• 19 Sep - 25 Sep, 2020
  • Rubab Fatima
  • Interview

Working since more than three decades, Nabila Maqsood is not just a note-worthy name in the fashion industry, but also is considered as an institution. Nabila is a veteran hair-stylist, celebrity makeup artist and an entrepreneur who with her immense hard work has taken her brand to new heights of not just being a popular brand within the country, but it has also become a well-known brand internationally. Zakir Maqsood, her equally talented son who's taught in Barcelona, also accelerated the Zero Makeup globally has now joined forces with his mother's already well established brand to strengthen the heritage of the Nabila group of brands and building new verticals for the future powered by beauty-tech, design and sustainability. The duo sits with MAG for an interesting conversation, excerpts:

Nabila is a name that needs no introduction. You are an inspiration for many, but where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from an internal source. I wake up and think, how we should work and then I work accordingly. Its not like I go to fashion weeks or to Paris for inspiration, it all comes from within.

Zakir, you've studied Fashion Marketing and Communications and have been teaching in Barcelona as well. Do you think there is much potential in these fields here in Pakistan?

Absolutely, because the raw talent here is on another level. Everybody understands the material, they know what is steel, gold, cotton, fabrics and what not. Maybe, they do not have the accessibility as to what's there in abroad, but the technique is definitely here. So, I see Pakistan as an industry that needs a bit of polishing, having all the potential.

You've been a constant at Europeon Fashion Weeks. What are the main differences if we compare them with the fashion weeks that are held here?

Zakir: I'll give you the answer from two perspectives: first is the production side; the structure, flow, timing and the image that you create with these elements because fashion is not just about clothes. Its about creating the scenario that communicates your vision. Another thing would be to respect the audience when it comes to fashion, people don't respect the value of creation here. They don't value that they are buying a creation that has an artistic value.

Being a blogger yourself, do you think the increasing blogging culture is doing well here or does it have any flaws?

Zakir: I wouldn't only say here, there is a fundamental flaw in blogging or online journalism in general. I think Instagram is amazing as it is but everyone is coming with an authority that may be has no credibility. Everybody has become a critique. Not to say that blogging culture is bad or good, people should have a voice but I think the way they have access to share on the internet, they also have access to research. And people should research first.

What was the thought process behind re-designing the No-makeup palette and then launching it as Zero Makeup?

Zakir: Zero is a philosophy, its about simplicity, its about less is more and taking 35 years of experience into a box. What we're trying to do is to put the power of professional solutions into something that is easy and for anyone to access what the Nabila standards of minimal makeup is. The idea behind re-designing Zero was to communicate the philosophy which is effortless and minimalism. I see Zero as an essential product, you can do a lot if you know how to use it.

Nabila: When I say zero makeup, it means which doesn't look like makeup. I will give a lot of credit to Zakir for the packaging, the shape is square and geometric. The colour is silver because we didn't want any colour. Also, I employed a very high-end NewYork based commercial designing company to design the logo, we worked for a month and one day Zakir sent me something scribbled with a pencil and the whole team said this is lovely lets use it. I was like I paid you so much and if my son was going to do it why are you even here (laughs). So, the logo has been designed by Zakir and there's an amazing synergy we have here.

Do you think there is a need for a brand to have a digital identity in today's time?

Zakir: For sure, I don't think a brand can survive without a digital identity right now. There are so many brands that have shops, they only live in that space. But if you are online, you live in their phones. Zero for us is not a demographic product for a specific age group, but its a psycho-graphic product with a mindset and for that we need to be digital.

While your salons are doing extremely well in every format, why do you felt the need to launch a product of your own?

Nabila: The idea was to provide a solution which is available for every man and woman, which can give them a perfect skin in less than a minute. Also, can be bought easily whether you are in Australia or Multan. So why shouldn't you have it and while I'm giving you a solution I'm also leveraging the credibility and my vision into a box that can go on forever even when I'm not here.

Zakir, as you also have joined the venture now. What will you do to improve the technological format?

We're entering the digital world, and trying to expand the brand. After lock down, we realised that the consumer mindset has changed and the most safest place now is your home. So, we're launching an app on the 1st of October, which is basically a salon services app. The same superior standard of services which include hair, makeup and even bridal services will be available from the comfort of your home. The app will be available on iOS and android both. We offer cash payments, and for people who prefer contact less transactions we have credit card option as well. The app is really exciting for us because that for me is accelerating the brand into the next generation. The psychology of consumption is going to change which is very exciting.

You have been expanding the global reach of Zero Makeup. How has been the response so far?

Nabila: It has been amazing, the USP for it in Pakistan is the natural look it gives. But internationally the USP for it has to be that it is very easy to carry. We are receiving a great response so far, especially from the brown skin.

Zakir: Just to elaborate, Zero is a company which lives online. We don't have a flagship store and we're able to ship worldwide. Also, we have a distribution center in Dubai and we have customers from all over the world.

Zero Makeup was the first brand to replace Mac Cosmetics at IIFA. What was the feeling?

Nabila: When we got IIFA our team couldn't believe it. There was a very big requirement from us, we flew down almost 70 people in Thailand, setup the whole salon, worked for three days at four locations. Catering to their fashion shows, dances and their VIP's. It was a huge event, Zero was the backstage brand partner, the whole Nabila team was there along with my PR team. We had to deliver with our skills, products, techniques and our communication. More than anything on the back of my mind was that I'm an ambassador to Pakistan, working with India, representing the fashion industry and we need to win over without making any mistakes so that I don't misrepresent my county. We left on a very good note.

How is the professionalism across the border as compared to the celebs here?

Nabila: It is very similar, there are always last minute star tantrums. But the only difference would be that their industry is so huge, and so it doesn't matter. It makes them to be on their toes knowing that they'd be replaced instantly, if they mess up. There aren't enough people here and so we have to bare that.

Lastly, what can we expect from this talented mother-son duo?

Zakir: We're working on a lot of things, if we look at Zero alone there are a lot of new products coming out in the next few years. Starting this year, by Dec we plan to launch a new product already. I want Zero to become a household brand, and not just in your makeup bag. When it comes to the Nabila brand, the exploration into digital has just begun. Something is happening already but its too soon for me to share. But we're getting more into digital and into retail.

Nabila: I come with history, heritage, credibility, hair and makeup solutions. And he comes with technology, next-Gen, beauty-tech and future, which is a very good combination. I will be very much into doing the same thing and he'll translate it to today's language. But I'll still be his boss (laughs).