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Your Name: Samar Mehdi
Business Name: Samar Mehdi Designer Wear, a fashion and accessory design company
Type of Business: Clothing & Accessories
Business Location: Karachi, Pakistan
Reason for starting: I was always interested in fashion, even as a young girl. Later, when it was time to pursue a career, I realized I had had a vision all along: to create a clothing line and have women fall in love with my clothes. At the time, in the mid 1990’s there were no local fashion schools so the only option was to go abroad. My family, especially my father, were my biggest support system. They insisted that if I was going to do fashion, I couldn’t just rely on my own instincts and that I should get a proper degree. So I applied and off I went to Bristol, UK and returned with a degree in Fashion.
How do you define success? Success for me hinges very much on the smile on my client’s face when they wear a Samar Mehdi outfit. Even after years of a flagship store, and stocking in several places around the country, when I come face to face with a client and they tell me they love my clothes, it’s the greatest reward. I also define career success in my field with longevity –it is easy to get lost amongst the crowd or fade away. If you manage to start up a business, launch your own flagship store and expand to stocking elsewhere too, that means you are doing your job, because your clothes are selling.
Biggest Success: I’m proud of the fact that my team and I have kept our business running strong now for fifteen years and have expanded by stocking in various multi designer stores throughout the country. Our international clientele continues to grow every year too, from the UK all the way to Malawi. Other significant milestones include showing at the London Graduate Fashion Week, participation at the 2001 Copenhagen International Fashion Fair where my label was chosen as the only Asian participation to share the ramp alongside the likes of Esprit and Calvin Klein. Our work there was recognized by the local Danish press too. I’m also very pleased to have done the costumes for the local production of the play, Chicago. We’ve also launched Positive, Pakistan’s first designer maternity wear line.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? The top challenge, in a country like ours is always how to best manage the extraneous factors that can sometimes derail a business. Strikes or shutdowns can have a negative impact, not only in terms of production but also affecting the overall market.
Who is your most important role model? My role models are all those people who have managed to strike the right balance between personal and professional success. I aspire to be the same and hope that I have achieved this to some extent myself and can further pay it forward and be an inspiration to others.
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Edited by The Story Exchange