Durrah Aman meets the iconic stylist, Tariq Amin, for a tête-à-tête at his salon in Avari Hotel, Lahore – a space buzzing with life and character.
It was a bright, sunny day in Lahore, when my team and I made our way to Tariq Amin’s salon. The space has an alluring pull. Brimming with character, it’s a true representation of the iconic stylist’s appeal; this is where the magic happens, yet it’s warm and inviting. Soon, we were greeted by the man himself, Tariq Amin welcomed us with the warmest of smiles. His aura and presence are larger than life, yet there’s a certain calmness to him that makes him seem approachable and devoid of pomposity.
I continued to look around; the walls are covered with countless images of his work over the decades, transporting one into Tariq Amin’s world. Observing the pictures, I couldn’t help but admire his years and years of hard work and unyielding passion. “I like my own vibe.” He told me. “Instead of fancy chandeliers and velvets, I prefer to have clean edges that don’t catch dust or hair. We’re just that kind of a salon.”
Amidst his many memories, he keeps the influence of his parents closest to his heart. In fact, he credits his creative instincts and eye for beauty to them. His face lit up as he shared how his mother’s impeccable elegance and extensive travels (due to his father’s profession as a hotelier) became the bedrock of his own aesthetic. However, you need more than just style and originality for a successful career. “I’ve held a very high standard of service throughout my career to be able to deliver. You don’t become Tariq Amin on a whim. You have to be professional and always think ten steps ahead.” So how exactly would a seasoned stylist and revered fashion icon define beauty? “Beauty is a washed face,” he said.
Meeting him made me understand why he’s considered to be the indisputable ‘ustaad’ and ‘guru’ by those in the profession. Starting his career in 1983 from ‘Shaheens’, a premier salon in Karachi, today, Tariq Amin needs no introduction. One of the pioneers of Pakistan’s beauty and fashion industry, he truly made his mark by setting new standards for style, fashion and grooming. He’s reached the pinnacle, but he’s not done yet. In my conversation with him, I set out to uncover the secret behind his success and unwavering commitment to his craft, his take on Pakistan’s fashion industry today, along with getting a glimpse into his personal life.
Dressed casually and completely in his element, Amin was as cool as a cucumber, getting a manicure, as I asked him to start from the beginning and tell me how his career began over four decades ago. “I was just at the right place at the right time. I was accompanying a friend to Shaheens, a premier salon in Karachi, where he wanted to get a haircut. They were unable to accommodate him due to it being a busy day, so I stepped in and offered to give him the service. 24 hours later, I was working with Shaheen. In our field, luck comes in play a lot.”
In an industry where conformity is often the norm, Tariq Amin has created his own league. “I’ve always been a rebel,” he confessed, as he talked about continuously doing his own thing. “I keep my personal and my professional lives separate from one another. I decided a very long time ago that I don’t want to be in a race with anyone.” With a self-assured demeanor, he reflected on his journey, stating that his constant pursuit of perfection is not driven by external pressures, but by a relentless desire to surpass his own limits. Having sat for an exam for stylists in Chicago, USA, he was motivated to educate himself throughout his career.
While taking a walk down memory lane, we rewind back to 1997, when Tariq Amin represented the country at the coveted Paris Fashion Week as the sole makeup artist for Nilofer Shahid’s show. “We were sandwiched between the world’s greatest fashion designers, makeup artists and stylists, but I’d say it was an experience of a lifetime. It was the real deal- the pressure, the glamour and the memories- it’s something that I can never forget.” As someone who knows the fashion world inside out, he draws an interesting comparison between the industry at home and abroad. “Our fashion weeks are quite weak. We’ve ruined their essence by shifting their purpose from business to pure entertainment. I did Islamabad Fashion Week for about three years and we were able to put Islamabad on the world map by attracting buyers from across the globe. But unfortunately, that’s also turned into a social event now.”
Among his other notable achievements is teaming up with Pakistan’s national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), in 2016, to give a makeover to the cabin crew. “It was an absolute honor for me to give the crew a makeover. I held master classes in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad to train the whole crew and gave them a very simple look that would reflect our culture. It did improve the overall look of PIA.”
Another milestone in Tariq’s career that he’s recognized for is getting his name printed in Vogue magazine when he did Benazir Bhutto’s wedding makeup. “It catapulted my career, and I was booked for years in advance!” Talking further about his experience transforming BB as a bride, he shared, “It was an honor beyond words. She was absolutely charming and beautiful. I have amazing memories from that day. I would have loved to have an opportunity to do her daughter, Bakhtawar’s makeover on her wedding as well.”
While on the topic of bridal makeup, I learned a quintessential Tariq Amin bride is always understated. “Old-school is the way to go on your wedding. I’m not for layers of makeup and 3D lashes. A bride must look fresh and innocent, not like the mother of the groom.”
Shifting the conversation, we discussed the first music video he styled for Vital Signs. “They were all old friends. Junaid, Rohail, Rizwan, we all grew up together. We’re buddies till today.” I asked him further about the times he’s dabbled in acting. Famous for his on-screen appearances in popular music videos like “Channo” and “Khamaj,” he told me about his desire to explore the world of acting more, but only as long as he’d be remembered as a positive character. “I’m a funny guy, but the roles offered to me are dark and negative so I end up declining them.”
Moving on to his personal life, Tariq shared that his idea of relaxing is to be home with his family. “I’ve been happily married for thirty-four years. My wife has always been by my side as a pillar of support. Marrying her was the best thing I did. Together, we have two beautiful children, eleven cats and a Shih Tzu. We’re all very close.” He added that he hopes for the same kind of unity for Pakistan’s fashion industry as well. “Our country’s situation is not doing the beauty industry any good and everyone has an ego as big as my waist! We have a lot of potential, but we should be more cohesive and united to make things easier for upcoming artists.”
With an air of wisdom, acquired through years in the spotlight, he reflected on the spectrum of opinions that have surrounded his persona. From immense praise to unwarranted criticism, he acknowledges the full gamut of sentiments regarding him. He shared, jokingly, “we would be sitting here for hours if I start telling you the things I’ve heard about myself in all these years!” Despite being a veteran with countless accolades to his name, Tariq Amin did admit feeling he isn’t given the recognition he rightfully deserves; not giving due credit to local trailblazers, he feels, is a trend quite prevalent in our country. “I stepped in this industry when it was uncool to be a hairdresser or a stylist. The problem is that we don’t create our own icons, we keep idolizing others. I’ve been doing this for 40 years now and honestly, I’m not regarded enough.”
Regardless of roadblocks and disappointments though, Tariq Amin has always been a step ahead with unparalleled will and focus- traits that make him the inspirational personality he is today. He’s charted a path of mentorship and empowerment within the industry by launching some of the country’s most recognizable faces. He spoke about his resolve to encourage new talent and being a catalyst for countless careers. “I love to look for raw talent, polish it and voila,” he continued, “even though times have changed, it is still one of the things I enjoy the most.”
Discussing current mainstream trends, Amin believes there’s a severe lack of originality. “There’s a lot of copy pasting going on now. We’re spending budgets in places we don’t need to.” Amin’s views resonate as a call to creators for authentic narratives that can breathe new life into an industry that’s in dire need for fresh perspectives.
As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked him which characteristics of his he cherishes the most. “What I love about myself is that I’m original, loyal and honest. I also have boundless passion for my work. I’m obsessed with hair, and I’m obsessed with making people feel good about themselves. It gives me the kick to get up every morning.”
Tariq Amin’s story is a testament to the enduring power of self-belief, inventiveness and relentless dedication, embodying the very essence of a true frontrunner. His legacy serves as a guiding light for aspiring stylists and fashion enthusiasts.
Team Mindful envisions the next Sitara-e-Imtiaz for Tariq Amin in recognition of his forty years of exceptional service to Pakistan.