By Fahd Gauhar Malik
It is on a crisp Karachi afternoon that we have had the pleasure to sit down with the exceptionally talented and immensely private Dr Ahmad Haroon. My team and I have worked hard over months to get this interview. Today marks the launch of Dr Haroons Celebratory Fashion film, overlooking his finest works for 20 years, and I have had the privilege to interview him. As my team and my self enter his humble abode, we are taken aback by the glorious florals and manicured gardens. It looks as though the residents here have bestowed a large sum of their time in upkeep of their surroundings.
As we are welcomed inside by Dr Saab’s assistant, we walk towards the waiting room, just off the corner of his office. Upon entering, he asked if we would prefer a hot or cold beverage, or even a meal if needed. After asking for some coffee, I am taking my time noticing all my surroundings.
Why is everything in its place, like it is supposed to be there? How often does it happen that you enter another home and not be able to tell if anything truly is out of place?
Looking at the work of his late father in Law, Mr Jamil Naqsh. I observe glorious floral wonders made by his esteemed wife, Mrs Mona Naqsh, along with books on costume and fabric. I notice vintage crockery and lights, beautiful carpets that look as though out of a Persian fairytale and then my eyes land on the work station of the finest designer Pakistan has produced. It is he who has dressed very few lucky ones that have trusted him beyond doubt.
Dr Saab gracefully enters his office asking us warmly how our journey has been and whether or not we’re being safe and following all SOPs. It is with light jokes and banter that we finally sit down to get answers to questions we have been longing to ask him.
Dr Ahmad Haroon, when and how did you come about to starting this couture house?
Well, I started out as a Doctor , following the common routes one would expect to take being a part of the Pakistani society . However, I loved my work , but I had an inkling that there was more that I could do , something better . And for me then , and still , it was never about the profits and the other financial aspects, but it was about following a passion I had since I was young . It was about materializing my inspiration from vintage patterns and architecture in elegance and timelessness. And Alhumdullilah after 20 years , I have drawn over 7-8 lakh designs.
Did you have doubts whilst leaving a stable career that of medicine and going into something completely different and less lucrative in the eyes of many?
Yes definitely , there were many times of self-doubt and criticism that I had to face, because lets be honest , there’s a huge social stigma attached to this industry and especially from someone who has worked majority of their life in the medical industry . But I think , its just the initial stages that are the most difficult , but the most important and valuable ones for sure. If I had let this criticism and stereotypes get to me, I wouldn’t have reached the potential set out for me. My family has allowed me to look beyond my doubts and reach the stepping stone that made me who I am today.
How did you finally decide after 20 years to show the world a glimpse of your legacy through your solo fashion film?
I have never been one to do fashion shows, and project my work through media, however I do understand that my biggest inspiration was brought forward by these beautiful and vintage films, so it seems natural for me to broadcast my work and channel my artistry to inspire others who see films,books,pictures , jewelry , and architecture beyond their surface level . This film is an homage to myself 20 years ago, an homage showing how I started as a small scale designer sketching on paper, to how I have now empowered women all over the world to see themselves and Pakistani art as regal and elegant.
Usually, when filming such a project one would assume you would hire models, why did you do the exact opposite and put together primarily your clients and dear ones?
I think my work has established this far because of the people I have worked with. My work with my clients is intimate and one-on-one, every design is new and never repeated, every design has its own individualistic touch and is a true representation of my clients aspirations. My work was made for the regular woman who wants to look extraordinary on her wedding day , my work was made for the mother who wants to exude elegance and beauty on any occasion , and my work was made to amplify the simplicity and beauty of a regular customer . My film doesn’t showcase models because my work is all about connections and feeling confident in your own skin . My clients are extremely dear to me and Dr haroon is an establishment of the relationships and connections I have made with my loyal customers.
In your fashion film you thanked your mother in law Mrs Najma Naqsh, could you please elaborate?
I started out with sketches and patterns on sheets of paper , ready to begin but did not have the means to do so . Najma Naqsh , my Mother in law , was the person who stood besides me and guided me into this business , having exceptional experience of being in this industry herself. Her guidance and business ethic was imperative to get me where I am today.
In your own words, what sets Dr Haroon apart from the rest?
Clothing is always insignificant , but for me it is the hard work and passion behind it ,the individualism of my clothes, and the timelessness of it . The simple fact that even after wearing my clothes years later, they feel new and give that sense of upliftment to the individual. Whilst, “Dr Haroon” is a representation of my clothes, it is truly the representation of the trust and respect between the clients and the designer, and Is a representation of the laborious work and dedication towards making someone elses day significant .
What in your opinion is the staple must-have from the house of Dr Haroon?
I believe a staple from Dr Haroons bridal would be a Farshi and a Peshwaz . However , anything intricate and delicate would be the way to go.
What drives your motivation? is it the fame, money, or something entirely personal?
I never started out because of the fame and money, it has and never will be my goal with this business. I think the reason I am still in this business, is because of the people around me: My family , my friends, my employees , and my clients . Fame is never the ultimate reward, it’s the hard-earned respect you get after working months and sometimes year on making someone else’s day special. To be able to see someone else feel confident, smile and be in awe as see their reflection just beyond a regular person in a bridal gown.
To what extent do you take a clients personality into account whilst designing their Bridal?
The client’s personality is as important as the person designing it, I would say it’s almost synonymous. As I previouslymentioned, my work is more than a piece of clothing , it is infact a vision my client sees , and I just add my own touch to it . My main role is to bring my clients vision into real life, in a way I would think best suits them. Thus, the clients personality is essential for the dress to be perfect . At the end of the day it’s the client that wears the dress, not the dress that should wear the client .
The Classic Red, which the world has come about to know as the signature Dr Haroon Red, how did it come about and did you know it would become iconic?
For me red exudes regality, confidence, and etherealness, I think essential to what every woman wants to feel on her day . The “Classic Red”, which a few years ago I wouldn’t believe would be synonymous with my work, represents the beauty of south Asian culture. The Red has its own beauty , and its own aura that each individual tends to strive for. So I believe “ the classic red” is symbolic in its own way , symbolizing and emphasizing the beauty of tradition.
Why is it that I had to work so hard to get a hold of you for an interview?
I tend to steer clear from cameras and media attention for the sole purpose, I have always been a personal person and I think that is the essence of my work as well. My work is known to many because of the hard work behind it and not because of any promotion or endorsement. However, I do love talking to young minds about my work, but for the sole purpose of inspiring and shedding light on my experience as an entrepreneur. I guess an interview that could grasp the authentic meaning of my work , like yours, was worth the wait.
It is in my knowledge that you rarely use social media to promote your brand, yet there are hundreds of thousands of followers that keep sharing your work online. What has kept you away from these platforms?
I’m so grateful for the attention I have gotten through social media platforms, for my work to go beyond geographical borders. I don’t think there is any particular reason as to why I have been, until recent times , away from social media , but the simple fact is that my work requires my undivided attention. Social Media can easily absorb you and that is not the main goal of my work. However, now my team finally created my own Instagram page ,“Official_drharoon”, and I am truly in awe of the sheer volume of positive response I have gotten over these past couple of months. Every day I have more and more reason to be grateful.
What advice would you give to individuals that are interested in this field of design and bridal wear?
Things don’t happen over night so work hard , Keep it simple , keep it true to yourself and don’t fall for trends, make them.
How do you feel when you see various upcoming fashion designers imitating your classic works?
I believe each designer represents their own work, and it is quite natural to be inspired from different sources, but at the end of the day I think my work has its own essence that goesbeyond clothes, aspects I believe aren’t that easy to imitate. 20 years of work cannot be competed with 20 days of work.
What gave you strength in times of stress and difficulty as you progressed your career?
Definitely the people around me. My job is open to various criticisms, opinions , but I guess in its own way that is what motivates me to work harder and strive for more. The belief in my God, the faith my family has in me has led me to move past these obstacles. I continue to remind myself that every day is a new day for me, a new way to express myself in patterns, a new way to creatively inspire and make others joyous.
For as long as I can remember, my Allah has always guided me through any difficulty , so whatever comes my way , I always remind myself that it has a bigger purpose. I think optimism and faith in yourself and Allah Almighty are the biggest and most imperative ways to make past any struggle in your life.