Being Different: Nasreen Akhtar
Nasreen Akhtar, a designer of silk painted dresses, runs Nerishe’ in Karachi. Colours could not get anymore vibrant than they do in Nasreen’s lounge as she exhibits for friends and art lovers. Amid the flowing silks and chiffons, Enterprise borrows some moments from her for a brief chat.
What inspired you to take up the art of silk painting?
I have always been interested in art but never took it up seriously till I went to Japan as a result of my husband’s posting there. He works for PIA. Japan is one of the places in the world where there is art everywhere, in every corner. That is when I found my inclination and took up Japanese art courses.
Then in Germany, I found these schools where they taught silk painting. I immediately joined and for the first time saw colours flowing on silk. I was thrilled by the water-based colours; as you put a drop on silk, it flows and then other colours come and blend. It was 1989 when I started doing this, since then I have always stuck to silk painting and no other form of art.
How were you encouraged to work in Pakistan?
In Europe, silk painting is more on cushions, wall hangings and men’s ties, but when I came over here and had my first display of work on cushions, lamp shades and wall hangings, my friends said that we can only have one set of these things in our home but if you do it on clothes we can wear them everyday. So, I started making scarves, then moved on to dupattas and saris and now dresses.
How distinctly do you see silk painting among the fabric painting trends?
General fabric painting can also be done on cotton; they do not show or shine or stand out much. There is a big industry of fabric colours but the silk colours that are from France demand a proper procedure of steaming, washing and dry cleaning to get permanent. Once it is done; they are so soft that you cannot feel it is paint on silk. It stands out fairly distinctly.
So where does your art stand in Pakistan?
I think I am very popular with my friends, as you can see. So I am very happy with what I am doing and my friends are very happy with it too.
How partial are you to your own art pieces?
Just that they are totally different from anything, anyone else is doing.
Do you think that there is any particular segment of women who are attracted to your art pieces?
Well, I would say that everybody is. When I exhibited at the Expo Centre there were women from all walks of life in the big crowd. So, I concluded all those women would be interested in my art pieces, but the problem is that pure silk, pure chiffon and imported paints are all expensive. Everybody cannot afford it, otherwise my clothes would be more popular with them.
What is your branding strategy?
My brand is called Nerishe’. I am working on all varieties of dresses, scarves and dupattas. Right now I am having an exhibition in Dubai. I will see the results and do it even more professionally after that.
Do you regard clothing as a social message and what is the message that your clothes convey?
My social message would be, ‘Be Different’!
On the whole, are you positive about your expectations from your efforts?
Certainly, I am very positive. I have plans to start venturing out from Dubai and will go to the USA