KU graduate Syed Nisar, who has interned at Alexander McQueen and had his own show at London Fashion Week, is rapidly making his way into the fashion universe but states that being a fashion designer is not as glamorous as people think.
After he graduated in 2014 the 30-year-old designer has already managed to get his designs shown at the famous catwalks of London Fashion Week and Berlin Fashion week, and has been featured in British Vogue.
Kingston Courier met the up-and-coming fashion designer at his apartment in Balham, London.
It was exactly as one might imagine a fashion designer’s apartment, with a room full of mannequins and a big table with drawings and materials lying around.
He sat down on his little grey sofa and talked about how his journey pursuing his dream in fashion has gone so far.
Nisar did his BA in textile designs in his hometown Lahore, Pakistan, and when he graduated he got headhunted by the textile industries there.
“I thought the industry was a bit conservative and narrow. We were not developing designs from scratch, we were ripping it out, basically,” he said.
Nisar eventually decided to come to the UK because he always had an MA on his mind but he struggled to get the money.
“As a foreign student it was impossible unless your parents were loaded. Just the living costs alone were so expensive. But after I had saved up a bit I thought I could keep on working besides my studies,” he said.
Applying to Kingston University
Nisar decided to apply for a BA at Kingston University because it had a good reputation within fashion.
“I got an interview and spoke to the course director and the tutor. They liked that I had worked in the industry even though I did not have a big portfolio, since some of it got ruined when I travelled from Pakistan,” he said.
The tutors at KU thought Nasir was a bit different since he had worked with architects and doctors.
Nasir had friends who were doctors and he used to go meet them when they were doing dissections and drew decaying bodies, and that gave him a lot of inspiration.
During his studies Nasir had a lot of ups and downs because he was not used to the western style of teaching.
“We worked so rapidly. It was challenging for me to strip all of the bad habits and go back to the purest form of creation,” he said.
During his MA Nisar managed to get an internship at Alexander McQueen, one of the biggest designer brands in the fashion industry.
“I applied through an agency but they didn’t tell me the name of the companies they were providing. One night in Kingston, I randomly checked my email and I had gotten an email from McQueen that said I could come for an interview the next morning. If I had not checked the email before going to bed I would have missed it,” he explained.
Nisar said he was very lucky to get an internship at McQueen, because people often wait one year or more to get an internship there.
“I was there for six months, and it was a tough period because I didn’t have any time off,” he said.
His final graduation collection was inspired by both religion and culture, it was a burial garment based on the mourning and deaths.
“I used a lot of knots in my collection. We tie a knot when people get married and get a new friendship etc. Each culture has their different type of knots,” he said.
After he finished the MA he applied for different fashion competitions, and On|Off, a global fashion showcase, said it would be happy to help him.
“On our MA fashion show On|Off were making the arrangements. I had a chat with the director and he said I should talk to him after. I went back to him in February 2015 for London Fashion Week and I gave them my graduation collection,” he said.
From there Nisar learned about Designers for Tomorrow, a German company which aims to provide young talents with a platform for their ideas and designs.
“I was chosen as one out of five to present at Berlin Fashion week in July. Later I found out that Zac Posen, a famous New York based designer had chosen the top five designers. That was pretty cool,” he said.
In the meantime Nisar was also working on his next collection for London Fashion week in September.
“London Fashion Week selected four people from On|Off to present. It was shown on the first evening and it was a really good experience for me,” he said.
Nisar was also contacted by British Vogue, who wanted to use pictures of his designs in their magazine.
Fashion designer – not as glamorous as people think
As a person Nisar describes himself as private.
Nisar said: “People think that fashion designers are glamorous, but I think that is mostly with the models and stuff, not the designers.”
The financial side of being a designer is very tough and Nisar has to earn money to pay for his apartment in Balham and his fashion equipment.
“I get most of my money from working freelance. I pick up some work in the textile industry for home furnishing and bedding now and then. But it’s better than flipping burgers at McDonalds. I have done that,” he said.
Nisar’s goal is to develop his own label and he wants to develop it here and in Pakistan but it is very difficult to stand out as a designer.
“I find it unnecessary to be a solo label unless you are really different. I don’t want to be another drop in the ocean. You have to challenge yourself and the industry,” he said.