The Karma of Kami

Many designers specialize in cut, but very few have Kamiar Rokni’s penchant for a “Perfect Finish” to a garment. Although just 27, the 5’8 pixie-like Lahorite is raising industry standards with the bold color combinations and perfect detailing of the creations arising from his and partner Maheen Kardar’s fashion house Karma. The multi-talented Libra designs, writes and is eager to create Pakistan’s first Lifestyle Store.

When did you decide to become a fashion designer?
I don’t know when. I think I’ve wanted to become one since I was 5 years old. I know I never wanted to do anything else.

Was it difficult to get support as a male?
I was quite lucky. My family has always been very supportive. Especially my Mom always encouraged me. Also, we are a very creative family. A lot of us paint and write.

How did karma get started?
When I graduated from the Pakistan School of Fashion Design in 2000, everyone was applying for jobs and getting offers to make t-shirts, and sportswear, to be apprentices. This was not something my fellow classmate Maheen Kardar or I wanted to do. So, we got together with the thought to have an exhibition and see if we could get a good response. But, people liked our clothes straight off and started buying them, so we never even got around to holding that exhibition.

How do you and Maheen split the work?
I focus more on the designing while Maheen handles most of the administrative and business aspects, but that line often blurs, Maheen and get along really well, so it’s not difficult at all.

What is your personal design philosophy?
Have style, but don’t worry too much about fashion.

How do you define fashion?
Fashion is what’s in. it doesn’t necessary mean what’s good.

What is your favorite part of fashion overall?
Fashion is about fantasy. You can become someone else. You can go into this other world and come back and be yourself. You can assume different identifies. It’s ever-changing and I really like that.

How do you see yourself as different from other designers?
Everybody’s different. I’m different because I do a lot of Western, Eastern and fashion wear. I can’t fit into one particular style. I’m also very concerned with quality. Western clothes’ ultimate aim is that they don’t look homemade.This all has to do with my training

Who is your favorite designer & why?
I love Yves St. Laurent. His fashion house is a perfect blend of funky yet elegant. His use of color and quintessential European elegance. Sheer imagination. Things he did in the sixties, people are still doing today. I knew about him when I was 6 years old.

What is your biggest dream?
To be an internationally famous designer. I want to have a label that is global and to make it bit-time.

What do you aspire to?
General greatness.

What do you see as your responsibility as a designer?
I’d love to change the average middle class person’s sense of dress. I feel grooming is lacking in Pakistan. People of the upper-class are polished, but the average person’s clothes are not stitched properly and don’t fit right. Nobody seems to be bothered with elegance. They bother in the evening, but I would like to see people dressed nicely all the time. People seem to have lost the job of their craft. Tailors don’t seem to want to cut their clothes properly. As a result, people look sloppy all the time. Standards were better before in our parents’ generation. Today, tailors are like we don’t really care. Hems are terra. People need to start believing in excellence.

Has your life changed after your success & how?
Success always does change your life. There’s more fame and I’m becoming more of a public person that before. I get a lot of respect from people I work with. A lot more people know me. People look at you more differently. It makes you grow up. The more responsibility you get, it helps you grow as a person.

What is the secret of your success?
I really don’t know. A lot of hard work and hopefully talent.

Any fears you’ll ever lose your drive?
Hopefully not. I hope never to lose my drive. For me, it’s about the clothes.

Your favorite hobbies? Outside of fashion what do you like to do?
Reading. Going out. Socializing.

What about you would people be surprised to learn?
That I can be shy.

What is your motto in life?
Live hard. Work hard, party hard.

How did you dress as a child?
I was a very well dressed child, but that was my mother at that point. My mother has taste. I have been dressing myself and buying my own clothes since I was six or seven. I was always encouraged to choose what to buy when in a shop.

Who is your greatest influence?
My mother. She’s influenced my personality in a major way. I think she is very proud of me.

Who is your favorite Pakistani designer?
I really admire Wasim Khan, but he doesn’t design that much any more. At the moment, I really like Ather Hafiz in Lahore. In Karachi, I really like Maheen.

Which outfit that you have designed and for whom is your favorite work so far?
There was this dress I designed for my best fiend Maleeha Mustafa, a Lahori model. She looked sensational. It was all white and two layers of chiffon. It looked and was really really well made.

What has been your most rewarding moment so far?
Being nominated for a Lux Style Award was quite rewarding.

Are you a delegator or very hands-on?
I believe in practical delegating but I do like to be in involved. It is not too difficult because it’s not just myself. Sharing the responsibility with Maheen makes it easier to be involved.

You write a bi-weekly column for a weekly newspaper, how did you get involved with writing? Do you enjoy it? Have you always been a writer?
No, haven’t. A lark. A fluke. Met my editor at a party and people have always told me I should write and so I did it.

Do you read a lot? What do you like to read?
I read everything. You can learn something from every book. From romance novel to serious. So I read what I like.

What is your idea of a perfect day?
When you don’t have to get up and you don’t have to do anything.

What are your plans for the future?
To make Karma into a lifestyle store. I think Pakistan is ready for that and I’d like to be the first person to do it. a store where you can walk in, buy an outfit, buy a handbag, a perfume, a cushion, a lamp, a rug, all representing one aesthetic. Like Ralph Lauren.

What is your favorite part of being a designer?
Being able to do what I love doing. I love making he clothes; designing. The best part is seeing someone wear your outfit.

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