Meet Saher Qadir: the brains behind ‘eSQue’ (pronounced ‘esk’), the latest entrant to Karachi’s burgeoning furniture scene.

Having received a bachelor’s in Furniture Design and Art History from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Saher is more than qualified to transform your mundane space into an enthralling environment that will mesmerize friends and family alike, and will certainly leave them wondering: “Where did that piece come from?” “Who was it designed by?”

In an exclusive interview with The Karachiite, the young entrepreneur shared some thoughts on her debut venture:

“My creations are radical and ‘out there’. When I thought (about) eSQue, I thought about what all is available around me? After working for various other designers, I realized that I wouldn’t get to implement my designs due to their primitive thinking. Everything in Pakistan is very standardized, for example a table is just a table; but for me a table is not simply a table, furniture is more than form and function, its art, its sculpture, its practicality. That’s where I derive my creativity from and what ultimately lead to the inception of eSQue,” she added.

“eSQue is my aesthetic identity. My eccentric, dramatic personality is in all my designs. My furniture is theatrical!”

What inspires you?
I am inspired by many things; Baroque architecture, modern architecture, the whole spectrum ranging from Romanesque buildings to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. I see funky clothes and draw inspiration from trending fashion. I find inspiration in landscape and mountains, from what is man made to what is natural.

Why furniture design?
I used to paint, but then I realized that I wanted create art in 3D. To create a functional item that is artistic as well. Anyone can make ‘just furniture’.

Describe what sort of items you would make…
Every item must stand out in its own right. Whenever I see something in my mind’s eye, I need to produce it.  In Pakistan people find it hard to break away from the norm. I have always been different and thus my work speaks for itself. While everyone is thinking either A or B, my mind is saying Q.

How many of your designs are ‘East meets West’?
Quite a few actually, I am motivated by what I have grown up seeing in Pakistan and then of course through my travels and time at college. These inspirations come together in different ways as I go through the creative process and result in a piece which can be a bit of both worlds.

What makes you different?
I just saw a raw tree bark that could be used a thousand different ways. If a pedestrian was to come across it on the sidewalk, he wouldn’t even give it a second glance. I see it as a canvas of endless possibilities.

So how do you start your process?
I spend most of my time brainstorming; researching, sketching and drawing on AutoCAD to make sure the ergonomics are spot on. Then I picture the item in a room; create mood boards of the polish and material before physically going into the market to find the hidden jewels and raw material for what I really want to create.

It must be tough dealing with contractors?
Initially for my designs many ‘Karigars’ (Carpenters) would throw up their hands and run away. I would have to physically sit with them and show them how to do the polishing, welding and so on. Each item must be executed like I envisioned it and so I have to be a part of this process every step of the way.

That must be quite challenging, no?
The difficulty in Pakistan is that everyone wants to take a short cut. They are lazy and always late, willing to compromise on quality, time and time again. When it comes to eSQue, carpenters can’t get away with it because I physically do everything myself and oversee the entire process alongside my studies. The biggest challenge for me is dealing with the workers and trusting them with what I consider to be my life. That is why I help my carpenters daily in achieving the level of precision that I expect from my brand.

What about the competition, do you feel pressured making a mark?
Local reputable brands do not deter me. They have established their own style and are doing what they want to. I don’t feel challenged by anyone when it comes to my design’s aesthetic, quality of work, and hands on approach.

What is your vision?
My dream has always been to make furniture that has never been produced in this country. To make people appreciate its art and beauty alongside the function. I want to first start with my first store which I plan to open within a year.  From there I would like at least one of my statement pieces in as many homes as possible.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see eSQue stores opening across Pakistan, Dubai and London.  I want to employ as many people as I can. However, I don’t just want it to be another money making business. I want it to be the renaissance of Pakistani furniture design encouraging people to appreciate new and radical designs. Pakistan has great potential and talent but just needs the right direction. I want to use my skills and knowledge to rekindle the stagnant industry; which has already successfully managed to penetrate the idea of form, function, and art as furniture in every household.

SQ is no ordinary talent…with her innovative thinking, risqué designs, maniacal method and disciplined work ethic; she could very well be the right person to take Pakistan’s furniture design industry to the next level!