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Spotlight: Return of the native

September 02, 2012

After a hiatus from the style scene in Pakistan, Saima Rasheed Bargfrede returned recently and caused quite a stir. She had carved a niche for herself in the make-up industry when it was in its fledgling years through sheer hard work, becoming the leading beautician within a few short years.

When Images on Sunday approached her on her work-related visit to Karachi last month, she seemed visibly excited and somewhat overwhelmed by the media response. Married to a diplomat who is posted in a different country after every four years, Saima says it’s fun to explore other countries. “But I love it here. I miss the food, culture, and although I enjoy being in Belgium where my husband is posted at the head office of the European Union, one’s country is one’s country at the end of the day. I cherish the past, not regretting anything. Leaving Pakistan was a challenge and 22 years experience as a beautician is enough to instill confidence, so I knew what I was getting into.”

When her husband, Thorsten Bargfrede, had to move to Kenya in 2007 from Islamabad, Saima also starting working in Nairobi as a freelance hair and make-up artist. “I did photo shoots for magazines and took classes teaching beauty courses. Life was good but a bit scary at the time when we were there because of the deteriorating law and order situation. Once, dacoits broke into our house, took all our valuables and kidnapped us. My little daughter was in the next room, but thank God they didn’t go there. They pushed us out of the car somewhere in the countryside hours later, taking our car with them. Usually they kill you or ask for ransom money but luckily they let us go. My only concern was my baby at the time, of what would happen to her if we were killed!”

Being married to a European results in a clash of cultures, says Saima. “We met in Islamabad where he was posted to monitor the earthquake, and hit it off right away. After dating for three months we got married and had a nikah ceremony. A year later we shifted to Kenya. He is the typical German, very polite and cool, whereas I am loud and fiery in my views. Cooking and fashion are his hobbies and we both love travelling. But what I admire in him is his respect for his parents and my parents as well. Our five-year-old daughter is a perfect blend of both of us in looks and personality, the middle point in every way. She is the anchor in our lives. The balance is working out perfectly for us,” she says.

In Europe, Saima’s goal is to achieve their standards which are pretty high. Belgium has a lot of French influence as it is a leader in fashion and make-up trends. The top places to learn from, she says, are London and Paris along with a few other European cities.

Saima’s visit to Pakistan was courtesy a professional hair and colour styling product company. “I am also taking about 10 people under its umbrella to Poland for a workshop to learn new techniques in art and style, including cuts and colour in the near future. You’ll be amazed at the levels achieved in haircuts and creativity in Europe and the Far East. Asia has a different style with China, Japan and Thailand being more graphic, focusing on very stiff movement in hair, whereas European styles are softer, desirable and more romantic.”

She says she is impressed by the fashion weeks and growth in the glamour industry along with the latest brands in make-up and clothing of the West available here, but insists there is a need to change the approach to styling of clothes and make desi more trendy, going along with the human evolution of creating and recreating. “We don’t let go of certain things here. Why spend so much on wedding joras which brides won’t wear again? Brides can still look pretty wearing something less costly. They should spend money on something that is necessary,” she says.

Her plans for the future include a visit to Karachi every three months to conduct workshops which, in turn, will help her to become a global make-up artist, adding to her portfolio.

She says she found Karachi a changed, modern city, but certainly nothing like the ‘dark heart of Pakistan’ as stated by Time Magazine on its cover. “It is a thriving place with a lot of potential. We just need to change a few things to make this a better and safer country.”