Samar Iqbal Bashir is an ace designer. Her brand ‘Miraj by Samar’ is a Pakistani lifestyle brand based in Los Angeles, California. The brand’s high quality and classic aesthetic resonates with fashionistas from its inception in 1997 with a boutique in Artesia’s iconic Little India. Known for introducing Pakistani fashion to mainstream America, the brand has dressed some of Hollywood and Bollywood’s most coveted celebrities like Madonna, Halle Berry, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Aniston and CCH Pounder. Mirage by Samar has also been sported on the red carpets of the Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards.
Recently, Samar has launched her bridal studio in Karachi. In this regard, she exhibited her flamboyant bridal collection in a show at a local hotel – to give Karachiites a glimpse of her creations. In an exclusive interview with You! Samar talks about her journey and her passion for designing...
You! What sparked your interest in designing?
Samar Bashir: Back in the days, I used to design my own clothes as I lived in USA since ’90s. It was really hard to find eastern clothes here in CA so I decided to open my own boutique and that’s how it all started.
You! How has your work evolved since you began your career in fashion designing?
SB: Well, I started my business in ’90s from Los Angeles, California. It was the first Pakistani boutique in LA. I wanted to promote Pakistani Fashion in USA. My work evolved with time introducing new cuts and designs in our collection.
You! How long you have been doing bridals?
SB: I have been doing bridals for almost 25 years now.
You! How long did it take you to complete your first bridal collection?
SB: Wow! That’s a long time ago but I think it took almost 45 days to complete.
You! How do you define Samar’s bridals?
SB: It’s a collage of vibrant colours with the best of eastern fashion moments. Each piece is quite one of a kind and comes together in its own unique design and patterns.
You! You are based in California, what motivated you to open a bridal store in Karachi?
SB: It’s been almost 30 years now when we opened our first store in California. However, most of our clients from Pakistan wanted me to have a boutique in Pakistan too. This motivated me to open up a bridal store in Karachi.
You! Can you tell us a bit about your recent bridal collection, you showcased in Karachi?
SB: Our recent bridal collection is a mix of eastern and western cuts. We showcased mostly heavily embroidered long tail gowns – embellished with dabka, stone, beads, sequins and silk threads. I used mostly traditional gold and silver jewellery to go with bridal attires.
You! What’s the inspiration behind your latest collection?
SB: I took inspiration from our culture infused with vibrant colours of spring.
You! How do you define your bridals different from the rest?
SB: The modern-day bride has moved away from the conventional colour palette and is willing to experiment with colour and styles for her wedding attire. She seeks a blend of functionality and fantasy in her bridal ensemble. So, since the definition of the bride has evolved so have the fashions and trends. My label stands for sophisticated elegance, where subtle embroidery or gota patti work is paired with easy flowy silhouettes and fabrics making for an elegant bride and making it a timeless piece in your wardrobe.
You! What type of material and fabric you have used in your bridal collections?
SB: We use lots of different materials and fabrics in our bridal collections. It all depends on the design, and what client demands. For fabrics, we use pure chiffon, organza, jamawar, kataan tissue, zari net, raw silk, velvet. For materials, we use cutdana, crystals, stones and Swarovski elements.
You! What are the latest trends in bridal wear this season?
SB: I think this season’s concise collection of gowns are infused with a fresh modern vibe putting a spin on old-world charm. Small details that elevate traditional bridalwear to make a modern statement. Romantic re-embroidered lace gowns bloom with off-the-shoulder floral brocade capes.
You! When it comes to makeup what seasonal looks and colours are you expecting for brides in summer 2021?
SB: Playing with colourful eye makeup is a safe and easy way to spark some joy when as the days of social distancing continue to melt into one.
You! What type of jewellery is in for brides?
SB: Some brides go for traditional gold jewellery whereas some modern brides go for delicate jewellery. It also depends on the outfit; you can also do contrast jewellery like pearls, stone or silver jewellery.
You! Do you take inspiration from international bridal trends?
SB: Yes, I do take inspiration from international bridal trends as mostly our clients are from USA. So, I do keep myself updated with new trends.
You! Do you think it will make a difference if a bride wears a designer outfit?
SB: Yes, I think it does make a difference to wear a designer outfit at your wedding day as every bride wants to stand out and look beautiful at her wedding day.
You! Any known Pakistani celebrity who wore your bridal jora?
SB: Yes, Reema Khan.
You! In your opinion, what really makes a bride stand out – her makeup, jewellery, outfit or her confidence?
SB: I think it’s a combination of everything. The makeup has to gel well with the bridal jora so that a bride can shine on her big day. Same goes for jewellery.
You! What skills according to you are important for a designer to be successful?
SB: Good sense of style with creative and artistic abilities.
You! A word of advice for brides to be:
SB: Just be patient and wise. Never stop learning. Each marriage is unique and beautiful in its own way. You really have to work hard on your marriage to make it successful.
You! Do you think social media and technical factors have affected fashion over the years?
SB: Yes, I think it does in a positive way. Giving our designers international platform to promote our culture worldwide with their social media audience. Technical factors have boosted the production.
You! What are you currently working on?
SB: I am working on new formal collection which is a secret but you’ll know about it soon.
You! What plans do you foresee for your brand?
SB: Hopefully, opening more boutiques in different cities of Pakistan. Well, it’s a difficult task to manage stores, Karachi outlet and California boutique, but my team is quite cooperative and efficient.
Credits: Interviewer: Nida Mohsin Label: Miraj by Samar Makeup: Shaista Marghoob Choreography: Production 021
Coordination: StarLinks Event Management: Ali Malik Models: Hira Mani, Sunita Marshal, Urshia Hussain and others.