Khadija Shah of Elan talks to Fashion Central

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your brand, Elan?

I acquired my love for designing from my mother who used to design for family and friends for as long as I can remember. My sister’s and I hardly ever went to designers to shop for clothes; Ela as we call our mother, would take us around get whatever materials and embellishments we liked and put together our outfits herself and they were always better than anything available at the boutiques. I think that’s how I got the design bug. After graduating from college in London I came back to Pakistan and initially started off by helping my mother with her work. My mother however only did it as a hobby as she was busy with a lot of other work and I wanted to do this on a much larger scale. I had a dream of bringing about a fashion revolution at least in Lahore (ha ha I though people dressed really badly here, but lahorites have come a long way since then) and so I parted ways with Ela and set up Élan as a formal part of the fashion industry.

2. What does Elan stand for, what’s your design philosophy?

Élan is a French word and is synonymous with style, confidence and elegance. My design philosophy can also be defined by these three words. An Élan outfit can be traditional or modern, heavily worked or lightly embellished but it will always be pleasing to the eye, a standard which I feel most local designers find very hard to achieve. I never design anything that I would not wear myself and I think that’s a large part of why my clothes are appreciated so much. Also, I research my designs quite thoroughly, in terms of colour, international trends, patterns and motifs. For example my prêt line showcases a lot of prints which is an influence from the international catwalks as most local designers hardly ever use the beautiful prints available.

3. What is the driving force behind your success and respected status?

 I think the fact that I am dependable. Apart from the very rare unavoidable instance, I always deliver on time and my clients always get exactly the same product as the sample. The outfit has to satisfy me before it is even presented to the client, so I pretty much go out of my way for each customer regardless of what the price constraints might be because I want all élan clothes to look and feel great.

4. Being a young mother, how do you balance your life between work and home? 

Quite fabulously actually. I live in an apartment so it’s pretty manageable. My help is well-trained so they know exactly how I like things to be and carry out their chores to precision, without me standing on their heads 24/7. As far as my son Zaydakbar is concerned, he and I are pretty much inseparable. I take him to work with me and he loves being around my staff there and the colourful fabrics, threads, glittering crystals and sequins are all so fascinating for him. My Husband is wonderful and quite understanding about my work. In fact, I think he would hate it if I didn’t work; it makes him respect and value me and my opinions so much more.

5. What do you think about career oriented mothers, do you think it adds to the personality of the growing child?

I think it’s wonderful that so many young married women are working now days. Having financial independence and not being completely reliant on the husband for everything brings so much confidence and strength to any woman’s personality. The Kids are also positively affected because they are able to see a real equality in the parent’s relationship and can idolize the mother as much as the father. And I think most importantly, no one can push a working mother/woman around because she means’s business!

6. What qualities can you identify within yourself that have helped you accomplish the current stature that you have?

I think all my personality traits are well suited for this business. I work really well under pressure and that helps me with all the deadlines which seem to be a constant feature in my line of work. I’m a perfectionist which can be an irritant in day to day life but work wise it works out well because I never give a substandard product to my clients and hence I have satisfied customers who keep coming back. Lastly I would say I have a good sense of how to run the business which is very important apart from having the ability to design good clothes. You can be brilliant at designing but if you don’t know how to manage your balance sheet you will get no where.

7. What do you think will do complete justice to carrying your outfits?

If I could oversee all my clients getting dressed up, I would ensure they had well-manicured hands, a nice hair style; an up do for a sari and big bouncy hair for the blowy kurta’s and kaftans’, natural makeup nothing that makes one look like a pastry, a clutch maybe a bejeweled for the night and a big slick one for the day, peep-toe flats for the day, and some funky stilettos for the night. But MOST IMPORTANTLY a good posture and lots and lots of confidence!

8. What are your future plans for your brand?

I want to expand a lot more. I am currently retailing at the boulevard 10-Q Lahore, Mélange Islamabad and Rehanna Saigol’s, The shop in Karachi. I would like to have élan stores in all these cities by the end of next year. Élan shall be opening its flagship store in Lahore at the Mall of Lahore in another month’s time so I think the plans are now coming to fruition. As far as my product range is concerned, lawn, home accessories and maybe some western wear is on the agenda for the coming months and years Inshallah.

9. Do you have any dream or desire that is not fulfilled yet?

As far as my personal life is concerned God has always been very kind and blessed me with everything I’ve ever wanted. My Family, Husband and son are all the greatest joys. Professionally I have many dreams which I shall realize in due course of time.

I am a perfectionist which can be an irritant in day to day life but work wise it works out well because I never give a substandard product to my clients and hence I have satisfied customers who keep coming back.

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