It’s after work hours at Tariq Amin’s salon in Avari Hotel in Lahore. A few of his employees are packing up and getting ready to leave.
Dressed in a green and black batik print shirt and matching Bermuda shorts, with his signature thick-framed glasses perched up on his nose, Amin calls out; “Children? All done?”
An employee responds in the affirmative. Just an hour earlier, the now quiet salon was a cacophony of hairdryers, Amin’s scissors snipping away, music, and the chatter of clients.
One can tell it has been a long day for Pakistan’s legendary makeup artist and stylist but as always, he’s chatty, warm and hospitable.
No stranger to the world of fashion in Pakistan, Amin’s work – spanning four decades – has left an undeniable mark on the birth and journey of Pakistan’s fashion industry.
From launching some of the country’s most beautiful faces, standing as the sole makeup artist from Pakistan at Paris Fashion Week in 1997, giving a makeover to the cabin crew of Pakistan’s national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), in 2016, to being featured in Vogue and some of the biggest local and international publications, Amin has singlehandedly paved the way for generations of Pakistani stylists and makeup artists since the start of his career in Karachi, in 1983.
“In the 80s no Pakistani boy became a hairdresser. It was not the done thing to do after college,” states Amin. “I’ve had a lot of firsts in my early years; I was the first person to get credit in a magazine in Pakistan, and also a lot of firsts when it came to scouting for talent,” Amin says. “I mean that’s what I’ve been doing for forty years – find a rough diamond, add some polish, present it to the world and once they’re shining bright, you say c’est la vie and look for the next one!”
Unapologetically quirky and armed with a whip-smart sense of humor, nothing escapes Amin’s attention. “I speak my mind and get into trouble for it. I’m the guy who’ll tell you that you have something stuck in your teeth.”
Never one to shy away from personal and professional hurdles, Amin believes it’s his will-power – which he believes comes from his parents – that has carried him through.
“I’ve always been a doer. I’ve seen my father make it and lose it so many times as a businessman.”
A rebel who takes pride in the fact that he has never once played by the rules of family or society – Amin reveals that he’s always been self-critical to spur him to better himself and his work over the years.
“I self-reflect a lot and I’ve always looked at myself as competition,” he states candidly, “I try to learn something new every day, whether it’s related to work or related to life…if I don’t learn something, I feel it’s a bad day.”
A self-confessed outlier, Amin half-jokingly states that he’s an “original,” not “one of the many clones” in Pakistani fashion. And while on paper Amin may come across as stuck-up, he’s quite the opposite in real life.
With a proclivity towards giving back in any way he can – be it supporting young talent, backing causes and doing freebies with abandon, Amin has a heart of a marshmallow which he reserves for just about anyone who crosses his path.
“To be a stylist you need to know fashion and art history inside and out. You need to know what’s a box pleat, an empire line, a cinched waist, etc., on your fingertips. I’ve constantly educated myself throughout my career,” Amin states, revealing that he once sat for an exam for stylists in Chicago.
“These days it’s all about the followers. The whole industry has changed. I once did makeup tutorials for Sunilk twenty years ago, well before Instagram. Makeup needs to look like it’s part of your skin and not a mask on top of your skin. Otherwise it’s prosthetics. People need to discover what looks good on them and not on their idol.”
But what then is beauty to Pakistan’s iconic makeup artist? How does he define it?
“For me, beauty is simplicity. Beauty is a washed face. I’m a naturalist. Now don’t get me wrong, I love makeup, I love products and I love making people look beautiful – but I just don’t like what they’re doing to women these days because they don’t look like women anymore! I mean, 40 layers of this, 50 layers of that…are you kidding me? Brides in Pakistan today look like the groom’s mother. Who wants to looks like a little cupcake on her wedding? Who?”
Currently running his salons in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad (where he’s based), the father of two spends his time traveling back and forth to his studios, but enjoys his off time the most. Especially when he’s at home with his family, his twelve cats and the apple of his eyes: a Shih Tzu called Chloe.
Having traveled the world, worked hard, partied hard, rubbed shoulders with celebrities and royalty, Amin has left no stone unturned. And he wouldn’t have had it any other way. But now, the 59-year-old wants nothing more than peace and the opportunity to do as much as he can for the younger generation.
“After 40 years of work you’ll never hear anyone say Tariq burnt my hair,” he laughs with abandon towards the end of the interview.