Not just your regular Ajrak
By: Saadia Qamar
KARACHI: Owner of Nano’s Hangout, Saeeda Effendi held her very own Ajrak exhibition on Tuesday for friends and family. Effendi has not always been into fashion. About 35 years ago, she partnered with her friend Azra to open a salon called Azra & Saeeda, which was located within the premises of the Pearl Continental Hotel — then known as Intercontinental Hotel – in Karachi. She then turned to fashion designing and established a workshop on main Khayaban-e-Shamsheer with an outlet in Zamzama, where the label Saeeda’s Collection was born.
“I was lucky then,” she said, recalling the time when hers was the first shop in Zamzama’s fifth commercial lane in the 1980s. But things soon changed when she quit her job upon her husband’s insistence. “He wanted me to be home and relax,” she said, explaining that she quit in 1994 and retained only a handful or workers and continued on a small scale. Unfortunately, her husband passed away in 2003 from cancer.
If you stop by at Nano’s Hangout, you will see a wall completely dedicated to her press clippings so her clients can see the work she has done over the years. With this collection, she has re-entered the fashion scene with Ajrak, the unique block-printed fabric traditionally done in Sindh. “This is my new theme and I am going to stick with it,” she says, pointing to her pieces that range from casual short shirt to more formal longer ones. The collection has interesting cuts, and it is impressive how creative Effendi has been with the Ajrak, which is usually worn as a shawl. Aside from the straight Ajrak kurtas, she has also incorporated Ajrak panels, edgings and collars, with the more formal ones having embellishments.
The Ajrak she buys is from Matiari in interior Sindh, which she then brings to the city for designing. Tuesday’s evening preview collection of 45 pieces was completely sold out.
For her friend Firozeh Majeedullah, who wore a casual Ajrak shirt, this exhibition was a rebirth of the good old days. “I fondly remember how she used to cut my hair long ago,” she said. “I used to come to her for my outfits and today I am back again.”
So what has changed in 30 years? “Thirty years ago I had to be very careful,” said Effendi, explaining that in a military regime, she had to make sure not to design sheer fabric for women. “Now we are living in liberated times! I can see what people really want to wear and they enjoy wearing it. I would love designing it for them,” she said happily