Tena Durrani’s story is an interesting one. Nearly a decade ago, Durrani was a wide-eyed student who dreamt of becoming an interior designer. Since the age of 11, she had been reading the Architectural Digest cover to cover and dreaming about nothing else but the day she would be able to design homes. It was an obsession, she says very quietly, almost realizing the foolishness of our youthful zest that is unable to foresee what really happens in the future. But a young age marriage and a car crash prevented Durrani from ever fulfilling her dreams.
“I became pregnant with my daughter and my husband had gotten really sick because of a bad accident therefore I was unable to join Indus,” says Durrani calmly as we speak over the phone. It took a few moments to organize our phone call because Durrani was busy with clients and then had to disappear for a short duration to offer her namaz. Upon returning, Durrani bombards me with a chorus of apologies for the scheduling before she immediately jumps to the matter at hand. “I needed to do something from home, because I had to take care of my now ex husband, and because I was going to have a child, studying was off the table.” Durrani shares that she never managed to complete her studies later. “I barely did my A-Levels but it’s okay, I was not much of a student anyway,” she adds with a laugh.
Since Durrani’s designing career started off a fluke, it’s no wonder that she did her work half heartedly at first. “I wasn’t interested in making this my career. I was just keeping myself occupied.” Eventually, word got around when her sister-in-law got her cards printed and distributed them amongst her friends. “Suddenly I was getting a lot of orders and my clientele grew larger and larger.” It may sound as if Durrani’s journey started off easily, but she clarifies that her first few years were the hardest.
“Things were very difficult back then. I had to teach myself tailoring and learn about the different styles and cuts. I needed to learn which cut looks good on what kind of body shape. I had to deal with so many angry clients. Oh God! These women could eat you up for breakfast!”
The drawing room business eventually grew large enough to relocate to a professional commercial studio but it wasn’t till Durrani’s divorce, nearly five years ago, that her business actually became an established fashion label. “I had a three year old daughter to take care of now and I realized that all the money I used to be making was being spent on groceries and taking care of my responsibilities. My business needed investment and for that I needed money to invest in it.”
In came Taimur Shah in 2005, her best friend and now business partner. “We’ve built this label together so everything you see today is because of our partnership.”
Today, Durrani has her own studio in Karachi and has a global clientele since the last two to three years. She often participates in global fashion events, such as the fashion installation for Swarovski’s 120th anniversary in Dubai in 2015 where she was among the four fashion designers chosen from Pakistan. These days she is all set to showcase her collection A Rouge Affair in London on two different occasions: The Asiana Bridal Show and the Fashion Parade. She is also a hot favourite for celebrities, especially Ayesha Omar.
“Ayesha is such a dear friend of mine and such a good client to work with. She listens to me and trusts my judgment. For instance, she let me decide her look for her LSA red carpet appearance last year. I even forced her to buy these really expensive shoes to complete her look, which was quite a task because Ayesha is such a careful shopper,” shares Durrani. We wonder if she ever gets jealous when Ayesha Omar chooses different designers for her public appearances.
“Not at all! In fact sometimes I’m the one telling her, please go to Shehla, I don’t have anything good enough to give you for so and so event,” admits Durrani. For the designer, it isn’t about possessiveness. “I want to make sure what I make her wear is good. Otherwise it’s not good for her or me. Plus, what are friends for?”
But Durrani is generally relaxed, both personally and professionally, and has some wisdom to impart before we wind up our conversation. “If you’re insecure, then don’t be in the game. Don’t be that person. There is nothing to gain by fearing what you’ll lose.”