Fatima Butt in Pakistan: creating beauty
The thing I remember most about Fatima Butt in the years I saw her socially in Lahore was her effortless ability to stand out in a crowd of nearly identical women. Sober but glamorous, the always chic Fatima was and still is a reference in all contexts.
In our ten years of following each other on Twitter, I’ve seen Fatima’s tranquility evolve into a woman of substance with her deep interest in spiritualism, raising two lovely daughters aged 22 and 18, and her love for poetry. and all that is beautiful, whether tangible or ephemeral. What Fatima has been doing for the past few years is just the next organic step in her quest to add beauty to everything around her: styling artists and models with an imperceptible glamor that accentuates their true selves while adding a novelty to their temporary identity as they move and twirl and dance and walk and stroll and create art and sit at rest.
A freelance stylist and style strategist, Fatima’s work, since her debut project Zarrar, a 2016 Shaan Shahid film, is a versatile range of looks that, despite being very Pakistani, have a universal feel. 21st century austerity tango with old world casualness. Working with some of Pakistan’s biggest artists and brands, Fatima’s signature style is a delightful blend of tradition and whimsy.
From when, as Fatima says, “stylists went unrecognized a few years ago and were seen as mere hairdressers” to “now they are an integral part of a project’s core team “, his work is a major contributor to the integration of styling into the world of advertising and songwriting.
Over the past six years, Fatima has added her special touch to several advertisements, for some brands several times: Jazz, Ufone, Telenor, Zong, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Tiktok, Sooper cookies, Wall’s, Foodpanda, Peanut Pik cookies, National Foods, Habib Bank Limited, Ndure Shoes, Dayfresh, Gul Ahmed, British American Tobacco, Khaadi, Infinix, Xiomi, Pond’s, Insignia, Tecno, Sprite, Muslim Commercial Bank, Lay’s, Brook Bond Supreme and Servis Shoes. Fatima’s portfolio includes work for Coke Studio 14 (four songs and a half-promo), Kashmir Premier League 2021, Pakistan Premier League 2022 and some ISPR music videos. Currently, she is styling a music video and commercials for Velo Digital and Jazz.
For Gulf NewsI asked stylist Fatima Butt a few questions:
Mehr Tarar: What is style for Fatima Butt?
Fatima Butt: For me, style is something that reflects a person’s state of mind through clothes, colors, accessories, hair and makeup, body language and demeanor. I have the impression that the style also changes as one evolves. At one point in life, you may like prints and bright colors, but at another, only plains or a few colors dominate your wardrobe. The same goes for his body, which changes throughout life. So for me, a lot of factors contribute to my style statement.
Also, I believe that style is not limited to projection via external means; the style is also inspired by the journey of his life. The style is also borrowed, sometimes, from the people we admire; I may have done the same seeing my mother dress and carry herself a certain way. I think style is an ornament that is passed down from generation to generation and evolves each time it’s passed down and then repeatedly enhanced or manipulated depending on who we are at that point in our lives.
My job as a stylist is to bring out the best in people, which plays a huge role in terms of executing for success. Translating the same concept to the younger generation of stylists, I give them examples, one being that you imagine yourself as an employer and five people show up for an interview. All carry identical resumes, but the individual who stands out most often would be the one who delivers the style statement, resonates and reflects who they are, creating an aura of confidence that rubs off onto the other person, leaving an impression sustainable. So I think style represents to me at least sixty percent of who we are.
The look in Pakistan’s traditional and 21st century advertisements, what do you think is its most distinct feature? What do you add to ads you’re a part of?
When it comes to the style of the ads, it has a certain guideline – brand colors, a particular look, and little to no room for experimentation. But what I add are updated fashion elements; it could be in the cut of clothes, hair or makeup, or even accessories. These small details add a distinct look to an advertisement.
When it comes to culturally themed ads, I try to show the traditional look with a different style by playing with patterns or colors or hair and makeup techniques. The goal is to show the traditional in a refreshed and revamped way. Ultimately, a commercial is a complete product of the way it is shot, the lighting, the set design and the music. All of these things combined with the right style define an advertisement.
What does the style of certain songs from Coke Studio Season 14 mean to you?
Coke Studio has been the most rewarding project of my career so far, not only because I’ve been a fan for years and always wanted to be a part of it in every possible way, but also because this platform allows everyone who is part of it to reach a global audience. The most enjoyable part was that each song had its own vibe. When Coke Studio Season 14 Producer Zulfikar Khan [Xulfi] and his team had me listen to the songs, I knew right away what kind of wardrobe and style would encapsulate the producer’s vision.
For Xulfi, it was paramount that his team members felt the soul of every song they worked on. He gave me full authority, encouraging me to bring my designed style board to life with absolute freedom; when a stylist, or for that matter, any creative person, is given that kind of space to experiment, great things happen.
I feel this is the pinnacle [so far] of my career, which spans many years, from fashion designer to stylist. Going from where there was no recognition from a stylist in the industry to be applauded for my work in Coke Studio, having the opportunity to work with amazing people and create something exceptional would always be the one of my greatest accomplishments.
Did you notice a real difference between the style of an advertisement and a pop song a few years ago and in 2022?
Yes, I see a profound difference. Since the advent of the internet and an influx of information, audiences have evolved as they are no longer limited to one country, language or genre. It is also because of the access to the whole world which opens horizons, encouraging artists and creators to merge and infuse different cultures, languages and styles to express their vision. A simple example is the local boy bands of the 90s, when their audience was limited in Pakistan, and that also through a few TV channels. The songs and art were created for the consumer these bands or artists could reach. Now compare that to today where the work of an artist, singer, or any creative person can reach, through barrier-free social media platforms, billions of people around the world.
These platforms also give today’s artists the motivation and the opportunity to express themselves fully because they do not target a single audience and the barrier to experimentation is lifted. The style has also evolved keeping in mind the huge audience that is being reached – by incorporating elements of different styles from around the world into our rich cultural heritage, we are creating a fusion of something totally new that would appeal to anyone who watch it anywhere.
What do you consider to be your most important or memorable style experience so far? Or both!
Well, I’ve done quite a few memorable commercials like Sooper Azadi and Coke, but the songs I created for Coke Studio Season 14 were my most memorable experiences to date. Of the songs I composed, “Pasoori” and “Thaggyan” were the most special to me. Before becoming a stylist, I was a fashion designer and creating bespoke pieces was what I loved the most. All of the clothes you see in these songs were created and designed based on the mood and feel of the songs and the person wearing the clothes.
“Pasoori” was extremely fun, but preparing for it wasn’t easy. Listening to the song over and over again to feel its spirit, and then keeping the singer or the musician in mind, and all the people you see in the video, and coming up with something totally new and different was really a challenge. We were given complete freedom to play around with the looks, and that was a big plus. It was me, my production and art designer Hashim Ali and makeup artist Saima Rashid Bargfrede, and we were on the same page. The three of us were instrumental in creating and assembling a final stylish visual.
Pasoori’s vision is limitless and that is why she has reached all ages, social classes and cultural backgrounds, breaking down all the barriers that might have existed in the execution of a world-class artistic project. We personally embarked on this project as an artist equipped with thousands of colors and brushes but a blank canvas, where the whole team came together in perfect harmony to create a unique masterpiece that aimed at a global audience.