Pakistani stylist who sold her diamonds to learn how to haircut – News
Award-winning Nabila shares her inspiring work journey from the 1980s until the pandemic.
For many people around the world, the Covid lockdown can be described as a time of anxiety, reflection and resignation. While it was impossible to ignore the devastation caused by the pandemic, you tended to come to terms with the current situation, count your blessings, and do your best under the circumstances.
For award-winning Pakistani stylist Nabila, a jet-set entrepreneur and avowed workaholic, the lockdown and travel ban was a time when – like many others – she reconnected with her family and spent time. quality time with them. But that’s not all she did. Owner of a chain of salons across Pakistan and of beauty brand Zero Makeup, Nabila decided to work during the pandemic, even though the new normal was a daunting prospect.
In Dubai, en route to Europe on a long-awaited business trip, Nabila met us at the Khaleej Times office and explained how, despite Covid drastically changing all of her plans two years ago, the whole the experience was revealing both personally and professionally.
A FRUITFUL SABBATIC
Nabila was in the process of setting up the distribution of her beauty brand Zero Makeup in Europe after its launch in Dubai, when the pandemic struck, forcing her to take a “forced sabbatical” from her job.
“After setting up distribution for the Middle East, I moved to London to start the same for Europe. I had gone to Pakistan for the birth of my granddaughter in December 2019 and thought I would take two months off, then resume in March.
However, she was unable to fly to her planned destination of Barcelona (the brand’s design center) after the pandemic was declared and airports closed.
“So, luckily or unfortunately, I was stuck in Pakistan and watched my grandson grow up. She was teething and crawling in front of me; it was the first time that I spent so much time with my family. And my friends couldn’t believe it because I was a workaholic and professional. I really liked that side of me, but I just decided to go with the flow – I’m a grandmother now and I enjoy kids and I like to do nothing.
But what is “nothing” for others is clearly not the same for Nabila who proposed innovations in business even while confined at home.
“During this time, there was a silver lining; because I was stuck there for so long, I offered Covid SOPs the Pakistani government used when they reopened the lounges – we invested in PPE, changed all the carts, changed all the instruments stainless steel, put in an autoclave so that everything is sterilized. “
She also expanded her chain of salons by creating another brand called Factory Barbers. “It’s a five story salon for haircuts under Rs1000, so it’s very affordable – and no appointment required.”
It also reorganized its existing salon in Lahore and opened two more branches in Karachi. “I recruit, rehire, do HR and structure. So while I was stuck I would say I wasted no time; Nabila (Pvt) Limited has grown exponentially. I feel tired just listening to what I have done; it was a lot of work (laughs).
Nabila in her Instagram profile describes herself as a “self-made businesswoman”, so of course we were curious about her professional journey which began in 1986 with the creation of her first salon in Karachi.
“There were a lot of challenges. I was 18 when I got married, 21 when I had two boys. My youngest son was six months old when I sold my wedding diamonds and went to Vidal Sassoon in London to learn how to do haircuts. And I learned because I needed to do my own hair! I always cut my hair since I was 11 and made a mess.
She opened her first living room in her first apartment. “It was a maid’s room, in which I put a mirror, a Rs350 chair and a small slab where I put my scissors. I had a mini cabinet on which my clients were waiting! Shampoos and permanent solutions were under them. That’s how small the place was.
She explained how she “grew up with the business and the kids” because the salon was conveniently close and she could keep an eye on them.
“At the end of the day, fast forward, we are one of the biggest chains in Pakistan,” she said, adding that she has often been asked how she built her brand, but all she did, in hindsight, was “the right thing”.
Because for Nabila, her customers always come first. Even though it was a customer, he had to be happy. “Greet people on time, don’t make them wait, don’t do it just because you need the money. 30 years later my clients swear by me and if I say something they will buy it or do it because they believe in my sincerity and loyalty to my brand, my profession and my passion.
LEARN AND GROW
Nabila, who started out as a hairdresser, continued to develop her skills over the years and eventually branched out into beauty and personal styling. She returned to university in 2001 to study image consulting. “I wanted to be able to guide people on what their individual ‘dress personality’ is and how to put it all together; how to keep reinventing yourself with different decades of life and stages of life.
This knowledge served her well during the pandemic as she began making makeovers which were broadcast on her refurbished YouTube channel, in a program called “The Image Makers”.
“My Zero Makeup brand is about not covering yourself up, it’s just about improving yourself, feeling like a better version of yourself. I realized that if we say Zero Makeup is for real people then (besides stars and celebrities) I should do makeovers for real people. So we attracted a few women (who felt like celebrities during that time) and I can’t tell you at the end of the day how much I enjoyed that. It was so rewarding for me to see how happy they can feel and how I can guide them. So many women have started to write. Among them was a girl with vitiligo whom she said she wanted to be an ambassador, health workers who had completely surrendered to themselves and a girl with postpartum depression. The work is very rewarding and my heart is in it. It’s like a good deed that continues to spread, like social work. Teach them how to fish so they can do it forever! “
BE CAREFUL OF “PERFECTION”
While image makeovers boost self-esteem, Nabila also believes in approaching the endless bombardment of seemingly perfect social media images with caution.
“Who are you even following?” Who is your hero or “hero”? Unfortunately, people love the Kardashians… that’s not cool. As they’ve become billionaires and are among the most numerous of all time, I think they need to use it to channel what young girls can do in a positive way.
She added that while she won’t speak of such public figures in a downright negative tone, she doesn’t approve of them either, adding that her “makeup for real people is a bit anti-everything.”
In fact, what she learned during the pandemic is that people are even more accepting of the concept of “less is more”. “I think people realized you needed very little! You needed less clothes… and hardly any makeup. They also felt the need to focus on their skin and nails, their hair and their health more than covering them with something. “
She concluded our engaging conversation by telling us about her goals for Zero Makeup in the UAE. “We are launching a unisex click pen called the fuzzy pen. Everyone needs great skin. After all this metrosexuality, men opt for an expensive style and do not hesitate to get groomed. The pen also conceals, corrects and fills your pores – it’s HD and transfer-free. We will hopefully publish it before Christmas.