One of the most sought-after couturiers in the region, who has now successfully secured his spot on the global fashion map, joining the likes of Elie Saab among others, Faraz Manan is truly a name to reckon with. Kareena Kapoor swears by him, he is Mahira Khan’s favourite, he was the last designer to have created couture for Sridevi, and even the likes of Nita Ambani appreciate his designs. In the Middle East of course, from royal families to society divas, everyone wants a piece of Faraz Manan in their closet. Renowned for his bridal, luxury and ready- to-wear collections, Faraz has also captured the popular ‘lawn’ market worldwide, and his sold- out catalogue on his website is testimony to its success. One step into the designer’s plush store in Jumeirah, and it’s easy to judge what the brand Faraz Manan stands for – subtle extravagance.
Amidst hues of his signature pastels, we sat at his luxury flagship store discussing his passion to dress brides and his association with the who’s who of Bollywood.
Tell us a little about your latest collection…
My summer couture collection is inspired by French art décor. Art décor, because it is luxurious, and a practical, modern approach towards vintage design. The collection depicts history and that’s what relates to me the most. My forte is fusion; for me that could be the meeting of the old and the new or the east and the west. My brand’s philosophy is fusion and that’s why I chose Dubai. This city defines fusion – being a melting pot of so many cultures and nationalities. In that regard this collection, called Lumière (meaning Light in French), puts all those different elements together. It is full of intricate rich embroidery, soft fabrics and calmer colour palettes to suit the summer.
An outfit from the Lumière collection
What sets Lumière apart from your previous summer collections?
The previous summer couture collection was called Mirage, which was mainly inspired by the beauty of Arabia. This collection is again very close to my heart, especially because of its universal, authentic appeal. Mirage was very different to Lumière, where each garment is more structured with a lot more sparkle! Any piece from Lumière is sure to make any bride glow.
What do you keep in mind when creating each collection? Is there any element that remains constant in them?
First and foremost, it’s wearability. Practicality is very important, don’t go over the top! If I do a heavily embellished outfit (which I LOVE), I’ll control it with a subtle colour. You’ll never spot a bright, loud Faraz Manan creation. My current favourite is colour on colour – like the all-red sari Jacqueline Fernandez wore on Diwali last year. I made the India/ Pakistan classic red appeal to an international audience and that was a winning moment for me as a designer.
Jacqueline Fernandez's red sari from last Diwali was much talked about
Brides are now trying to break free from tradition. How challenging is that for you as a designer?
That’s not really challenging. It’s the right way to take bridal fashion forward. We can’t impose our culture on the younger generation. We have to adopt change. Having said that, if a bride has to wear red, then she should cut down on the gold. We are all proud of our tradition, but for today’s bride looking good, along with being relatable, is most important. There’s a difference between wearing a costume and wearing a dress, which should be an extension of your own personality.
What are those bridal elements you don’t want to see changing?
Our embellishment and embroideries which are the best in the world! They are pieces of art, that speak volumes of our tradition and history. Embroidery is like heirloom, there’s a story behind each thread. India, for me is colour, whereas Pakistan is all about embroidery and embellishment, and while both of these countries appreciate each other’s forte, the art lies in bringing them together. Many Indian clients come to me for my deep understanding about embellishment, and many Pakistani brides choose Indian designers for their colour treatment, along with the drama and oomph they bring to each outfit. When it comes to embroidery, we usually engage 2-3 skilled artisans on each bridal outfit, which takes around six months to create. Sometimes we have 100 people working 12 hours a day to bring alive my vision of a bridal couture piece!
Brides take a lot of pressure to look great on their big day, and this is only increasing with time. What are your thoughts?
The first thing that a bride-to-be dreams about, is her wedding dress. Girls are probably more excited about the dress, as compared to the whole wedding itself! But then that’s the beauty of being a woman right? It’s one day that every bride wants to dress up to be remembered. But yes, it’s true that brides are under a lot of pressure. They are too confused with what they want, and eventually end up spoiling the outfit. The best brides are those who tell me what they like, and then leave the rest to me. Every designer wants to do his best, since his brand’s reputation is on the line! Often, families impose their desires on the bride, but the magic is when you balance their expectations along with what the bride actually wants. I have my way with both, the brides and their mothers or mother-in-law (laughs).
The whole ‘Bridezilla’ tag is for real these days. How do you manage their anxiety as a designer?
It’s a constant challenge and I have learnt to deal with it after all these years! If something with the outfit isn’t right, I’m not one to keep quiet about it. I would rather politely decline the offer, than work on a design that goes against my sensibilities. Both the designer and the bride have to be in sync for the best results.
How does the bridal consultation process go?
Here in Dubai, I have qualified staff, who is experienced to handle general orders. But for bridals and special occasions, they have the initial meeting, and then they line up meetings for me. With connectivity being so easy now, it has become increasingly convenient to coordinate. Brides fly in from Mumbai or Delhi and I fly in from Lahore, and we meet at my Dubai design studio.
Moving over to Bollywood, tell us about your association with your favourite muse, Kareena Kapoor Khan.
I have been working with Kareena for the last five years and before that with Karisma for three years. Our association is about connecting on different aspects of life, not just fashion. We connect on most things, from family values, to food to culture. I have known the family for nine years now, Karisma is quite shy but I met Bebo through her. I love how close both the sisters are. Also, Saif has brought in a new angle in Kareena’s life which makes her all the more fun and interesting as a subject to work with.
When you work with stars, there comes a possibility of a clash, between you and the other designers they work with. How does that equation work?
It’s again all about being honest. There is possessiveness but sometimes relationships are much more than just that. Even though I love the models I work with, there can never be a Kareena-Faraz relationship with them, because our relationship is much more than just work. We understand each other on a personal level. For me Bebo is a woman of today, an ideal Faraz Manan woman who values culture and history. She’s proud of her family, is a working mother and is married to a Nawab – which itself brings in a certain mysterious element to her being. Since our relationship is so thick, there is hardly space for insecurity. I would never stop Bebo from wearing another designer, neither would she ever stop me from working with other actresses.
You were the last designer who designed for Sridevi before her untimely death. What were you working on?
My first interaction with Sridevi was at the Masala! Awards, which is when she first showed interest in my work and visited my store in Jumeirah. We met and spoke for almost 2-3 hours, she tried on clothes and ordered a few. Following our visit, she went on to attend the Mom premiere in Russia. I am happy that I got to interact with her on such a personal level, but really sad that she’s gone. In these two months, she really opened up to me. In fact, she had even invited me to the Mohit Marwah wedding, but I was shooting in Miami at the time. On my way back I was in transit and she asked me to dinner, but I couldn’t make it to that either since I was flying back to Lahore. The second day after I had landed in Lahore this incident took place. It’s so heart-breaking! Moving on, I think everyone should celebrate the amazing person that she was. Sridevi knew so much about fabric and embroidery. She loved fashion. She loved to dress up and would become a child again when it came to dressing up. She wanted me to be a regular feature in her wardrobe, and that enriched our short, special bond. I’m glad she could wear my creations at least twice.
Who is the one unmarried Bollywood celebrity you think would make the perfect Faraz Manan bride?
Deepika Padukone! I would love to dress her up as a bride. She is stunning, in the true sense of the word. In fact, she’s the only celebrity who hasn’t worn my creation yet. From Priyanka Chopra to Jacqueline Fernandez, I have worked with everyone.