It’s official. The time is ripe for the expansion of Mehrbano Sethi’s Luscious Cosmetics. One may have an inherent talent, but honing one’s skills is of extreme importance and that is precisely the reason she has collaborates with renowned makeup artist/photographer duo Ather Shahzad, who are recognized as the genius behind some of the most iconic images in Pakistani fashion and beauty. The launch of the Master Makeup Collection exclusively for Luscious Cosmetics shares Shahzad Raza’s professional secrets with customers. ‘Each shade has been blended from Shahzad’s own master palette in a variety of shades and textures so that anyone can recreate his signature looks for day or night, at home or on the go,’ Mehrbano said while talking about the pioneering concept which contains everything you need to be your own makeup artist. This partnership is the first of its kind in South Asia where an entire makeup collection has been created by a celebrity artist.
When we met, there was hardly any trace of makeup on the face of the soft spoken lady who had literally reshaped the trends in the beauty market of the country; today Luscious is being exported to 13 countries of the world. Here she sat behind a piled-up desk cluttered with papers and some odd make-up articles, appearing to be very busy but her eyes beam with radiance when it comes to speaking about her favorite subject of ‘make-up business.’
The collection, which is priced at 4,800 rupees, features a lipstick palette in five high fashion lip colors, a lip gloss palette including five flattering lip glosses and a master palette of 48 eye-shadows in shimmer and matte textures, four easy-to-blend blushes and two multi-toned highlighters. ‘Shahzad have been a major influence in my life since I was a teenager when I dreamt of creating a beauty brand. He was a major source of encouragement for me and believed in my vision. Ather Shahzad produced and shot the first campaign for Luscious Cosmetics and I have been planning this collaboration with him ever since. It is finally here and I could not be more proud of the final product.”
Shahzad Raza considers that it was Mehrbano’s insistence to diversify that inspired him to raise the bar for himself and take his work to a completely new level. ‘The Master Makeup Collection for Luscious Cosmetics is essentially 20 years of my artistry and experience in the beauty and fashion industry, which I have simplified in three easy to use palettes so that anyone can recreate professional makeup looks at home and it is a very important collaboration for me personally, for it allows our fans to, in a sense, connect personally with the Ather Shahzad brand,’ he said.
Known for her incredible dedication to a lifelong passion of developing her cosmetic brand that is of a superior quality and actually at par with the leading beauty products of the world, ‘I started researching on how cosmetics are made, from the formula to the packaging and the color palette that suits our own in skin tones very early on,’ she said when I met her on a chilly Saturday evening at her head office in Lahore. She felt that no one apart from her husband would support her career choice when she decided to develop and launch Luscious Cosmetics. ‘I would play on my grandmother’s dressing table when I was a child and gaze at the neatly stacked eye-shades just like a child would look at candy floss,’ she reminisces. By the time she reached her mid teens, Mehrbano was developing her own shades of lipsticks, investing heavily into makeup accessories and simply following the adage, ‘do what your heart desires.’
Things took a positive turn when her husband realized her enterprising instincts and entered into a partnership with her and launched the brand in 2007. ‘There hasn’t been an availability of formularized makeup brands in Pakistan for the global beauty brands did not consider us as an important market and as a result quality beauty products were rather limited. Issues such as expired cosmetics products, fake replicas and substandard products that customer were wary of ultimately encouraged me to start my own make-up brand.’ Her project began garnering attention through the word of mouth as soon as it hit the market and people began taking interest in the products that were on offer, which are specifically formulated for South Asian skin tones and climate. This is not just a marketing ploy according to Mehrbano as her voice takes on a spirited tone. ‘It is actually evident in the way our products and shades immediately click with customers. The primer or the concealer has been the highest selling product of the brand and once we proved that Pakistan has a huge market for high-quality beauty products, some international brands finally took notice and launched themselves here as well.’
‘A bright orange lipstick would always suit a Caucasian skin tone more,’ she explains which is why many women would complain saying that they could never find quality makeup which would agree with an Asian complexion on their trips abroad for they were only meant for fair and white skin types. She makes no bones in admitting that collaborations like this between a leading beauty brand and an established makeup artist has rarely been seen in the regional market. In fact there has been no such project in Pakistan before. So how much does Shahzad Raza rely on her as his partner in particular?
‘We hope to raise the bar for the entire beauty industry by showing how one can increase the value of consumer products for customers by adding the input of someone with years of expertise and hope to make a very positive impact on the entire industry. I feel that our brand is safe with someone who is such a perfectionist and understands our aesthetics and philosophy so well,’ Shahzad is seemingly quite comfortable with the idea. Initially it was Mehrbano who suggested the idea of a collection for the fans of Ather Shahzad so that they can have access to the best beauty tools and signature makeup looks. Being secure in his own skin, Shahzad did what he knows best. ‘As our 20th anniversary in the industry was approaching, I felt it’d be lovely to thank my fans for their support during my entire career. It’s been an amazing journey developing my own collection with all the freedom to express myself through my color palette,’ he said.
Achieving milestones such as this alliance is no mean feat for the dynamic entrepreneur; ‘I want my brand to be available and accessible to everyone; perhaps this is why we are looking for viable technicians in setting up our lab in Pakistan to keep the prices within affordable range.’ However, Pakistan lacks in technical expertise but two of the brand’s labs are already functioning in America and Japan and Luscious is being manufactured in USA, South Korea and Italy. Having a natural ability to innovate the brand they have recently come up with a set of make-up brushes for the first time in Pakistan which gave them a credential boost.
‘Makeup is like food for me, so quality control is very important.’ Explaining a key point here, ‘makeup has an open by date rule and one should ideally use it within the stipulated time given,’ she advised. One would never find Luscious products to be expired or giving off a smell because it has a very high turnover, according to her. ‘Any reputable beauty brand has a good yield which ensures that the products on the shelf are always fresh and new. But why haven’t she thought about introducing skin care range which is the new- age rage these days? To which she replied that ideas for skin care and age-defying products are still in pipeline and a complete line will be launched next year. Game changing plans are underway for Meherbano who now wants to break away from the mundane and that is precisely the reason an uber chic launch of the collaboration was held in Lahore where the trendsetting makeup kit was unveiled with the images of the models stylized and photographed by Ather and Shahzad.
Having 350 stores nationwide and selling equally well in Karachi and Lahore, she attributes the premium support and positive role of her husband who has successfully built the entire distribution network and taken care of the business end while she thrives to transform the predictable to exceptional, taking in the contemporary trends and translating them for the Asian skin tones. ‘I just remember myself working consistently hard for the past seven years to achieve my passionate goals and today I am fortunate to get rewards in terms of compliments and wishes from my customers and friends.’