Up close and personal with Rabia Hassan: We sit down with the gorgeous and talented furniture and interior designer to discuss colour play, perfectionism and track pants.
You have been working as an interior designer for twenty years. What made you venture into furniture design?
I realized there was nothing new happening. I was seeing too many of the same concepts and the same boring colour palettes and I couldn’t take it anymore! I took my background in interior design to help me create what I feel are real statement pieces. I use gorgeous upholstery and lots of colour, so my pieces have a different feel from most. One has to play around with colour and enjoy it and use colour to create one’s environment. Who wants to spend their life surrounded by the same bland colours?
Why Zumirrah as a brand name? It took me six months to think of the right name. I didn’t want to go to another culture to find the right name. I like the name Zumirrah because it is unusual and has a beautiful ring to it. It is an Arabic word meaning ‘processor of great strength’.
What are the most important aspects about furniture for you?
That’s simple: comfort and proportion. There can be absolutely no compromise on either one of the two. You may have a stunning piece but if it is uncomfortable then there is no point. You have to have something practical and aesthetically beautiful – so finding the right balance between the two is key.
How did Karachi respond to Zumirrah?
All the comments and feedback have been fantastic. In my three-day showing, I was almost sold out by day two and that was just amazing. I want Zummirah piece in every home so the dream would be eventually to have pieces in a price range suitable for all.
Where does your design inspiration come from?
Anything I see that I find beautiful. It could be a solid color, a pattern – anything that gets stuck in my head. Right now I’ve fallen for emerald green, so someone out there is going to be getting an emerald green piece from me soon!
Are you afraid of competition?
Not at all! Everyone needs competition to keep them on their toes, or we would all get lazy. It does upset me when people copy concepts, though. THere is no originality in that.
As a woman, what works in your favor in this industry, and when do you feel being a woman is an obstacle?
It goes both ways. Firstly, being a working woman in Pakistan is always an obstacle. I have to watch how I dress and how I speak because I am surrounded by men all day at the workshop. The truth is I have seen how they try to take you for a ride, but if you’re a strong woman then you won’t allow it. At the same time, being a working woman has its benefits. You know how it goes, with this “baji baji” business, you can get away with a lot too. You just have to make sure at the end of the day you are respected and that’s all that matters.
What is something that continues to surprise you in this industry?
The lack of professionalism in this country. There is no concept of time, no concept of commitment, and sadly many lack drive. People are too complacement. You need to constantly push people to make them want to do more or do better.
What advice would you give to someone doing up a new home? Or to furniture buyers?
Firstly, if you are doing up a new home and have no clue, then go to a professional. Don’t make you home a showroom or something from the cover of a furniture magazine. Make it personal, make it comfortable and make it a statement of who you are. Don’t be scared to use colour and to experiment and do not look to recreate your mother’s home! What nineteen-year-old needs an off white sofa? It is important to make it a home; not a house. There is a difference! If you have olf pieces then don’t alter the shape – just play with the upholstery. For furniture buyers it is important to pick pieces with beautiful lines and like I said, comfort and proportions are key.
What is a typical day like fo you?
Most of my day is spent in the workshop, if I am not out buying materials or at client meetings. I spend time on each piece before I hand it over to my craftsmen to finish because I pay great attention to detail. So if that means I have to do the polishing or touch up the finishing of some pieces, then so be it.
How do you balance your personal life with your work demands?
That’s easy – I don’t have a personal life! That’s what happens when you are perfectionist and a workaholic!
What do you love most about living in Karachi?
Karachi is home. You can have the best of both worlds where you can be in the ‘scene’ and be out, and if you want, you can get lost and be a recluse and have your close group of friends and not worry about anyone else getting in your face.
When you’re not working you are…
Relaxing at home in my track plants with my dog and watching a movie.
Favorite Vacation Spot: Maldives
What perfume do you wear: Roberto Cavalli at the moment, but I keep changing it up.
Favorite Restaurant: Xanders – especially when sitting outside in the winter
What makes you impatient: People who are never on time
Addicted to: Work
If i could change one thing about me it would be… My sensitive nature
Secret Talent: Singing (not so sure it’s a talent anymore though!)
You like your coffee with: I don’t drink coffee, but don’t talk to me in the morning till I have had my chai and cigarette
Brain or Brawn: Brain
Love or MOney: Both
Fashion Pet Peeve: When I see older women wearing super short dresses
Your closet is a shine to? My tracks
Oldest item in your closet? A pair of shoes that are almost then years old
Necessary Extravangance: A great pair of shades
Favorite Piece of Furniture in your Home? My daybed
In your DVD Player right now: Coke Studio
Most typically Pakistani thing about you: My traditional values
Who/What makes you laugh uncontrollably? When I’m with friends talking about what a bitch life can be haha!
When are you happiest? When I’m in love