In conversation with Pretty Gilded.
Photography by Pretty Gilded.
Pretty Gilded – a gilded art form created by two entrepreneurial sisters from Hyderabad. They create paper products with modern and contemporary designs, infused with the touch of tradition. Their dazzling wedding invitation card would make you swoon more than your husband-to-be ever could! Dive into their world of luxury wedding stationery, branding and paper goods, and find out how they make every wedding pretty gilded!
See their full artist feature here!
Not once in our lives has Abbu ever said, “You’re girls, you can’t”, and that’s been key to helping us get where we are today.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What was life like growing up for you?
Growing up with Abbu for a dad has been pretty amazing (love you too, mommy!). From when I can remember, he’s always focused on us having a well-rounded life, and the one thing he’s been very particular about is learning everything in life, whether or not you decide to use it. So we’ve learnt horse-riding, swimming, pottery, badminton, art (a whole set of different art classes- we were persistent at finding faults with either the teacher or the class and he was persistent too, at constantly finding new ones), rollerblading, drama, golf…the list is endless (we like to joke that we are the jacks of all trades and the masters of none).
He also brought us up making us believe that we can do anything we set out to. Not once in our lives has Abbu ever said, “You’re girls, you can’t”, and that’s been key to helping us get where we are today. Reading is a habit our Mom incorporated into us at a very young age. One of my fondest memories of my childhood is Mom reading out loud to us (and very animatedly, at that) and Abbu putting us to bed with absolutely ridiculous bedtime stories. I think reading is key to creative development. Some of the most creative people I know are also avid readers.
What is a typical day in your life?
Once upon a time ago (a month ago, to be precise), I woke up in the morning, drank my mandatory huge cup of tea, finished some of the more boring household chores that come with being married and not having Mom around, and then got down to work. I responded to emails followed by a not-so-quick chat with Rashida about what needed to be done and the status of orders in print. We set out a schedule for the day and then I got down to work on current projects. My husband is a doctor currently pursuing his fellowship. With his odd hours, getting to work from home is a boon and absolutely essential for our work-life balance. On the days when he was scheduled to be home early, I tried to wrap up work during the day so we got to spend time together in the evenings. On the days when work was busy, I worked during the nights when he was happily snoring away. Fast forward to now. I have a little one-month-old monster, so a typical day involves juggling between trying to satiate this little monster’s hunger and then trying to recover from the chaos of the previous night. Just kidding, she’s absolutely adorable (Taha, if you’re reading this, don’t kill me- your daughter is adorable!). The struggle now is to get some work done- you will also now see me rushing towards my laptop like a crazy woman as soon as I manage to put her to sleep!
My day starts with me waking up super hangry! I get even hangry-er now, thanks to Husaina who keeps me up for at least three hours every night. So waking up early in the morning is tougher than it used to be. But work is work, so on print days, I drag myself out of bed, feed my hangry self and leave for the printers- with my Snackeez, of course (it’s a tumbler that holds a drink AND has space for snacks- quite literally my most prized possession)! Afternoons are spent designing, sending out drafts, emailing clients and stalking people online while I procrastinate. After maghrib, I go out for a run. It’s the one thing I keep at because it helps me clear my head and mostly because I absolutely enjoy it! I’m currently also taking up a weekend business class at the University of Hyderabad. Post-dinner, I spend a couple of hours binge-watching Pakistani dramas with Mumzy until Husaina decides it’s time to wake up and turn into the little tomato she is during the nights.
The tiny, mundane details of everyday life can be inspiring, if only we paid enough attention
Where does most of your inspiration come from?
Inspiration can be found all around you, depends on how you’re viewing the world. Sunlight reflecting off glass panes, the patterns raindrops leave behind, the changing shades of the ocean, the pop of colour after a light drizzle- the tiny, mundane details of everyday life can be inspiring, if only we paid enough attention.
I’ll give you an example. We went to Disneyland last year and I loved how the space was designed. As an architect, I was completely blown over by how a children’s theme park does not necessarily have to designed like the set of a cartoon show! The streets, the tiny stores, the landscaping- it was so subtly enamouring, made not just children but even adults fall in love with the place! This kind of subtlety in design is an inspiration.
We try to capture the essence of their personality and their relationship
What about your creative process? Could you take us through it?
When a client comes to us, we have an in-depth conversation with them about what they want. We also try to capture the essence of their personality and their relationship. Its one of the reasons why we love to do what we do because most clients become friends along the way. The two of us then sit together and brainstorm, and work on ideas until we arrive on something we both love. Sometimes it may take a day if we’re lucky, but sometimes it does take longer (we do have our days with artists’ block). We then go back-and-forth with the client till the design is finalised, following which, it goes into print!
That’s when I thought, “I think I can do this better!” and that’s how Pretty Gilded came to be!
Tell us more about Pretty Gilded Design. What inspired you to get into the business of paper goods?
While I always knew I wanted to venture into the creative field, I just couldn’t place a finger on exactly what it was. I finished architecture and decided it was definitely not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life! I couldn’t bear to sit at a desk in front of a computer and do a typical 9-5 job. I found the idea of that so depressing- I’m an intrinsically lazy person! I was scheduled to get married in December 2015, and I had started planning and prepping for it. I’ve always loved stationery and paper everything, so my invites were very important to me. Some people won’t attend your wedding, won’t see your decor, your outfit or your makeup, but they will receive your invite. I realised there wasn’t much out there that appealed to my taste and I was not impressed. That’s when I thought, “I think I can do this better!” and that’s how Pretty Gilded came to be! A few months later, I realised I needed help and asked Rashida (who was always the artsy one), to join. The rest, as they say, is history!
What would you be if you were not doing Pretty Gilded?
I don’t know, really. I’d love to be a food critic maybe, except I’d never get past the eating to the actual critiquing! Plus, exercise and I are not the best of friends (like I said, lazy lazy).
I’ve always wanted to be a barista at Starbucks because I looooove coffee. Or ride a golf cart around the golf club, seems like so much fun! Orrrr, oh oh, run a travel blog! Clearly, thank God for Pretty Gilded!
More than skill or talent, it’s passion that will really help you grow
What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs?
The most important piece of advice we would give would be to always be at it! The two of us are always constantly eating-thinking-sleeping Pretty Gilded! Everywhere we go, everything we see, our first thought is, “How can we use this to help our business?”. And that’s really important- more than skill or talent, it’s passion that will really help you grow.
Imaandari in vepaar is something Moula has always stressed on, and something Abbu has tried to drill into us from the very beginning
How has being a muminah influenced your business style?
The one thing we’re really particular about is honesty and transparency. We’ve had times when we incurred a loss because there were errors the printers made or damages that occurred during shipping; we’ve reproduced in both cases. When somebody trusts you just on the basis of your reputation, you want to maintain it. I think imaandari in vepaar is something Moula has always stressed on, and something Abbu has tried to drill into us from the very beginning. Also, with all the hate in today’s world, we don’t want anyone to have a bad experience with a mumin. We want to set ourselves apart and always want people to take back a great impression of our community.
Art helps you break the monotony of daily life
What made you decide to pursue the arts in a world that’s so driven by technology and science?
I’ve always enjoyed creative and intellectual freedom and the kind of freedom art gives you, that’s not possible to have in any technology or science-oriented field. You have no set boundaries and absolutely no limitations! I was always good at school, so I was being pushed towards engineering/medicine. But I hate being restricted to a schedule and to a set of rules, art helps you break the monotony of daily life.
I’ve always been inclined towards arts, I’ve never been someone who enjoyed studying, the typical average student. So I knew all along that wherever life took me in terms of my career choices, I would drift back towards art. And here I am- a physiotherapist turned graphic designer.
Every piece has a little piece of our hearts and souls attached to it
What is the best part about the artworks you create?
Every piece of stationery you see has a little piece of our hearts and souls attached to it. Spending weeks and months creating artwork and watching the artwork transform into an art-piece, from our computer screens into an actual printed product, is the most amazing feeling in the world! Also, when clients receive their goodies, the kind of love we receive is a feeling that’s hard to put into words. It definitely always makes our day!
The challenge for us is to read between the lines
What do you believe is a key element during the creation of these bespoke paper goods?
Understanding what the client wants and then using your own imagination and sensibilities to deliver something above and beyond their expectations, that is the key. Some clients have the vaguest design briefs and in certain cases, their briefs and what they have in mind are polar opposites. The challenge for us is to read between the lines, however blurred they may be.
As sisters, you also tend to be extremely forgiving of each other’s flaws
Many often cringe at the idea of a partnership, and so many today run a one-woman show. But it has worked out really well for your power sister duo. What are the upsides? Are the cons easy to overcome?
One of the greatest upsides is being brought up with the same set of principles. This is really crucial to running a business together because you’re always on the same page when it comes to making major decisions. As sisters, you also tend to be extremely forgiving of each other’s flaws. Plus when you’re at a point when you’re going to beat each other up, you always have the parents stepping in!
What can you absolutely not stand about each other?
Rashida is lazy and soooooo irritating! She takes procrastination to a whole other level. Oh and she’s always after my clothes, my shoes, my cosmetics, my jewellery, basically my life! We have to hide the company cards from her, or she’d spend all our money on food and get fat! *rolls eyes*
Sakina is bossy, annoying and sooooooooooo irritating. She almost always plays the older sister card, spends more money (buys expensive cosmetics and doesn’t even let me use them!) and acts like a know-it-all. She’s jabra, like on a whole other level!
We’re working on a series of general daily use stationery- lots of pretty stuff that’s hard to find in the market!
Is there a project you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
Oh, we have so many big plans and just not enough time! We’re really excited to launch an e-commerce model this year, through which, we’re looking to create a seamless, hassle-free, high-quality wedding stationery experience. We’ve also sometimes had people tell us we were a little expensive, so we’re working on a slightly simpler Basics range, but in our same trademark style- just more cost effective. Oh and we’re also working on a series of general daily use stationery- lots of pretty stuff that’s hard to find in the market! You can sense the excitement, we’re pretty excited.
Your favourite memory of Burhanuddin Maula and/or Mufaddal Maula. Their influence in your lives and business?
One of the reasons why home is my favourite place is because every room has a memory of Burhanuddin Maula RA attached to it, and it’s a constant reminder to be a person Maula would be proud of.
My most vivid and treasured memory of Mufaddal Maula TUS dates back to my misaaq. It was supposed to be on Burhanuddin Maula’s haath, but Maula ni tabiyat nasaaz hathi ane aap padhari gaya. I still remember how disappointed I felt (this was before the nas). I had tears in my eyes when I was told our misaaq would be Mufaddal Maula na haath par. But when I sat in front of Mufaddal Maula, Maula looked straight at me and smiled, in that moment I could feel all my disappointment fade away. The next day, we were called and told that Burhanuddin Maula had called us for qadambosi at Saifee Mahal! And that day, I got qadambosi thrice! Each time I tried to get up, Maula would put his haath mubarak forward again. It felt like Maula knew how disappointed I had been. I was so ashamed for being disappointed, I should have known Maula had so much more in store for me. After that, I’ve accepted every decision Maula has made for me with zero hesitation.