Amal Qadri doesn’t think 2022 was an year of immense achievement; “I haven’t worked much this year,” she says, “just simple shoots, nothing fancy”. But it isn’t just the volume of work that defines a stylist. It is really about what they’re putting out day after day, and any time you might happen across Amal’s Instagram (@shakethingsupbyamal), you’ll find yourself stopping to look.
Her personal style is very intriguing. Look through Amal’s daily looks and outfits of the day, and you’ll immediately spot the thought that built the look. While the stylist refers to models as ‘chameleons’, while talking about how she styles shoots for brands, she herself is chameleon-like, both in her casual, everyday sartorial sensibility and the one she materializes for her clients.
One of the most fun things about Amal’s journey is how she started. Always into fashion, she describes herself as one of those crazy people who, “bought lots of magazines, just to see how outfits were put together”. But that wasn’t all, Amal was all in when it came to fashion and had people bring her back things she liked. Pretty soon, she had a little treasure of clothing and accessories, and requests from within her circle to dress people for events became common, as did a very small personal shopping operation at a time when that didn’t exist in Pakistan.
“If you go back, way back, to 2012, I had a Facebook page where I made recommendations for things people could buy locally, a splurge vs, steal kind of thing,” says Amal. The excitement of sharing great finds is key to her work, and personal style.
The stylist also curates accessories on a separate Instagram page, @wearshakethingsup, and recently, ads for a styling class by Amal Qadri are showing up on relevant Insta feeds.
The generosity with which Amal tends to share experience, opinion, and resources shows up in how she dresses herself and others. There is an expansiveness to her style, not a visibly painstaking pointillist, Amal Qadri is more a color-field-abstract-impressionist. Her work is by no means not painstaking or well-thought-out; it’s just that she paints in broader, brighter strokes than most, and makes it look effortless.
One of the projects Amal does speak excitedly about on this sunny Karachi morning is Sanam Chaudhri’s Koonjh.
“I have been doing work for high street brands, and that is kind of where the money is,” says Amal. “I miss fashion weeks, because that’s where we could really play. I have done some work that’s been fun, but not in Karachi.
“With editorials, it isn’t so thought out anymore. A proper editorial needs planning, and you have to collect all the things you need for it to really bring everything together. You can’t rush something like an editorial, and neither should you.”
In this climate, where everything is making its way to digital simply by virtue of progressing technology, amplified and sped up by a global virus that locked us all down at home, online shopping inevitably became a go-to for the clientele of Amal’s clientele.
Amal understands this, and is very no-nonsense about it. “Brands also need to make money, and they’ve figured that this works for them,” she says of the turn to catalogue-style shoots that dominate the fashion photography world at the moment. “So I get it, at the same time, I think designers and brands can bring out something inspirational every once in a while.”
One of the designers Amal does feel brings the kind of energy she can work with is Sanam Chaudhri.
“For her Koonjh collection, Sanam wanted to depict a warrior princess, someone fierce,” Amal recalls. That Amal Qadri signature entered the picture when the stylist, inspired by the tilla and sitara work on the outfits, brought in some of her own gota and sequin jewelry and had more made for the shoot. “Sanam lets me play around more,” she says, “so the work I do with her is more exciting and immersive for me.”
But as she says this, Amal admits that there is fun work coming out of Lahore, and while she has worked with brands and photographers there, uprooting her family and moving cities isn’t quite viable.
As she mentioned earlier, a good chunk of the income within the styling industry comes from high street and retail brands. Though she has to her credit brands such as Ethnic, Beyond East, and Lulusar, plus Al-Karam’s various collections, Amal thinks the younger stylists working with national chains such as Outfitters are doing fantastic work.
“Maheen and Shayanae, who style for Outfitters are doing quite well,” she says, and observes that there are certain categories of styling work she is happy to give up to fresh minds.
“For example,” says Amal, “styling a celebrity is really not as rewarding as you would think. Stylists create a whole look based off not just the client’s personality, but perhaps around one small element of the whole ensemble, which if altered, wrecks the look as far as we are concerned.
“The client may be going to a big industry event, and decide last minute that they’re not comfortable with an earring, or a shoe – if they change those, and a lot of times it is likely the whole look was spun off from that one tiny detail, that’s all our work gone.”
So, as far as celebrity styling goes, Amal Qadri feels the rewards don’t outweigh the risks (we’ll just assume the risk is heartache), and says, “anyway, newer stylists should have access to these clients, and learn and grow from the experiences.”
Again, though, one of Amal’s first celebrity clients was Anoushey Ashraf, whom Amal loved styling for.
“Anoushey had shared a picture, and asked something like, ‘what would make this outfit better?’ and I commented with some suggestions. The comment led to Anoushey getting in touch with Amal, who then went on to style her for her TV show, Chai, Toast Aur Host.
“Anoushey is fun to style for, and so is Syra Yousuf,” says Amal. The stylist enjoys being given free reign with her creations, and reflects that when a client is fixated on only wearing certain labels and designers, her job becomes that much harder. She remembers when Syra had a slight wardrobe malfunction at an awards show, and ended up wearing a vintage dress that had belonged to Amal’s mother. Upon a brief mulling over this story, it is clear that Amal’s job, and by proxy, Syra’s would have become tedious had the latter not been open to suggestion.
Though she is one of the first to really jump into styling as a profession in Pakistan, one of the most pleasant aspects of Amal Qadri’s professional persona is the clear attitude of empowerment she has for the people of her industry at large. She mentions Faizan Dar, who is Head of Design at the Asian Institute of Fashion Design (AIFD), after having worked for Al-Karam and Khaadi.
“I wore one of his students’ creations from their thesis to Fashion Pakistan Week, and the picture I shared of it got international attention,” she says. “The point being, where I understand that high street brands and designer need to sell, they can also put out one or two statement pieces. Something inspired. Something that inspires.”
Though a stylist’s work is never done, and every OOTD Amal shares with her appreciative audience bears testament to that, Amal acknowledges easily the tilt towards marketable over creative that at least fashion presentation has taken. And while brands and designers are making the smart business choice by providing online catalogs we can all shop from whenever and wherever – and we thank them profusely for that – the trend has created a slight lull in the overall energy and vibe of the industry. Perhaps it is time to shake things up?