Do not follow where the path may lead.
Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The name Shaiyanne Malik is synonymous in Pakistan with fashion, the arts, and social and community projects. Her fashion label by the name of SamanZar Couture, known for its popular bridal range, was just one step in a long line of firsts. Whether it was a stage play with The Karachi Drama Circle, a SAARC Fashion show, Karavan Karachi with Heritage Foundation, or her work with the women of Dera Jutta (a remote village in Pakistan), Shaiyanne has continued to forge ahead, venturing into domains that take on greater meaning and connect deeply with her Pakistani heritage.
When her peers were struggling to make a mark in their chosen fields, Shaiyanne Malik was moving on to the next best thing. This lady has managed to reinvent herself at every stage in life. She wears many hats, often at the same time. We decided to talk to all of them and discover what makes her stand out in a crowd, without so much as blinking an eye!
FUCHSIA: Let’s start at the start. You pioneered Shaiyanne Malik and then SamanZar. Tell us the story – with all the fun bits, drama, onstage and off!
Drama was my first love. I have been onstage throughout school and college. I met my husband, Sohail Malik, because of my love for theatre. Sohail had the Karachi Drama Circle producing plays in both English and Urdu and we later teamed up to form the Pavillion Interaction, through which we continued to stage theme shows mostly abroad, participating in festivals representing Pakistan. I married him when I was 17 and moved from Lahore to Karachi, completed my education in Law, and tad my children. I was an artist, and used to paint on Chiffon. People loved my work and purchased it often. Suddenly I had more work than I could handle so I decided to switch careers. I became a fashion designer – a pioneer in the field.
You have been passionately involved with multiple community projects in Pakistan. Please tell us more.
I started working with Yasmeen Lari, who founded The Heritage Foundation Pakistan in 2000. We did a year-long festival called Karavan Karachi and later, Karavan Pakistan. Under the banner of The Heritage Foundation, we would block-up a road every week and carry out theatrical activities with schools and colleges. This was always in front of a heritage building upon which we would place a plaque, declaring it a heritage site, protected by the World Heritage Foundation. The children who worked closely with us would take ownership of the site and carry out different cleanliness projects. Under this banner I staged the first Fashion Week of Pakistan, in which 21 designers came together in a week-long activity in different heritage sites. I am proud to say that my idea to bring designers together under one platform is reaping benefits now as Fashion Weeks are held regularly in Pakistan.
About your work with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Dera Jutta Village?
Again, I foresee a future for our local heritage and indigenous craft, especially with the work I am doing with the girls at Dera Jutta, Bahawalpur and Tharparkar. Artisans are the most talented and skilled people; their embroidery is superlative. It just needs to receive patronage and an opportunity for showcase. We had 14 implementing partners from the most remote and marginalised areas of Pakistan, and we translated amazing craft into fashionable wear for the ramp. It was a resounding success and with the fantastic support of the ILO we actually showcased 100 artisans from all over Pakistan. Again a first-of-its-kind but certainly not the last, because Crafts Heritage Passion is another baby of mine which I will nurture to the end.
You recently showcased your collection at a SAARC fashion show, but there was more to it than the fashion. Your models enacted a story.
Ever since my first themed fashion show for The World Cup, I have always given my shows a story. I have choreographed over a hundred such shows at home and abroad. My shows always tell the story of Pakistan, our rich culture and heritage. My theatrical background comes into play with each venture. The story of The Rural Artisans Show was one of Hopes and Dreams. The story at the SAARC Fashion Show in Sri Lanka was The Indus Valley Civilization in which River Indus narrates to an audience of The Cradle of Civilization, where Pakistan stands today.
How does Shaiyanne the designer, the actor the social worker fit in as a mom and a wife?
When my children were small, they were involved in all our activities. They came backstage, in front of the house, they were with us everywhere and in everything we did, in all our productions. I used to travel a lot, I had the worst-mom reputation in their school. I believed that where I go, my children go. I would just take them, and send explanations and letters to the school later. I used to work extra hard with them so they would be in the upper brackets of their class. So no one could really say much. But I recall the frowns directed at me from principals and teachers alike. To them, I probably seemed wild and irresponsible. But I think I had my priorities right. Today, my children excel in whatever they do and they are my pride and joy.
You are a true icon in the image of an emancipated woman who has achieved success in every field she has entered. Where does your strength come from?
Passion. If you are passionate enough, you become emancipated. If you believe in yourself and have the energy to work hard, half your battle is won. You do your best and if you work sincerely and selflessly for others, success is bound to follow. Although I must say the first 15 years of my career, my creativity led me, and I worked to become a success. The next 15 years it was my passion.
What’s next for Shaiyanne Malik?
I’m going to make a film and write a book. My fashion and community work will always continue. Right now I am spearheading a movement to rehabilitate street children and eliminate beggary . My film is also going to be on the same theme.
What value would you pass on to your children if you had to pick just one?
To my son I always say “The man who treats his wife like a princess was raised by a queen. So never let me down. To all my children I would pass on the value of respect. Respect yourself before all else, the rest will automatically fall into place. And steer clear of negative people.”
Relate to us an amusing anecdote – we are sure you have had many.
Once, a group of designers was visiting Paris to meet some top French and Italian Designers. I had my baby with me. A senior Pakistani designer thought this was very unprofessional and shushed my baby. My elder daughter walked up to her and firmly said “We never shush our baby.” Needless to say she was a hit with all the European designers.
To sum it all up for our readers, describe Shaiyanne Malik in a few words.
Wow, that’s a tough one. Shaiyanne is creative, passionate and sincere. She laughs a lot, is a people’s person, loves her friends and family, is hyperactive, a workaholic and steers clear of fake and superficial people and scenarios. She knows how to dream, believes in herself and always reaches for the stars. She is blessed to be surrounded by positive people around her.