Art direction has become an integral part in the concept generation and execution of fashion brands. One of Pakistan’s super talented art director, set designer and stylist extraordinaire Hashim Ali gets in conversation with Libas Now giving an insight on what his creative process is like and his dream team to work with.
A project you had most fun working on?
There have been so many. But I loved working on a yearlong “Homeland” campaign for Cross Stitch, and the Zaha Lawn campaign where I got to make an entire world of soldiers and jesters, firebreathers and clowns all contained in fantasy gardens on the periphery of a palace.
How do you conceptualize your shoots? What is the creative process like?
I always start with a mind map which can be inspired by a word, singular visual, song, literature etc. The mind map further produces more ideas that are researched in detail; using the acquired knowledge along with my existing library, mood boards are created to make clients and the team understand my vision for the shoot.
In terms of set design, what is something that is yet to be explored in Pakistan?
By using existing spaces with set extensions and building up a story by incorporating multiple locations and visuals. I think this has a lot of potential in terms of exploration of newer ideas.
Dream team to work with?
Shayaan Sherwani on photography, Qasim on makeup, Saima Rashid on hair, Eman Suleman the model.
How has your degree in Communication Design further enabled you to conceptualize your projects?
Communication design taught me how to communicate through visuals and that is what art direction basically boils down to; I have to communicate and produce a fantasy without saying anything through words but rather painting on a blank visual canvas.
In a saturated fashion market, how do you create unique concepts for similar type of brands?
By saying no to requests that blatantly want a replication of existing visuals. But mostly, I try to have a conversation about the brand identity. Just as we all are different individuals, brands must have their own identity too. When you speak and when I speak, although we might say the same thing, it will sound different. Just like that, by understanding a brand and its identity, I try to give a unique angle to similar types of brands.
What is your take on the trending fashion of nostalgia marketing as a lot of brands are recently going down that road?
I think it’s great that we are seeing nostalgic visuals but I feel the trend is borrowed from a reputable design house and it is a very well thought out brand identity. In fact one of the strongest in the market. That is why when the “trend” is picked up by other brands the “nostalgic” image is not very well researched and ends up creating a replication of sorts. So apart from that one brand, I feel the rest are not seriously invested in the idea of nostalgia and its sentimental values.
Any international art directors that you look up to?
Christopher Simmonds of Gucci fame and Shona Heath, who works with the legendary Tim Walker, are two art directors that inspire me the most. I also love Tim Burton, Joe Wright, Wes Anderson and Sanjay Leela Bhansali as film directors with a unique visual flavor to their movies.
How much freedom do you get in terms of creativity from your client?
Well, it is mixed. Some clients allow more creative liberty as they hire me to create a strong visual and stand out in the market. Other clients want a more sellable image. But I’m super thankful to Allah for giving me enough respect that people listen to my opinion and trust my vision. As an artist, it is truly a blessing.
Some clients allow more creative liberty as they hire me to create a strong visual and stand out in the market. Other clients want a more sellable image.
You have been professionally associated with the fashion industry for quite some time now. How do you think the industry has evolved in the last 5 years?
I think the industry has not only blossomed but it has turned into a massive flowering tree. From the choice of photographers with unique vision and style, to models with powerful personalities. From visuals that could be out of Vogue to the craftsmanship of clothes. The industry has really grown and feels more at par with the standards of the international market.
I think the industry has not only blossomed but it has turned into a massive flowering tree. From the choice of photographers with unique vision and style, to models with powerful personalities.
How long do you think it will take for the Pakistani fashion industry to fully reach international standards in design and concept creation?
To be very honest I think we have kind of reached that level. I see Indian brands literally lifting our visuals or concepts and recreating them. I think we don’t even realize our own standards and worth. But I do wish for a time when someone sitting in the Vogue office creates a mood board and says, “I want our visuals to look like these kickass images from Pakistan”.
I do wish for a time when someone sitting in the Vogue office creates a mood board and says, “I want our visuals to look like these kickass images from Pakistan”.