THE ONE AND ONLY MEHMOOD BHATTI AND HIS JOURNEY OF CONQUERING PARIS AND PAKISTAN
A Pakistani-French designer, Mehmood Bhatti is the epitome of the most distinctive and diverse talent Pakistan has to offer. Despite belonging from Lahore, Bhatti has spent most of his time taking over Paris by his enigmatic styles and signature cuts and drapes. We had the pleasure of interviewing this legend. Read on to know more about his journey to becoming the icon he is today as well as significant life changes that have occurred.
Hello! Before we talk about anything else, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your life story?
I was born and bred in Lahore. I did my graduation from Government College University Lahore. My life in Pakistan was very difficult. I started working at the age of 10 after which I managed to move to France with the help of a friend, but initially the life was very tough for me there as well.
I had never gone to any fashion school, I used to work as an office boy in a fashion store and I learnt all from there regarding fashion.
Based in Paris, what is one principle of their fashion industry that is different from our Pakistani industry?
You cannot copy others in west. They have copyrights. In Pakistan people used to copy design from internet and become designers in one day.
I believe in innovation and I think that’s the reason I was awarded Sitara-Imtiaz for my contributions to fashion industry beside awards from at least 10 different countries.
How did the pandemic affect you personally? Did you face any issues such as creative blocks?
Over the past two years, the world has seen a shift in behaviors and economy. During lock down due to the covid pandemic, I felt a slower pace in my life where new hobbies were born and I found more time to get things done around the house and got the freedom to relax in new ways that were not possible in the pre- pandemic era. It was a challenge to plan a new immediate future while everything was so uncertain but fortunately, I had investment in different businesses so I managed things carefully during the crisis.
Did the pandemic harm your fashion operations and business in any way?
Undoubtedly, pandemic has largely affected fashion industry. I have seen closure of a number of retailers, production has ceased and demand has plummeted. High street stores have been massively affected.
You got recently married to Humaira. What’s the biggest change you’ve experienced?
It is very positive change in my life. My life is completed now, Alhumdulillah. Allah Almighty has given me a very educated and gorgeous wife. She did MPHIL Political Science and Law. It was always my dream to marry a Pakistani girl as Pakistani wives always pray for their husband‘s life and prosperity and are very faithful.
Where do you derive your inspiration for a more local style of clothes from?
I always keep myself up to date with the ongoing fashion trends by keeping an eye on remarkable fashion divas
celebrities and how particularly they carry themselves with the current fashion waves. So, in this way I got inspiration for my fashion collections, as in my profession we should be very innovative at every single stage.
You were planning on setting up a university here in Pakistan. How did that project go? Any updates?
An unfortunate incident happened in which the ex-Chief Justice Saqib Nisar not only illegally visited my hospital but also pointed his fingers at me and , “Hey what kind of clothes are you wearing etc.” disheartened me so much that I constrained to postpone my project to build a world class university.
Another biggest problem of Overseas Pakistanis living abroad is that their properties are seized in Pakistan because there is no one to take care of them and protect them.
As an orphan I always dreamed that I would build a state-of-the-art orphanage in Lahore for the orphans of my city and country.
I bought several acres of land on Multan Road for this purpose.
I being an overseas businessman, due to my unavailability, had to give power of attorney to a well-known Lawyer and that lawyer illegally & maliciously transferred the land to himself.
He also gifted my valuable property to his wife which was a murder of professionalism, law and trust. I stopped thinking about my university project and started thinking about Pakistan. Why don’t we have any system, any laws and strong institutions to tackle with such kind of fraud.
Why should we, overseas Pakistanis build hospitals, universities and orphanages here, when we are being cheated?
We can keep our wealth in France, England, Europe. Why do we compete with the mafia business here by bringing our money to Pakistan?
What does a day in your life look like?
I believe in planning, punctuality and hard work. I have succeeded in making a fortune for myself with exemplary hard work, commitment and dedication. I have a very good reputation and status among many French fashion designers due to my habit of working effectively for long hours from 6am to 7pm daily.
What message would you share with young Pakistani fashion designers full of potential?
Young Pakistani fashion designers should visit foreign countries to get inspiration, try to make their own identity, be innovative and creative instead of copying each other. Remember perseverance is the key to achieve long term success. Stay humble dedicated and well behaved. There is no shortcut in life.
Lastly, what do you think the Pakistani industry as a whole can learn from the Paris fashion industry?
Innovation, as innovation is essential if the fashion industry is to survive, and become a rollercoaster economy and competitor to the foreign industry. Lots of Pakistani industries could learn from Paris industry like colour matching and new trends. I introduced fashion in Pakistan 30 years ago
INTERVIEW: HANIA SEHR
PHOTOGRAPHY: TAHIR CHAUDHRY
HAIR & MAKEUP: NAIBILAS