Tabesh Khoja, widely known as Khojii in the entertainment and fashion scene of Pakistan, is credited with pioneering the term ‘fashion stylist’ in Pakistan. He initiated this trend 11 years ago in collaboration with the renowned makeup and hair styling icon, Nabila Maqsood. Raised in Karachi, Khoja started working early in life not just for financial independence but to pursue his true passion for fashion.
After studying fashion extensively, he entered the field of styling, showcasing his talent and dedication. Recently, his hard work was recognised as he was awarded with the title of best fashion stylist of the year, a category introduced for the first time at the Lux Style Awards. Reflecting on the evolution of fashion styling in Pakistan, he expressed, “When I started, ‘stylist’ was a new term. Then, from styling, it evolved into style direction, and this is what I am doing today.”
Currently, Tabesh Khoja is part of prominent fashion establishments in Pakistan, including Nabila’s, N Gents, Zero Makeup, and Zinc, located in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad. In an exclusive interview with You!, he shares insights about his fashion journey, what styling his all about and his future plans…
You! Where did you study fashion?
Tabesh Khoja: After completing three years at a law firm, I finally pursued my long-time passion for fashion, which has been my interest since kindergarten.
Despite my grandmother’s initial enthusiasm for me studying law in London, I told her that I was heading to London to pursue fashion, not law. Fortunately, my mother was incredibly supportive and assisted me in following my dreams.
Using the money, I had saved during my three years in the law firm and some borrowed from my mother, I managed to pay for the first semester at the Asian School of Fashion Design in 2011. Later, while working at Nabila’s, I had the opportunity to attend the Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design in London for a short course in fashion marketing.
You! How did you step into the field of fashion?
TK: During my time studying fashion, Asim Jofa provided me with the opportunity to intern during the second launch of his lawn collection. Following my college hours at Teen Talwar Karachi, I would consistently visit his studio on 26th Street, dedicating my time there until eight in the evening. It was during this period that Frieha Altaf noticed my efforts and seemingly recognised potential in me. Balancing my studies and this newfound opportunity, I joined her in casting models for fashion shoots. This involvement allowed me to forge connections with various designers and models. During one of the shows, Nabila noticed me and extended an offer to collaborate on a popular project. Originating from Paris and led by many French professionals, this project took place in March 2012. Following the 25-day project, Nabila offered me a job, marking the beginning of my 12-year journey with her.
You! As a fashion stylist or style director, what aspects of the role do you encompass?
TK: Styling goes beyond merely selecting jewellery, makeup, or outfits for someone. It involves providing personalised attention to profile the personality of individuals, be they celebrities, actors, musicians, models, journalists, television hosts, anchors, politicians, bankers, teachers, or corporate professionals. In essence, the person becomes your canvas, and as a stylist, your task is to artistically paint it with consideration for their individuality and comfort zone. To me, styling is akin to designing an entire figure and presenting a lifestyle that aligns with it. In essence, styling is a dynamic form of visual storytelling. It’s about creating a harmonious fusion of clothing, accessories, and grooming that not only enhances the outward appearance but also communicates a distinct lifestyle. The goal is to strike a balance between fashion-forward choices and the individual’s unique persona, ensuring that the final presentation is not only stylish but also authentic and comfortable for the person being styled. Through this meticulous process, a stylist transforms clothing into a powerful means of self-expression, allowing the individual to embody their true essence with confidence and flair.
You! What does your recent accolade as a stylist mean for you?
TK: I feel deeply honoured and humbled by this acknowledgment. There is a profound sense of gratitude within me. Truth be told, when I embarked on this journey 11 years ago, there was minimal recognition for fashion stylists. Therefore, it feels like a significant accomplishment in its own right that nominations have opened up for the stylist category this year. Experiencing a sense of pride, I reflect on how what I began almost a decade ago is now receiving the recognition it deserves. I am optimistic that this acknowledgment will pave the way for many other talented stylists, marking a positive shift in the industry.
You! Do you think fashion can bring a change?
TK: Yes. I believe that everybody is beautiful and equal and should be celebrated in their own light. Our dilemma lies in the fact that we haven’t been adequately nurtured as a nation to embrace change. Perhaps, due to a lack of exposure, we find ourselves consistently encountering the same things. But there seems to be a shining light at the end of the tunnel.
You! Can you tell us about your collaborations and future projects?
TK: Recently, we’ve had the privilege of collaborating with Dubai and Qatar tourism, working on styling projects for celebrities in those regions. Additionally, a significant aspect of my work involves curating signature brides at Nabila. These brides are adorned in attire from globally renowned designers. The unique aspect of this service is the online consultation format, allowing me to connect with brides from around the world. Whether my client is in a different country or visiting the salon in person, I ensure individualised attention to both local and international clients as part of my signature bride’s service.
While I have engaged in collaborations with various international artists, I am particularly excited about our recent foray into films and television collaborations. I believe these ventures have the potential to open up new avenues and contribute to our continued growth in the industry.