In a candid exclusive interview with Fashion Collection, the one and only Tariq Amin talks about his forty years in the world of fashion and styling, the journey that made him who he is now.
Fashion Collection: You studied business from Florida, so what made you transcend into styling and fashion?
Tariq Amin: I always wanted to be a portrait artist, but in the 80s Pathan boys didn’t become artists. My parents told me that you will only make money once you are dead. When you die then your paintings become expensive. So it started with makeup. I had painted my room with all these faces with makeup and my friend said, can you do my eye makeup like that? She was a makeup artist and then I got a job where she was working. I just went to one makeup class and it came just naturally to me. When you learn how to draw, you learn anatomy of the face, so that was a big big help. This was in 1983, so nobody knew about contouring, and this was in Florida.
FC: When did you decide to return to Pakistan?
TA: In 1983 I came back and started working at a salon as a hair and makeup artist behind Uzma Plaza in Clifton. I never considered this as a job, I consider this as art. I had the opportunity to work with the best photographers. This was the time when I was working in Karachi and fashion was fun. It is not fun anymore.
FC: Why not?
TA: Because it is all paid. There is no editorial voice left in it. Unfortunately everything is a paid thing. There are makeup artists everywhere. There are one kind of makeup artists who work with one celebrity. They don’t know what it is like to get up in the morning and go for a job. They don’t know what it is like to work in a salon. Any of these mainstream artists have never had a job and they are being promoted as a best artist by XYZ channel because they have their own shows, they have their own platforms and everything in house with them; in house designers, in house artists.
FC: Do you think our industry also encouraged that in a way?
TA: No, they have made fashion into a dhanda. Fashion is not fashion, it is entertainment. All these couture week and this week and that week, it is only for business. Everything is very standardized with absolutely nothing creative about it. The style died when we stopped doing work like this. We are great at copying. You show the kind of dress and the shoes you want and anybody would be able to copy that; same goes for hair styling too. But that would be mediocre work and I am not into that at all. I have always been the bad boy. I speak my mind and I don’t like it when my name comes in with others and then Tariq Amin. There will never be another Tariq Amin. There is just one Tariq Amin. I don’t have any filters and I speak the truth. A lot of people are very intimidated by that. They don’t like it. If something is cool, I say it cool. You need to have a voice. I come from a time when individuality was something that was stressed. You didn’t want to be like anybody else. The 80s allowed you to be who you are. It was the beginning of all the experimentation. It was the beginning of everything. Today, everybody has same lips, everybody has same bag and shoes. There is no individuality. Your ideals are these fake people which is not normal. Everything has changed so much. Nobody has the patience. I come from a time that we would get up at 4am in pitch darkness, do the makeup and shoot at the first light. And now everything is changed. That is why it is not exciting.
FC: Has variety spoiled us big time?
TA: Yes, because now you have ten thousand pictures to choose from. With this approach, everybody is a photographer, everybody is a makeup artist. Unfortunately because of that we all settled for mediocrity and we are quite happy with that. I am from the time when we had to work hard to get the result. You actually needed the talent, you actually needed the beauty, you actually needed good makeup artists to show good makeup. Now it seems that ghee is plastered on their faces. When I hire a makeup artist, I don’t tell them to do bridal makeup. I just give them a model and tell them to do a makeup on that. I have found good talent like that.
FC: You have worked with numerous models of the 80s, 90s and this era. What is the major difference that you see in them?
TA: Personality. Back in the day, there will never be another Aliya Zaidi, there will never be another Vinnie; those iconic models. These girls were not only educated, they were beautiful, smart, not like a doo-number uneducated model. We were all young and we were all friends and we had fun while creating style. We were having a lot of fun back then. There is no more fun now. Everybody is out there to backstab you. They can do everything and anything possible to pull your leg. I was young then, used to hang out, meet pretty girls and would tell them let’s put you on the ramp and make you a model. I cannot do that now. I am 60 now so I cannot that. I do not want to come across as a sleazy uncle to ask young girls if they want to become a model. Unfortunately now Covid happened and fashion just died in these three years, the shows stopped. Now there are odd shows here and there, but it is not fun. Fashion should be fun, in today, out tomorrow and then something new. Now it is so boring. Nobody’s clothes excite me anymore, especially the ones that you see at the bridal week and fashion weeks. They are just too weak. There are few designers but we don’t see any kind of designers who know a lot about the history and art of the bygone days. They are not into what they do. They are doing it because they are friends who is a star. One is with Mahira, one is with Sanam, one is with Ayesha Omar and they have their little boxes where they don’t work with anyone else. I would love to do a shoot with Mahira probably because I feel she would need a new look.
FC: Why would your customers continue to come to you?
TA: Because I spoil them. I treat them with respect. I treat them the way I would want to be treated if I go to them. When someone takes time with me, I am always on time and I give 100% of my attention to that visiting individual.
FC: What would be that one thing out of the blue that you have done?
TA: I have done so many music video. I am in Mr Fraudia, I have done channo, I am in dhamaj. I had a music recording company and have won lots of records.
FC: What has been your biggest achievement so far?
TA: I was the first one to get recognition of a credit for hair styling and makeup. I was the first stylist to win Lux Style Awards. I was the first one to win the Lifetime Achievement Award. There are lots of firsts that I have done. Something that changed my career was when I did Benazir Bhutto’s wedding makeup. That was big. My name appeared in Vogue magazine.
FC: Yes, in Forbes too as ‘The man with the Midas Touch.’
TA: You know I am not from this generation. I do what I do best.
FC: How do you see Pakistani consumers evolving?
TA: Pakistani consumers have gained knowledge over the years. You can buy knowledge but it is not necessary to have style. You can wear a Gucci dress and not being able to carry that dress. That is exactly what you see on a red carpet because an eighteen year old girl is telling them what to wear.
FC: What about competition?
TA: There is no camaraderie. There is no respect for each other. I don’t do that. If I like someone’s work, I would appreciate it.
FC: How has the trend changed in Pakistan?
TA: There is no trend in Pakistan. We have been aping the west. They just open a magazine and want that cut. I am from the time when we were interested in creating something. Look at the last ten years and you may not be able to tell the difference between one year and the other with the makeup and hairstyling. Back then, I would sit and design even something what a makeup artist would do.
FC: What has been the major contributor to upgrade the standards?
TA: People. When they travel abroad, they buy products and their awareness tells us what they want. They dictate us what we should have.
FC: If not a hair stylist, then what?
TA: I would be a rock star. I can sing and dance. I can actually rock.
FC: Three words that would describe you.
TA: Three words are not enough. So, original, hardworking, consistent, adventurous and I would add Malang.