I have been working for the last thirty-six years now and even today I am media shy: Bunto Kazmi
Known as the queen of Pakistan’s design world, Bunto Kazmi is at a place that many dream of but only a few get there.
She tentatively took to designing more than three decades ago and has managed to stay there ever since. Despite her success, Bunto has no snobbish notions about herself and remains a humble and down-to-earth person.
“I have been working for the last thirty-six years now and even today I am media shy,” laughs the doyenne of fashion.
“I avoid coming in the limelight and giving interviews, I’m just not comfortable,” says the unassuming, down-to-earth celebrity, who gives credit to her family and her staff for her success.
Bunto spent most of her early years in Karachi before leaving for Washington DC for a couple of years with her parents. “My mother and my Khala Sughra Kazmi had decided to bring both their children together and strengthen their bond by getting us married. And so before leaving for the States Azam and my nikah took place with the understanding that we would get married after two years. At the time of my nikah I was only 17 years old,” states Bunto.
And so the journey to a new land, the States, did not seem very exciting to the young Bunto who was no longer single.
A student of PECHS school and college, Bunto had completed her Intermediate at that point. Once in the States she decided to get herself enrolled in an interior designing course, another genre of art that had always mesmerized her.
Two years passed by like lightning and before she knew it they were back in Pakistan and preparations for her and Azam’s wedding began.
Getting married was a whole new experience for Bunto, who now wanted to complete her graduation. And so once again she entered the gates of PECHS college very happy to be back where it had all begun. “I’m so grateful I was a student at PECHS. It was an institution that housed all the literary greats. I still recall those days when the great artist Sadequain would be sprawled across a cotton gaddah (mattress), busy creating masterpieces. We were in awe of him.
Faiz Ahmed Faiz sahib would be there too and so was Ibn-e-Insha, to name some. We had some of the best teachers in those days,” she reminisces of a time when the college was at its peak.
“After graduation I was home when my mother-in-law Sughra, an established designer, was taken ill and had to be hospitalized. She had taken quite a few orders that she was supposed to deliver but because of her health she asked me to cancel all of them. I felt really bad because designing was Khala’s passion. I said why cancel, let them come I’ll deal with them”
Her Khala was skeptical because she thought this decision was being imposed on Bunto. “I was adamant that I wanted to go ahead with it and so came the clients one by one. To date, I cannot recall what I said to them but I did give them what they wanted.”
I had been observing Khala sporadically but had never really paid close attention. I didn’t even know about the tankas, especially the names of all the embellishments that adorned a bridal jora. It took me a couple of months to complete those orders but I managed. And the best part was the clients loved what I had done for them – of course all of it with my mother-in-law’s help,” reminisces Bunto lovingly.
She gives all the credit for her success to her mother Sarah Naqvi and maternal aunt and mother-in-law Sughra. “My mother Sarah Naqvi was my greatest inspiration. She was a broadcaster/producer with BBC London and an amazing woman; for me there’s no comparison whatsoever. Ami was such a hardworking woman,” Bunto recalls fondly.
“Then there’s been my aunt Sughra; she taught me all that I know about designing. I still turn to her for guidance. I have also never seen a woman like her, excellent in all the roles that she took on in life. She has always been so proud of me and so has my husband Azam. They love me and appreciate me greatly. They have spoiled me,” says the designer delightfully.
“Of course my aunt Bajiya, too, was a great help in my work. Bajiya had a great sense for colors and she taught me a lot. Not to forget my aunt Zehra Nigah who taught me to see – to observe. That is where I get my eye for details. The emphasis I pay on each and every taanka to get just the expression, the color, the flower that I have envisaged.”
Such were the ladies Bunto was surrounded with all her life, “So you can well imagine I had big shoes to fill,” says Bunto.
Besides her mesmerizing bridals which are an amalgam of traditional and contemporary, Bunto is hailed for her out-of-this-world tapestries and shawls. “Tapestries are my love, my passion. I love working on them. A single tapestry takes me around a year to complete while a shawl is completed in four months. I choose miniatures for both mostly as I love everything that’s small, tiny. The smaller it is the more I enjoy working on it,” she reveals smilingly.
A mother of two talented lawyers, Fiza and Ali, Bunto feels she has been blessed. “Ali recently started Kazmi’s menswear while Fiza continues being a lawyer. She has no interest in my line of work, but I’m absolutely fine with that. My daughter-in-law Seher has joined my business, though, and I’m glad that she is very serious about it.”
Be it Bunto’s spellbinding creations or her surroundings, one feels a certain calm and serenity in the atmosphere. Her house which also serves as her studio is a haven that exudes creativity and tranquility simultaneously. From the imposing mahogany door to the impressive frame lined walls of her studio, there’s nothing typical about Bunto Kazmi. The walls are lined with embroidered motifs in a riot of colours which show this her penchant for all that’s colorful.
“I love color. Be it in my surroundings or my creations color plays an integral part in my work. Though red remains an all-time favorite with our girls, I personally love all jewel colours – emerald green and turquoise especially,” admits Bunto with a gentle smile and is usually seen wearing them.
Her studio as well as her home has retained an old world charm which makes it all the more welcoming. It’s an old house that has been done up tastefully resulting in an immaculate space that Bunto calls home. “My home is a very personal aspect of my life and I like to keep it as such,” she says matter-of-factly.
This article was originally published in GLAM Magazine (November Edition).