New York-based Pakistani designer Sundus Shaheryar is focused on bringing high quality textiles and materials to her work. After graduating from Parsons The New School for Design, she has released her thesis project as a fashion collection called “The Porcelain Muse” under her own fashion line. The collection has already found fans in major stylists like Mimi Cuttrell and Tara Swenenn.
Kajal sat down with the young designer to discuss her collection and the striking handbags at the center of the line.
Kajal: What was the motivation behind this collection?
Sundus Shaheryar: “The Porcelain Muse” is my first collection and it was developed as part of my thesis during my time at Parsons The New School for Design. I wanted to celebrate the perpetual spirit of the human soul, that enables those who suffer with the extraordinary ability to find light in the deepest of darks. My art is a tribute to all women who silently fight their inexplicable battles under the veneers of their calm.
I have been a quiet sufferer, a silent observer, and inaudible relator to the sufferings. I discovered in myself the ability to see beyond the facade of projected personalities. Throughout college, leather had been my focus and had become one of my specialties. I have devoted a large portion of my education into understanding and working with the material so naturally, for my debut collection, leather became my choice of further exploration. In wanting to challenge myself and my skills, I developed a signature leather pleat with artisans in Florence which raises the complexity of garment construction. There’s a strong focus on precise tailoring as I present a range of polished, monochromatic, statement looks, each one a narrative of the lives of my muses. Each look is intended to be worn as is, a complete look.
For me the collection really pivots on the molded face handbags. What inspired them? How were they made?
The face handbags are a tribute to the calm, collected, fighting, steady, determined, and beautiful women who do not allow their afflictions to become their inhibitions. Their steadiness in face of adversity. Their contentment and humility in the face of jubilation. [This] has made them balanced, moderate, enlightened. These bags humbly celebrate their stoic. These bags are symbolic.
I started life casting the faces of my muses and then rendering them in sculptor’s wax. Once in my hands, these face wax sculptures felt like an inanimate accessory that one carries with them, outside the house, before coming home and putting it aside. What’s a stronger reference of our identities, other than our faces, carried in the palm of our hands? From there onwards, it was a matter of finding the right material. I chose porcelain, known for its considerable strength, and beauty, much akin to how I perceived my muses. Each face requires its own custom-made frame to fit the shape of the unique face size of each woman. Hence, each porcelain face mask was first 3D scanned to model in 3D, a custom frame to fit the contours of each face which was then casted in metal, gold plated, lined with leather and assembled here locally in New York City. The process took over 8 months in prototyping and execution.
What would you say is the overall message of your design work?
My work is material but not limited to object. For example, the porcelain face is a destination, a reflection, and a promise. Destination because it is the journey that ordinary dust made as it transitioned from clay to stone. Reflection because the clean, untainted porcelain is a canvas that mirrors these women. You can look into it and find your face, your story and your strength. Promise because at the end of the struggle and pain, you have the promise of strength, peace and beauty just like porcelain, molded in heat, under pressure to one day itself become resistant to heat.