Young and fabulous: How the rising super-stylist is changing Pakistan’s fashion scene for good

Young and fabulous: How the rising super-stylist is changing Pakistan’s fashion scene for good

Stylists do everything from working with celebrity clients to styling models for editorial photo shoots, high fashion campaigns or music videos.
Stylists do everything from working with celebrity clients to styling models for editorial photo shoots, high fashion campaigns or music videos.

Let’s give credit where credit is due.

Stylists to the stars are the real playmakers when it comes to the sartorial game. From working with celebrity clients to styling models for editorial photo shoots, high fashion campaigns or music videos, there are many different arenas in which these fashion savvy individuals exercise their talents.

From L-R: Sabeeka Imam styled by Ehtesham Ansair, Ayesha Omar by Haiya Bokhari and Sohai Ali Abro by Tabesh Khoja. From L-R: Sabeeka Imam styled by Ehtesham Ansair, Ayesha Omar by Haiya Bokhari and Sohai Ali Abro by Tabesh Khoja.

And in 2015, they earned their keep, more than ever before.

“Styling is about putting a cohesive look together that caters to the aesthetics of the brand or person you’re dressing while also ensuring that it’s fashion forward, as well as occasion appropriate,” shares Haiya Bokhari, an upcoming stylist who’s blazing the trail for other newcomers.

“The demands for each styling project are different but the mainstays involve researching a moodboard that captures the feel of the look trying to be created, choosing suitable clothing, accessories, hair and make up.”

In a short span of time, Haiya has managed to make a credible name for herself in the industry. In a short span of time, Haiya has managed to make a credible name for herself in the industry.

Celebs in their own rights, names like Nabila’s protégé’s, Tabesh Khoja, Ehtesham Ansari and Haiya, to name a few, have become known around the fashion circuit. With one well-crafted look, these guys can turn fresh-faced starlets into established red carpet queens.

Read on: Revealed — Here’s the secret behind Sohai Ali Abro’s fabulous new look!

Are they money-minded hustlers or vulnerable freelancers, dependent on the whims of divas and designers?

Either way, they’ve placed themselves at the high-stakes intersection of fame and fashion.

Something borrowed?

Ehtesham (left) was Coke Studio: Season 8's official stylist Ehtesham (left) was Coke Studio: Season 8’s official stylist

Although in theory it sounds fairly simple, being a stylist is no child’s play, especially in Pakistan.

“There is no 2+2 formula in styling. Unfortunately, it’s still a new concept in the country so even though designers are open to lending their clothes out, retailers are still not very pro. In Dubai or anywhere else in the world, I can borrow clothes from anywhere but I’m still trying to create awareness in Pakistan about it,” explains Ehtesham Ansari, a stylist who is uninterested in best dressed lists but gets on them anyway.

Ehtesham’s high profile client list includes Iman Ali, Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan and even the Manchester City football club!

While their input is invisible, the results are undisguised. The power brokers have managed to carve out a separate industry stemming from their great taste and attention to detail but Haiya also feels it has a long way to go.

Humaima Malick clad in Mahgul paired with vampy lips and slick hair during her Dekh Magar Pyaar Se promos is one of Haiya's favourites. Humaima Malick clad in Mahgul paired with vampy lips and slick hair during her Dekh Magar Pyaar Se promos is one of Haiya’s favourites.

She chimes in, “The clothes and accessories are usually borrowed from designers and high street brands. The brands get visibility in return for their clothing and everyone involved is happy. It’s not always like that though; the concept of styling is just beginning to pick up in Pakistan and some brands and celebrities are still hesitant to engage one, let alone pay. Of course it is paid work when I work with brands and the price varies depending on the budget and the size/scale of the campaign. However, most of the styling projects I take on, be it my friends or celebs, I do pro bono.”

“Sometimes, the celeb will dip into their own closet if there’s a dearth of good outfits. I’ve even dressed celebrities in my own wardrobe quite a few times!” she adds.


“Styling is still a new concept in Pakistan so even though designers are open to lending their clothes out, retailers are still not very pro,” says Ehtesham Ansari.


However, not everyone seems to be facing trouble.

Two words: Tabesh Khoja.

When asked if he faces any resistance while getting his hands on the outfits he needs, he dismisses the very premise of that happening.

Tabesh is the hippest insider in the fashion circle Tabesh is the hippest insider in the fashion circle

“All of them have been very forthcoming, from the veterans in the game such as Maheen Khan or Shamaeel Ansari to Elan and Shehla Chatoor. For me, they’re like family and we share an extremely good synergy. Plus, I make sure it’s a win win for all of us — the designer, celebrity, make-up artist and myself.”

Image is everything

Haiya styled Mahira Khan for this Pepe Jeans campaign (L) whereas it's Khoji's work you see on the right for a FnkAsia shoot. Haiya styled Mahira Khan for this Pepe Jeans campaign (L) whereas it’s Khoji’s work you see on the right for a FnkAsia shoot.

Stylists are like PR executives on steroids; they help the rich and famous present themselves to the world the way they want to be seen.

The creative and the commercial parts of the industry are flip sides of the same coin now. Stylists are changing the way that stars are perceived, almost like agents.

They make introductions to designers, get them on the frow and from that, opportunity comes a-knocking. When an actress makes fashion a priority, she can have endorsements from big labels pouring in.


“I wouldn’t say I’m a stylist. It’s more like a form of PR and marrying timeless image projection with styling,” says sought-after stylist Khoji.


“I wouldn’t say I’m a stylist. It’s more like a form of PR and marrying timeless image projection with styling,” reveals the most sough-after fashion maven in the city, affectionately called Khoji.

He adds, “When I see an outfit on the ramp, I can instantly visualize it. I know exactly how to style it. All these pictures go into my dropbox and I dip into it when I have a project lined up.”

Khoji recalls that something clicked when he used to give his friends fashion advice and they would listen. Khoji recalls that something clicked when he used to give his friends fashion advice and they would listen.

Given the sheer number of events that celebs are required to attend nowadays, stars are vying to be It girls, photographed everywhere, appearing on Instagram and Twitter almost instantaneously. It’s crucial that they look ‘on fleek’ at all times.

“I tend to research a lot and generally keep abreast of what’s happening in the fashion and beauty world. Instagram and Pinterest are aides I can’t live without. Some people I draw inspiration from are Mira Duma, Anna Dello Russo, Anya Ziourouva, Pat McGrath and Charlotte Tilbury,” shares Haiya.

Don’t quit your day job?

Sonya Hussain (L) styled by Khoji who he has dubbed his latest discovery. Mahira Khan (R) styled by Ehtesham for her Lux campaign with Fawad Khan. Sonya Hussain (L) styled by Khoji who he has dubbed his latest discovery. Mahira Khan (R) styled by Ehtesham for her Lux campaign with Fawad Khan.

Dressing celebrities may sound like the sweetest gig on the planet but is it a sustainable career choice?

Haiya doesn’t think so: “My day job is that of a fashion and beauty journalist. I would love to be a full time stylist but it isn’t viable in the industry as it stands. Most stylists I know in Pakistan work in this niche profession because they’re truly passionate about it. In time when we don’t have to explain why stylists are necessary, you’ll have more full time stylists dressing the industry!”

Ansari, on the other hand, is all in and has been for the last decade.


“My day job is that of a fashion and beauty journalist. I would love to be a full time stylist but it isn’t viable in the industry as it stands,” says Haiya.


“I started my career as a full time fashion stylist. Back in 2006, it was treated like an add-on service provided by makeup artists and hair stylists but there was no one solely in the stylist space. I had to literally define my job to almost every single person. It was not easy but it challenged me, which is something I embrace.”

Khoji, who is also Nabila’s brand rep, says the passion for this consumes him but he does a little mix of everything.

“I got discovered more than 6 years ago because of my own eccentric style. I used to wear these Marc Jacobs kilts that everyone remembers to this day. It’s just something I feel I have a flair for. That being said, I don’t want to be boxed in as a stylist. I want to be the exclusive one; if there’s anything I have learnt from Nabila, it would be that you must stay ahead of the pack and it’s what I strive to do.”

What’s next?

“Hollywood! That’s the dream,” he exclaims.

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