“I always look at the good. I never think bad will happen and this positivity has really worked for me.” Indeed, the extremely talented and eager to learn Shafaq Habib has come a long way as a jewelry designer from where she started 35 years ago. She graduated with a degree in arts and textile designing but had no experience in jewelry making nor did she have formal training. However, her quest to learn about this technical art took her to various places in New York. “I used to go to diamond exchange in New York and would spend the whole day questioning the people there. They used to teach me techniques, tricks of the trade, that’s how I came to join classes there and learnt how to make jewelry.”
Back in 1981 when she formally started working on her first collection, there was no concept of jewelry designers. Her first exhibition was a complete sell-out, encouraging her to hold exhibitions all over America and once a year in Pakistan. People would look forward to her arrival because with her, would come an array of beautiful jewelry with unique pearls and designs. “Before I left America for good, I had the experience of designing for Lord and Taylor there,” she says with pride.
When Shafaq returned to Pakistan in the 90s, she had established a name for herself and had a strong client base. She started reviving the old techniques, using kundan and other ethnic designs. “Uncut stones in Pakistan were never used here before. I was the pioneer of using such pieces that too in bog sizes. I wanted to create abstract pieces that were different and were able to stand out. That changed the whole scene in Pakistan. I was the pioneer in Pakistan for jewelry designing I would say and began the concept of statement jewelry pieces.” With the help of her mother, she didn’t face trouble finding skilled workers who translated her ideas into reality. Over the years, other various competitors have joined this industry yet Shafaq continues to have successful exhibitions all over Pakistan and also has a flagship store in Lahore.
Maintaining a work life balance was extremely tough for Shafaq in USA, where she had no family support and had to run the complete show herself. She would work for long hours while she was at Lord and Taylor and soon realized her children are being neglected. That’s when she decided to choose between motherhood and work, where she gave preference to the former and curtailed her work. Many years down the road, she had no regrets about her decisions and her children have given her much to be proud of. “My eldest daughter Misha is a graduate from LSE London. She has also done a degree in jewelry designing from GIA institute and is working as a designer with me. My second daughter, Sahar, is a journalist, she went to University of Michigan and is now working in San Francisco. My son has done film making from University of San Francisco. I’m very glad they’re all artists. They’re into making the world a better place,” she says with a smile.
According to Shafaq, financial independence is very important. “Before my marriage my father used to give me money without me having to ask him ever. After I got married, I felt terribly embarrassed about asking my husband for money although he was very loving and supportive,” she says. “It’s very important that you never have to ask anyone to fulfill your personal needs and requirements.” She also adds that in addition to striving to earn financial independence, all young women should spend some time taking care of themselves and their skin. “Ever since my childhood, I have been using Pond’s cold cream. There’s barely any effort involved and it makes my skin look great!” she chuckles.
One year after she started working, Shafaq held her first exhibition at a doctor’s convention in Washington. Despite many people discouraging her and telling her no one will buy her jewelry, Shafaq went ahead with her instincts with faith in her talents. “One hour into the convention, no one came. My husband and I were a mixture of nerves and embarrassment,” she laughs. After a while, “people started coming and within a few hours I was sold out. People loved my pieces! The next morning everyone was after me for more stuff. That moment was great, I can’t forget that success.” This was her Miracle Moment and it motivated her to never let go of her dreams. Let’s take a leaf out of her books and not fall prey to discouragement. Shafaq Habib’s Miracle journey bears testament to the fact that faith is the key to success.