“At Zunn, perfection is a habit, not an attitude.”
OK! meets with the dynamic team, who dared to dream a space that steers away from the business of retail lifestyles, yet grows by leaps and bounds into a multi dimensional, award-winning design house.
Alived in home will create spaces for the stories that will emerge. The House of Zunn will tell this story, about the day two friends found the strength through each other to pursue their passion and decided to start sharing their creative process. Starting out as a small workshop, today their studio is a one stop design solution powerhouse, defining residences with luxury and dressing up their clientele to sculpt out the best version of themselves. Uzma Mirza and Seema Sherazee discovered they could make people feel at home by sharing a sincere aesthetic. Their business grew within a couple of years of its start up; they expanded from fashion into lifestyle and an in-house product manufacturing facility, with an outlet expansion into the posh neighborhood of Jumeirah in Dubai and a thriving design studio in Karachi. The internationally acclaimed fashion and lifestyle design brand is an inspirational passion play. Their sensitivity towards detail, luxury and aesthetic has become a signature attribute, apparent across the board, both in their Karachi and Dubai based outlets. It’s a whirlwind, with the works in progress, on display, the design and management process. Yet, at the House of Zunn there is always time for a cup of tea and a conversation.
How did the House of Zunn start?
House of Zunn: The beginning was an extension, really, of the way both of us navigated within and around each other’s lives. Both Seema and I were very creative, we remain perfectionists and we believe in beauty. It started with an exhibition after we designed our own homes, and within a year we were running two parallel businesses, fashion and lifestyle. When we were designing our own spaces, we wanted the best and that led us to the back alleys of Karachi where we discovered the craftsmen or collectors of one off pieces. That really got us started, since we would be looking for antique pieces in some nook and cranny in the back alleys of Karachi and once we found them, it had to be refurbished and done exactly according to our tastes. Even when there was an art piece commissioned, there were times when I would sit with the artist and work out the process. There was always a vision, an imagination that went into making that piece.
“We both enjoyed everything we did and we loved each other’s company we never made a big deal though about what we were doing, it was doing what we loved.”
What are the dynamics of the partnership? Does it affect your personal interaction?
HoZ: Our friendship has become stronger, it’s more of a marriage actual. For better or worse, especially when we are working together. There are a lot of good and bad times but there is a sense of implicit trust that remains beyond our personal egos. The decisions made as partners are collective, as opposed to an independent self serving approach. Also, both of us have our own ways of looking at situations that compliments the process. One of us will look at the finer details and the other will be assessing the holistic aspect, yet we keep each other’s perspectives in mind and respect them. There has never been a clash since we have managed to learn from each other. Our personalities are different but our aesthetics are very similar. We can trust each other blindly and we have never let our personal lives be affected by our work.
Both of you are business graduates, how does that factor into Zunn being a design house?
HoZ: I feel this made me more of an all rounded person. Both of us are very creative, in fact, I wanted to go to design school but in retrospect I am glad I didn’t. I feel that my business degree helped me combine my creativity and my business education into one and now it has been 18 years and House Of Zunn is still going strong. Also, there are misconceptions about working women. Even though we have always given our hundred percent to all facets of our lives, our education has instilled a discipline that we now implement across the board. Even the most talented person needs structure, hardwork, a schedule to be successful. In order to make anything work you have to take on the responsibility of life. There is a time and space for creative thought process and then there is the commitment you have to yourself and to the client when a project has to be delivered. It’s respecting the discipline that makes anything productive. You need to structure your schedule, it’s a lot of hard work. That is where the business education comes in.
“Every project at the House of Zunn is an interaction, not a transaction and that becomes a huge part of the way we operate.”
What is the original vision that encapsulates House of Zunn?
HoZ: Anything we do, it has to be a hundred percent. Personally we have set our own standards high always and we’ve never settled for anything but the best. We are perfectionists. This flowed into our professional lives too. We don’t compromise on our children, relationships, friends and the fact that we are part of a context where we want to live up to our expectations for the people we love. This holds true for our work as well. And as partners we manage to find that balance with each other since we share a perspective that makes us look at life on a broader scale. The values, the ethics, the way we look at things – we see life on a large spectrum. The small things then stop mattering. We set our own bars.
How did the scale of operations grow into the power house Zunn is today?
HoZ: People started asking us for “the Zunn way”, which later became our slogan. We dedicated ourselves to our craft and we learned every aspect of our work. We never shied away from hard work. House Of Zunn was a dream that became a reality by pure hard work, ingenuity and being perfectionists. We wanted to do it the right way. The clients who came to us saw our passion and dedication to our craft and word spread. Clients came to us from far and wide. Before long we were the go to Design Studio and this was a time when social media didn’t exist and PR wasn’t really a thing. Things were very different 18 years ago. We have never had the time to do much PR, publicity or advertisements. We never needed to.
What is the Zunn way, then?
HoZ: There is a lot of feeling in the Zunn way. It’s passion, it’s perfection, it’s innovation, it’s comfort, it’s customization, it’s customer satisfaction, it’s creativity, it’s the detail to design. All of this combined and balanced is the Zunn Way.
We make the client feel that they are a part of the entire design process, which results in every project being an interaction rather than a transaction.
The material used in the products, how do you ensure sustainability given the local climate and usage?
HoZ: We got into manufacturing only because we wanted to ensure quality control and meet deadlines. We educated ourselves every step of the way. We learned everything about the materials we were using for our products. A lot of research and expertise went behind it. We have always stood confidently by each and every piece that we have designed and delivered. We also have a very strong after sale service.
The design process; is it collaborative or do you oversee each design project?
HoZ: The entire team at Zunn comes home to work here. But first they have to be trained in a collaborative environment. I want them to live up to their potential and when I see that they understand the Zunn Philosophy, they are given the freedom to handle projects independently as well. It is a team effort since we are always overseeing every Zunn project.
Who is the House of Zunn woman then?
HoZ: The Zunn woman is someone who believes perfection is a habit not an attitude in every facet of her life.
Do the clients share their life stories with you?
HoZ: Customization was one of the many reasons clients started opening up to me. We would talk over coffee and they would share their personal stories, never gossip though! This established a bond, an unspoken trust had developed and by hearing their stories I understood what they needed better and this resulted in a connection being struck between us. Most of our clients still keep in touch. I will receive a message here, a call there and they just give me updates on their lives. I have met some wonderful people through my work, some of whom have become friends.
Favourite style icon?
The most beautiful thing you have?
HoZ:A video montage my son put together for my birthday. It’s a collection of messages from all my closest friends and family.
Favourite piece in Uzma/Seema’s house?
HoZ:An heirloom that was in Seema’s family, she shared it with me. It’s a piece of the fabric that covers the Kaaba.
Describe each other in one word?
Most valuable mentorship advice?
HoZ:“At Zunn, perfection is a habit not an attitude.”
The Zunn way?
HoZ:Passion, honesty and perfection
House of Zunn’s mantra?
How does your team describe you?
HoZ:Power House. Perfectionist. Creative Genius. Down to Earth. Humble. A genuine mentor. Transparent. Friendly. Committed. Brings out the best in all of us.
HoZ:To change the misconception that women can’t do it all.
INTERVIEW: AMNA IQBAL
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY HOUSE OF ZUNN