Inspired by her native culture, Erum Mirza designs one-of-a-kind, handcrafted gowns.
When you step into Erum Mirza’s Frankenlust Township home, you’ll see the fusion of style that the Pakistani fashion designer channels into her custom-made clothing.
Carved wood tables set the tone of the home’s décor and a delicate stand of fresh fruit tarts and chocolate truffles are a nod to Mirza’s native culture. The lush rugs, the soft curve of the seating, and the occasional piece of art flow throughout the home as fluidly as her handcrafted gowns, which hang on a dressmaker’s stand in a corner.
“I was always fascinated by the craftsmanship,” Mirza says of clothing created by artisans in her native country of Pakistan. “People would work 100 hours on one outfit. The beading, the stitching, and everything [is] done by hand. For me, they are my inspiration.”
Mirza turns to those artisans still, sending her custom clothing designs to Pakistani dressmakers to be made into outfits using exotic fabrics. While she calls her venture Pret a Porter, it’s a misnomer of sorts, at least until her sons grow older and she returns to a retail operation. Rather than producing ready-to-wear clothing, as the name suggests, Mirza meets with customers to create every unique piece. Each finished item of clothing generally costs between $70 and $400, depending on the fabrics and intricate handwork involved.
Mirza’s interest in designing clothes for special occasions has led to wedding and event planning, studio photography, and a degree in fine arts. Soon, she will bring all of her interests together in a Great Lakes Bay Region expo celebrating different cultures from around the world.
“When I was young, I would design clothes for my cousins’ weddings,” Mirza says. In the process of clothing them for their special day, Mirza “connected with what I consider my first priority, my family, and now my children, Ahmed and Zayd.”
When she’s not volunteering at her sons’ school, Mirza might piece together a sindhi topi, a traditional boy’s cap with a signature cutaway at the forehead. Her design includes tiny mirrors worked into the tight weave, framed with intricate needlework.
She’ll craft seven different fabrics, from pastel raw silk to deep red velvet, into a tunic she wears over a pair of gold tights when attending official functions with her husband, Dr. Muhammed Mirza.
“It’s like a puzzle,” she says, referencing the piecing together of her multi-textured designs. And while technology brings the international marketplace to her living room, allowing her to purchase the fabrics her dressmakers will use, Mirza misses visiting the different vendors in Karachi, Pakistan, and holding the latest fabrics in her own hands.
Since moving to the United States in 2004, Mirza strives to keep her worldview alive. She travels with her family often, visiting different countries and getting a taste for their food, art, and architecture.
Mirza credits her hometown of Karachi, a bustling seaport that has grown into Pakistan’s most populous metropolitan city, for giving her the international style inspiration that she mixes with tradition to create her custom clothing designs.