“More than financial gains, it’s the appreciation that matters to me. So I would want everything to be nice and clients to be happy.”
Working under the banner of ‘Papermint Events’, Fiza Gillani is one of the most sought-after wedding event designers of the country. She flies high, carrying a magic wand and sprinkling gold dust onto her events. Before she was off to Florence and Santorini to attend Karen Tran’s Master Floral Classes, OK! Pakistan had the opportunity to catch up with Fiza Gillani and touch upon her love for English Literature, her brief stint of social work, and her larger than life wedding decors in Lahore. Not to say that her client would not enjoy the finest of details in even an intimate garden party; Fiza goes all into detail, whether it’s a traditional milad set up or even an Oscar-themed party, she gives it her cent percent. Genes do play a huge part here, as ‘dedication’ is the key trait she has inherited from her father, former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani, and infused into her work.
What was your first event?
Fiza Gillani: We had done this event, a fundraising gala at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. Within two days, from a bare ground, to a marquee all set for the fundraiser, and Ali Zafar playing, it was one of my first big scale events. Also, I had done some events for the wedding of Azain Ashar with Noor Jehan. I did their wedding invitations, from the cards, bidh boxes, gift boxes, flower decor etc.
You belong to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), so how did it feel doing Imran Khan’s hospital event?
FG: We have always been Shaukat Khanum donors. So Imran Khan is a different thing and Shaukat Khanum is a different thing.
So what did you have in mind when you started your company?
FG: Basically I had initially started off as an event planner, which is a person who is not just an event manager, but a planner. I liked planning the whole thing for the client. Just like you give out a house on turnkey, I would like to look after all aspects, the invitations, the photography, the giveaways, the bride’s trousseau, the entire event, its setup and decor, videographers, make-up artists and caterers. People usually don’t have this concept, because they’d like to take a lot of matters in their hands.
Which has been your biggest event?
FG: I would not say any one event, because I put my 100 per cent in every event I do. Every event is fun in its own way. Though it is a little exhausting, to say the least.
When you’re doing events, what is your main focus?
FG: I think my main priority is the decor, as well as the comfort of the guests. I believe that no matter how nice your décor is, if your guests are not comfortable then they would not care how nice your event looks. To appreciate the visual, they need to be comfortable first.
For the guests’ comfort, you must be having a warehouse full of furniture?
FG: Yes, we do. But for variety, and on need-be basis, we even vendor it out.
Who’s your inspiration?
FG: On a personal level, my mom. She pushed me into this, because she saw this potential in me. I did my aunt’s wedding when I was 16. I had done her whole décor with rangoliz and flowers and chunri. So from there she saw this potential in me and encouraged me to start my own company.
Work wise, my inspiration is Monet. I like the way he paints gardens and flowers and the way he takes the surroundings into consideration and how they affect the mood. When you’re working, your surrounding is extremely important, because it influences your work. It has to complement the theme and really sink in.
How do you deal with stressful or chaotic work environments?
FG: It is chaotic at times. One comes to a standpoint. That is when you need time off to relax. Once I’m relaxed, anything can be inspiring for me. I once got an inspiration from a card. I had drawn my invite. It was the colours. My son was like, ‘how can you draw inspiration from a card?’. But it was the colours of the card basically that inspired me and got my creative juices flowing.
How much of a florist are you?
FG: That depends on the budget of the people, and the colour scheme we’re working with. Some colours that aren’t available in real flowers and would need to be imported may cross the client’s budget. Working with real flowers can get expensive but I do not like to use all artificial flowers. The maximum I would want is 50 per cent. Fresh flowers have their own beauty. It adds life to the event.
Given our culture, do you enjoy being traditional in your customs, or do you think out of the box?
FG: Depends on what the client wants because that comes first. People who come to us usually have already ordered their clothes. I do not want the décor to clash with or eclipse the bride’s clothes. When it’s her wedding day, I would not want my décor to look nicer than the bride. The décor should complement my client. As for the mehndi, I would want to do different things. It all comes down to what the bride wants.
“I like to think out-of-the-box. Even on my own mehndi many years ago when the norm was to only wear yellow, I wore light pink and silver. It was so unique.”
Who all looks after your business?
FG: I had asked my cousin’s wife, Aqueedat to join me in this. Since I am the designer, when it comes to numbers and accounts, I go crazy. I needed someone trustworthy, and so she handles the finances and I handle the design.
What were your greatest challenges?
FG: In a way every event is a challenge. Every person has their own likes and dislikes. I wouldn’t say that even my own family events are easy, because my mother is a difficult client to please. More than the financial gains it’s the appreciation that matters to me. So I would want everything to be nice and clients to be happy. Hence every event is a challenge for me.
How has it been like working with people in Lahore?
FG: Punctuality is a huge issue here. If the workers get laid back then I get anxious.
“In Lahore, people can be unprofessional. If I’ve made a commitment with a client then I have to get the ball rolling. Dealing with workers, karighars and sometimes their nakhras, can be challenging.”
Who’s been your rock through all of this?
FG: My mother! She’s always been there for me, she’s always been there to support me in every way. Even the name came from her. In 2005 I had just started my gift wrapping company off MM Alam Road. I was importing stuff from America. It was the first time I had introduced this concept; all co-ordinated gift wrapping, tissue paper and ribbon matched with one theme, and there were several different themes. That is what I had introduced. After that my son needed my time. I rolled back a year later and closed it. But the name remained alive.
Did you know there was a company called Peppermint Parties that might confuse people?
FG: I didn’t know there was a Peppermint Parties. From the time between I closed my gift wrapping shop, until two years ago when I started my events, so many companies sprang up. Honestly, I don’t enjoy doing a lot of birthdays. When people call us thinking we’re Peppermint Parties, I actually clarify and send the business back to them. But, when wedding clients started calling them by mistake, they actually began doing wedding decor.
What’s your speciality?
FG: What I would like to do more of is weddings. I like to make elaborate events. I like to glamorise and make events glitzy – for example, making golden glitter floors.
Which are the most popular bridal designers that you come across?
FG: A lot of my clients are either coming from Faraz Manan, Elan or Ali Xeeshan. And for make-up, I tend to recommend Amina Raja, Alle’nora, Mariam Khawaja and Ather Shahzad.
What was your area of study?
FG: I studied English Literature in detail as well as Art and Design as a subject.
How would you describe your personal style?
FG: Casually, I would like to dress up comfortably because I am always on the go. In the Summer, I like to dress light. For the first time finally, I know what each season is like. I have experienced each season because of my work outdoors and also because I have travelled so much for my work. Bottom line is, the dressing has to be very comfortable. Otherwise when I go fancy, I have a fetish for shoes and bags. In formals I love wearing Faraz Manan.
What are your favourite brands?
FG: In shoes especially, I love Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik.
Do you also do interiors?
FG: I like to do interior decorations. I had stepped in to do it for friends. Currently, I am doing my uncle’s house and we’ve recently done a baby’s room in Faisalabad. But it’s more like an extension of my work, upon people’s request. Honestly, I don’t get enough time off from my events now. So I structure my schedule, depending on what my priority is. Interiors are full time and so are my events. But my area of interest is events.
Have you taken after your father at all?
FG: I was doing social work and I still do social work. I was never into politics as such, nor do I have any plans. I have taken after him in the sense that he’s dedicated to his work. I definitely take that from him – the dedication!
FEATURE: AMIRA ZAIDI
PHOTOGRAPHS: ALI AGHA, COURTESY FIZA GILLANI