Sara Taseer Shoaib talks to Fashion Central

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Sara Taseer Shoaib is set to make waves not only in the Pakistani fashion scene but in international fashion market as well. Fashion designer Sara Taseer Shoaib is highlighting the name of the country in ‘Jewelry making’. She is considered amongst the few yet prominent names of Fashion jewelry designers. Sara Taseer Shoaib is successfully running the business of jewelry making in Pakistan. She has her own flagship store in Gulberg, Lahore Pakistan. However, she manufacture in Hong Kong, in order to have access to the latest technology at the best prices.

1. How about letting us peep through youth career spa?

Jewelry was a passion for me since I was young girl. However when your passion becomes your work, you feel blessed. I started my career in finance and am a graduate from The London School of Economics LSE. UK. Till my children were born I had worked in international banks in the UK and Hong Kong. Marriage, moves and babies meant that I had to give all  this up.

When I was in New York City, I got the opportunity to work at a  jewelry marketing and manufacturing concern. This was the best start I could have hoped for. I learnt the intricacies of the entire trade under the umbrella of a large firm. I could gain the knowledge without being defrauded. This soft start was crucial in building my confidence.

When I moved to Hong Kong with my husband I was fully prepared to go in on my own. I completed my GIA Gemological Institute of America certification. During my course I made many connections with local manufacturers and factories. I negotiated credit terms and financing lines as well as quality control agreements. I have not looked back. My flagship store in Lahore opened a year ago.

2. In your line of business you are confronted with challenge from competitors and accepted brands; does than, in any way, intimidate you?

I never jumped into the deep end in the Pakistan market and tried to swim. I in fact have positioned myself in the Pakistan market six years before I opened my store. With regular shows and exhibitions I already had a large loyal client base which guaranteed that I the worst case scenario . I would stay afloat. I feel the jewellery market in Pakistan is still nascent and there is a lot of room. I do not feel intimidated as a have no real competition and my product is unique.

3. Designers operate by winning over minds and hearts; do you agree with this?

Hundred percent. Product positioning, branding and packaging is paramount. You must be able to relate to your client base. There is no young diamond jewellery designer who appeals to modern and fusion tastes in Pakistan. All my sales staff is graduates in jewellery design so they offer an educated jewellery buying experience.  I have moved away from the  concept of the old uncle sitting cross legged in a rickety old chair. Most of my clientele are the young people who have pulled in their mums, aunts and relatives, whereas traditionally it’s the mums who take the kids to the jewellers. 

4. What are the major ingredients of your products? Is creativity a major one?

I am open to working with every gem as long as it sits well with diamonds and the metal of choice is 18k gold. Diamonds are my signature. Creativity is important but a sense of business is paramount. If I let my creativity loose I will create beautiful pieces worth millions of dollars.  I am therefore challenged to create a marketable, affordable, high quality, attractive product which I would be happy to buy myself. It should look its value and beyond, and stand the test of time.

5. In pursuing your goals what difficulties have you come across both from the angle of technology and resources?

I live and manufacture in Hong Kong so I have access to the latest technology at the best prices. Yes, managing cash flows is always a challenge for me.

6. Any difficulties those were insurmountable?

Not yet, however there are challenges every day managing people, expectations, order and show deadlines, I know this is part of every business not just mine.  Yes, in Pakistan there is the added pressure of always maintaining high security due to my family profile as well as the nature of my work which sometimes frustrates me.

7. Do you value the word excellence, in rendering service to customers?

For me there is no other way. I hold myself to a high standard and am my own worst critic and judge. I feel it is important for educated and exposed women like my to pioneer new ways of doing business in Pakistan. I have worked in international banks like Citibank and ABN Amro in London and Hong Kong. If excellence was the order of the day in those environments why would I create shoddy one for my own work.

8. Have the parents been an inspiration in achieving success?

Both my parents are self made and work harder than I do in their fields till this day. Surely having grown up with them, I know nothing else. My father always had equal expectation for all his children; he has educated us in the world’s finest universities. His expectation was excellence in whichever field we chose and he voiced that many times!

9. Your family life, has it been affected by business demands on your time?

Sadly this is true. I juggle my time and have to travel frequently for work. My youngest baby is just one, and I know she misses me when I am away. I believe in quality time and when I’m present I give a lot of myself and am involved in micro managing the kids. My husband and I spend a lot of time together are electronically in touch constantly, thanks to our world of technology.

10. Since you are constantly in touch with glamour and the glitter of beauties, any scandals that become threatening?

I am in touch but I remain on the sidelines. The design world in Pakistan is centered a lot on apparel. I am acquainted with everyone and feel they are a fantastic fraternity, however as I do not live in Pakistan I can remain slightly detached which probably keeps me safe.

11. Along the way, have you been successful in developing a team?

I have a very core working team both on the production and the sales side. I also have a finance team. We are all a family and spend many joyful times together. Often we pull all nighters during shows. its a happy place to work, and I feel this is my greatest achievement.
 

12. Where do the ideas flow from; self thinking and watching competitors and tracking their creations?

I attend at least 4-5 international jewellery fairs and am an encyclopedia of jewelry design whether Raj, Russian, Victorian, Art Deco or whatever else. I watch trends very carefully and plan ahead at least six months.  I love fashion and keep up with the trends religiously, whether its chandeliers, cocktail rings or cuffs, Every 3 months I come out with an entirely new collection and have a show in a different city either Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Hong Kong or New York. Sometimes the seasons inspire me. My latest obsession is with the very traditional Chaand Bali and I have created jewellery around the shape of the new crescent moon, which is very romantic.
I have also worked butterflies into my collection for Spring, and I decided to work with those after seeing all the big design houses like Tiffany, Van Cleef and even Piaget are all incorporating their own version into jewellery. So the concept of butterflies is borrowed but my signature butterflies are my own!

13. Any of your work that has help to improve the image of Pakistan?

Design and creativity always present a moderate cultured side of Pakistan. This image of Pakistan needs to be marketed and my work aids that.

14. Is it possible for designers to reach out to Pakistani on the street?

Diamonds and jewellery is a luxury high end, exclusive product in every market, and not always accessible to every part of society. However by the mail, letters, love and response I get, I know I resonate and inspire hundreds of people.

15. Five years from now, where do you expect to be?

I expect to open in Karachi and Singapore within a year and if God wishes I will also open in Dubai.

Jewelry was a passion for me since I was young girl. However when your passion becomes your work, you feel blessed.

Sara Taseer Shoaib is set to make waves not only in the Pakistani fashion scene but in international fashion market as well. Fashion designer Sara Taseer Shoaib is highlighting the name of the country in ‘Jewelry making’. She is considered amongst the few yet prominent names of Fashion jewelry designers. Sara Taseer Shoaib is successfully running the business of jewelry making in Pakistan. She has her own flagship store in Gulberg, Lahore Pakistan. However, she manufacture in Hong Kong, in order to have access to the latest technology at the best prices.

1. How about letting us peep through youth career spa?

Jewelry was a passion for me since I was young girl. However when your passion becomes your work, you feel blessed. I started my career in finance and am a graduate from The London School of Economics LSE. UK. Till my children were born I had worked in international banks in the UK and Hong Kong. Marriage, moves and babies meant that I had to give all  this up.

When I was in New York City, I got the opportunity to work at a  jewelry marketing and manufacturing concern. This was the best start I could have hoped for. I learnt the intricacies of the entire trade under the umbrella of a large firm. I could gain the knowledge without being defrauded. This soft start was crucial in building my confidence.

When I moved to Hong Kong with my husband I was fully prepared to go in on my own. I completed my GIA Gemological Institute of America certification. During my course I made many connections with local manufacturers and factories. I negotiated credit terms and financing lines as well as quality control agreements. I have not looked back. My flagship store in Lahore opened a year ago.

2. In your line of business you are confronted with challenge from competitors and accepted brands; does than, in any way, intimidate you?

I never jumped into the deep end in the Pakistan market and tried to swim. I in fact have positioned myself in the Pakistan market six years before I opened my store. With regular shows and exhibitions I already had a large loyal client base which guaranteed that I the worst case scenario . I would stay afloat. I feel the jewellery market in Pakistan is still nascent and there is a lot of room. I do not feel intimidated as a have no real competition and my product is unique.

3. Designers operate by winning over minds and hearts; do you agree with this?

Hundred percent. Product positioning, branding and packaging is paramount. You must be able to relate to your client base. There is no young diamond jewellery designer who appeals to modern and fusion tastes in Pakistan. All my sales staff is graduates in jewellery design so they offer an educated jewellery buying experience.  I have moved away from the  concept of the old uncle sitting cross legged in a rickety old chair. Most of my clientele are the young people who have pulled in their mums, aunts and relatives, whereas traditionally it’s the mums who take the kids to the jewellers. 

4. What are the major ingredients of your products? Is creativity a major one?

I am open to working with every gem as long as it sits well with diamonds and the metal of choice is 18k gold. Diamonds are my signature. Creativity is important but a sense of business is paramount. If I let my creativity loose I will create beautiful pieces worth millions of dollars.  I am therefore challenged to create a marketable, affordable, high quality, attractive product which I would be happy to buy myself. It should look its value and beyond, and stand the test of time.

5. In pursuing your goals what difficulties have you come across both from the angle of technology and resources?

I live and manufacture in Hong Kong so I have access to the latest technology at the best prices. Yes, managing cash flows is always a challenge for me.

6. Any difficulties those were insurmountable?

Not yet, however there are challenges every day managing people, expectations, order and show deadlines, I know this is part of every business not just mine.  Yes, in Pakistan there is the added pressure of always maintaining high security due to my family profile as well as the nature of my work which sometimes frustrates me.

7. Do you value the word excellence, in rendering service to customers?

For me there is no other way. I hold myself to a high standard and am my own worst critic and judge. I feel it is important for educated and exposed women like my to pioneer new ways of doing business in Pakistan. I have worked in international banks like Citibank and ABN Amro in London and Hong Kong. If excellence was the order of the day in those environments why would I create shoddy one for my own work.

8. Have the parents been an inspiration in achieving success?

Both my parents are self made and work harder than I do in their fields till this day. Surely having grown up with them, I know nothing else. My father always had equal expectation for all his children; he has educated us in the world's finest universities. His expectation was excellence in whichever field we chose and he voiced that many times!

9. Your family life, has it been affected by business demands on your time?

Sadly this is true. I juggle my time and have to travel frequently for work. My youngest baby is just one, and I know she misses me when I am away. I believe in quality time and when I’m present I give a lot of myself and am involved in micro managing the kids. My husband and I spend a lot of time together are electronically in touch constantly, thanks to our world of technology.

10. Since you are constantly in touch with glamour and the glitter of beauties, any scandals that become threatening?

I am in touch but I remain on the sidelines. The design world in Pakistan is centered a lot on apparel. I am acquainted with everyone and feel they are a fantastic fraternity, however as I do not live in Pakistan I can remain slightly detached which probably keeps me safe.

11. Along the way, have you been successful in developing a team?

I have a very core working team both on the production and the sales side. I also have a finance team. We are all a family and spend many joyful times together. Often we pull all nighters during shows. its a happy place to work, and I feel this is my greatest achievement.
 

12. Where do the ideas flow from; self thinking and watching competitors and tracking their creations?

I attend at least 4-5 international jewellery fairs and am an encyclopedia of jewelry design whether Raj, Russian, Victorian, Art Deco or whatever else. I watch trends very carefully and plan ahead at least six months.  I love fashion and keep up with the trends religiously, whether its chandeliers, cocktail rings or cuffs, Every 3 months I come out with an entirely new collection and have a show in a different city either Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Hong Kong or New York. Sometimes the seasons inspire me. My latest obsession is with the very traditional Chaand Bali and I have created jewellery around the shape of the new crescent moon, which is very romantic.

I have also worked butterflies into my collection for Spring, and I decided to work with those after seeing all the big design houses like Tiffany, Van Cleef and even Piaget are all incorporating their own version into jewellery. So the concept of butterflies is borrowed but my signature butterflies are my own!

13. Any of your work that has help to improve the image of Pakistan?

Design and creativity always present a moderate cultured side of Pakistan. This image of Pakistan needs to be marketed and my work aids that.

14. Is it possible for designers to reach out to Pakistani on the street?

Diamonds and jewellery is a luxury high end, exclusive product in every market, and not always accessible to every part of society. However by the mail, letters, love and response I get, I know I resonate and inspire hundreds of people.

15. Five years from now, where do you expect to be?

I expect to open in Karachi and Singapore within a year and if God wishes I will also open in Dubai.
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