we've taken on. We've already seen a breach between Lahore and Karachi so I hope that these designers can get off their high horses and work as a team and keep the bigger picture in mind. I wish them well as I know it's going to be a rough ride.

What challenge do you think the fashion industry will face when it comes to doing a fashion week?
I met the IMG team and I had a good chat with Simon (IMG-Asia Pacific Head) and I asked him, how he was going to teach these designers aesthetics? I don't mean it in a bad way. If I want to buy a nice white shirt I would either go to Sunday Bazaar or take a flight and go somewhere else to buy it because I don't know anyone here who can do a beautiful nice white cotton shirt and that's the simplest it can get or a lovely stylish black dress with the right kind of finish.

We're into costumes and museum kind of work. For me it doesn't work. I don't have time for nostalgia. Even our trained designers have started doing shaadi clothes. I would ask the fashion council where I could buy a white shirt? Maybe if one of the members can make me a beautiful white shirt, which I enjoyed wearing, than hats off to them.

After not announcing LSA fashion nominations last year, this year the list is out. How do you feel about being nominated?
I just found out that I've been nominated. The only thing I felt bad about was that I've been doing so much work that I never got time to put together my portfolio but I guess they've changed the judging system. I've participated twice and I've won both times. I feel good that I've won but I'm not really proud of it. I mean, look at the people I've won against. It's no competition. It's not fun playing unless you have real players in the field. In fact, my suggestion this year to them is to make sure that dragons can't win i.e. Nabila or Ather Shahzad. Give the chance to newcomers. There are only a few people like Ather Shahzad, Tariq Amin and Saima. I think it's not fair that I compete with them or they compete with me. I'm in a league of my own so I should be left out and not compete with them. That's my point.

Tariq Amin has withdrawn from the nomination. Without him as a nominee, the outcome seems predictable. What do you think?
I don't know why Tariq pulled out but he must have his reasons. I don't think he was nominated last year either. I haven't seen much from Tariq apart from doing a few music videos and hair and make up for fashion shows organized by Frieha Altaf. It's not like there isn't competition. Ather Shahzad, Khawar Riaz they are good too.

How important are the LSAs for the fashion and entertainment industry?
I think it's a very noble thing that Unilever has done. They could've easily made four commercials out of this budget and could've sold their soap. But what they're doing is building a brand to give the fashion and the media industry a platform and if I can help them achieve that goal in a small way, I'll be happy. I had to fight in the dark but the presence of LSAs will give new comers a chance.

What kind of a show are you expecting it to be this year?
You probably won't believe it but I have no clue as to who won, who was nominated. I didn't even go last year because I have been so engrossed in delivering the work I've taken on.

Tell us about the latest Lux commercial you did with Babra Sharif, Meera, Vinny, Aaminah Haq and Iman Ali how was the experience?
It wasn't easy but we had to get the mood right. It was very important for each of them to trust me and believe that I was going to do my best for each one of them without any bias. At the end of the day I wanted to look good, therefore I needed all of them to look good which they did. It was challenging but I had a lot of fun because I enjoyed the process. The ad came out very well. There was glamour, fun, style and an understated elegance that we wanted to show.

You're working with Immu (of Fuzon) on a project. Can you elaborate on it?
I feel Immu is the brain behind Fuzon and I feel bad about the fact that his voice hasn't been heard. He's a very humble, behind-the-scene person and wouldn't aggressively push himself. He is the sound engineer and music producer for the band. I've worked with him over some projects and he's a magician. What I can do for image, he can do for sound. What we're working on now is a project called Emix. It is going to be a company, which is going to pick up singers at random and mix them in a very funky way. They can be from abroad or here, established as well as new comers.

Where do you come in with 'Emix'?
The idea and genius is all Immu. I will do the makeover of the involved artist. It's really exciting. I'm looking forward to it.

What did you wear to the awards?
The devil wears Prada!

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