In Conversation with Emanuele Zamponi from Nina Neri

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Taskeen Zahra chats with Emanuele Zamponi – the creative head of Nina Neri about his love for Pakistan

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Emanuele Zamponi and I am from Milan, Italy. I am the creative head at Nina Neri and I graduated from the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti NABA. I travel a lot now but my journey started off as a student and then I went on to becoming a designer. I put all of my energy and passion into my work to making myself a global designer.

How do you think the fashion industry has changed globally?

Travelling a lot has given me the opportunity to discover new kinds of material. The discovery of new materials has opened a new world for fashion designers. Now there’s a lot more than just design to focus on – there are colours and textures to play with.

What made you want to come to Pakistan?

I came to Pakistan 15 years ago. It was a funny incident, actually. I remember working with someone who was a director of Pakistani origin. He suggested that I come visit Pakistan and see the brilliance myself. I remember when I first visited Pakistan, it wasn’t much of a success. But then, Sana, the CEO of Nina Neri, suggested I come back and try again. And I can safely say, that the collection we’ve put together is amazing.

What is the kind of response Nina Neri’s handbag collection has received globally?

To be honest, we offer worldwide shipping. And every time we have exhibited our collection in the United States and in Milano, customers have told us that what we’re offering is completely different. Our colours, our texture – all of it reflects purely of the Pakistani culture.

What was your idea behind working as the Creative Head of Nina Neri?

To be honest, every hand bag of ours tells a different story. And we aspire to let it reflect the positive side of Pakistan. And certainly, we want to show the world that there is so much that this country has to offer.

What do you love about Pakistan?

I absolutely love the greenery in Pakistan. The green colour found here, which is also a part of the national flag, is more rich than the colour found elsewhere. And I have a very close, personal relationship with Lahore – it’s safe to call it my second city, first being Milano, of course. Haha.

What do you love about Pakistani cuisine?

Oh, the Pakistani cuisine! Let me start with the mangoes here. When I first came here, I used to have mangoes at least twice in a day – and boy, my waist was not quite happy about that. HAHA. The food is so good here that I struggle with keeping an eye on the weighing scale. Also, those lamb chops that you cook in the ground, served with rice and the freshly cooked Naan and rotis – that comes out of those huge ovens – it is unbelievable! I love the chappatis made by hand. I eat everything here. Pakistan definitely has great food.

What do you love about working in Pakistan?

I love using colour whenever I design something. So when I came to Pakistan, I was astounded by the availability of bright and vibrant colours. So, I told Sana that I won’t be making the generic black, white and beige bags. Because I really wanted to put Pakistan’s beautiful colours to use. Yellow, Pink, Fuchsia and Turquoise – these are my colours. Also, the gold colour in Pakistan – it has a warm flame that is so special to me. I have failed to find such warmth in a gold colour anywhere else in the world. I took back these colours from Pakistan to Europe and I asked if these colours could be replicated here – I was told that these colours could not be replicated for they are true to their origin, Pakistan. And I use a lot of embroidery and thread, because that is very true to Pakistani culture.

Tell me two things that you’d always remember about Pakistan.

The Pakistani people and the country has taught me a lot. I see that there is a culture of water here. People use water very wisely and I plan on bringing my son here to make sure that he learns something from the Pakistani people. Also, the culture of the family is just incredible here. Everyone is so well-knit together – it’s one thing that us Europeans have certainly lost.

What is one memory/experience of Pakistan that you’ll remember?

The wedding parties in Pakistan. Long time ago, I attended a wedding in Pearl Continental Hotel and it was a lovely experience. The wedding functions here last so many days and the brides are beautifully dressed and laden with colour. I’ll always remember that imagery in my head.

How has Pakistan changed your sense of design?

The way that the Pakistani women accessories their clothes has helped me see things from a wider perspective. So now when I design bags, I think of a Pakistani woman and how she would carry her clothes with her accessories. This wider perspective has inspired me a lot.

What is your go to place for inspiration?

It’s the several magazines that I have in my office but mostly, it’s what I see and experience when I travel that inspires me the most. But for Pakistan, it’s the truck art. These trucks are so beautifully designed and full of colour. And even within, they carry so much of nature – potatoes, vegetables, bamboo sticks – all of this colour and movement is a major source of inspiration for me.

What is one thing you wish you could change about Pakistan?

I have visited the Walled City in Lahore – and I absolutely love it. I wish the people realize that they need to do more to preserve their culture and heritage.

What is a piece of advice you would give to the youth of Pakistan?

I would tell the talented youth of Pakistan that nothing is impossible. Have faith in yourself. You can achieve a lot by simply respecting your cultural values and traditions.

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