Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Love to love you baby

Updated 30 Mar, 2019 10:15am
Fashion entrepreneur, Andleeb Rana, in profile.

This article was first published in November-December 2009.

It is impossible to ‘like’ Andleeb Rana. You will either ‘love’ her, or ‘hate’ her; there is no middle ground. This is rather a lot like Rana’s radical views on people, places and things – she either loves them or doesn’t care about them at all, but rarely will she ‘sort of’ like or dislike something or someone.

Rana is young – 32 years old (she may hate me for mentioning her age in print) – but she has fit quite a lot of work into these years. Her laundry list of accomplishments includes, but is in no way limited to, modelling for Pakistani fashion magazines, interning at Glamour and Vogue, representing Bridal Asia and India Fashion Week in Pakistan and having the distinction of being the youngest-ever editor on the APNS’ (All Pakistan Newspapers Society) records. She is currently the Editor-in-chief of her own magazine, Xpozé, which is known for being inappropriate – a quality it shares with the lady in-charge.

Rana has no qualms about being inappropriate. A case in point is her habit of making witty and often uncomplimentary remarks about people right in front of them and following it up with something nice. This usually leaves her audience (and she can generate an audience alright) in fits of laughter, but I can well imagine her having an entirely negative impact as well.

From her nightly jaunts at Espresso – which she calls an “extension of my drawing room”, her obsession with cocktail rings, gladiator sandals and hobos and her love of all things gossipy, it would be easy to infer that Rana is an empty-headed socialite. But what is it that they say about books and their covers?

She is in fact the anti-thesis of empty-headed; she is passionate about fashion, cricket, movies, Pakistan, India, her magazine, her friends, the list is just endless. She collects vintage fashion magazines, has been to India about 32 times and probably knows the press there better than the Indians themselves, is a staunch promoter of Pakistan’s soft image, stays up all night reading or watching movies, has a zeal for the news and a serious case of workaholism.

The workaholism and nocturnal nature were adopted from her former boss, Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman (CEO, Jang Group), who she says is “one of my favourite bosses ever”. Her first meeting with Rehman for a job interview as the editor of MAG was an interesting one considering that it happened at his office at an ungodly 4:00 a.m.

“I was told that he works during the day and meets people at night but I was so scared about going to his office at 4:00 a.m. that I took my mother along,” she laughs.

She doesn’t divulge the details of the meeting but whatever the 23-year-old Rana said must have impressed Rehman because he hired her out of 90 other candidates shortlisted for the job.

MAG wasn’t Rana’s first job; she had already modelled while she was in college, worked in account management at Spectrum Communications (now Spectrum Y&R), and was the editor of Lines magazine for a year. But it seems to me that it is at MAG that she graduated into being a fashion heavyweight and also began her relationship with India in earnest.

Although she had already been representing Bridal Asia for a number of years, it was during her tenure at MAG that she started representing India Fashion Week in Pakistan. Based on this, Rana played an instrumental role in inviting Indian fashion designers, Anamika Khanna, JJ Valaya and Ritu Kumar for a fashion show, which was the first of its kind in Pakistan. There has been no looking back on that front and the ties with India have only grown stronger.

“The bashing we do is very positive. We love invading people’s privacy, we love social events – the magazine is a reflection of our society.”

When Rana left Jang after four years because “I didn’t have a life there,” she decided to experiment with the electronic media and accepted a position as the Vice President at ARY Digital.

She calls it “the worst job I have ever had” and says that the only good that came out of it was “I had a lot of time on my hands to socialise, so I met the man who would later become my husband.” Her husband Farhan is one of the coolest and most unflappable individuals I have ever met. Rana is all things loud and sassy while Farhan is not. Clearly, to use a well worn cliché, opposites attract.

Taking a year-long vacation after her marriage was fun in the beginning but soon turned into a nightmare.

“I was the most annoying human being on earth, I had too much time on my hands and I was turning into a Star Plus bahu!” she exclaims in her typical masala style.

Rana wasn’t particularly impressed with the quality of the job offers coming her way so she and Farhan decided to start up their own company, Epoch Creatives, with a fashion magazine (Xpozé) in 2007. She describes Xpozé as a magazine that laughs at society but is not negative.

“The bashing we do is very positive. We love invading people’s privacy, we love social events – the magazine is a reflection of our society.”

This brings the discussion back to fashion and I am curious to know how she describes her personal style. She considers the question for a minute and then asks her friend, Zurain Zaheen Imam, an established fashion journalist in his own right. Imam has worked with Rana at Lines and MAG and is currently Senior Assistant Editor of Xpozé. Without missing a beat he tells me that her style is “comfortable boho chic, eclectic and she is always worried about her bum.”

Laughing out loud, Rana agrees with this description and adds that although clothes are an extension of her personality, she is certainly not a “Louis Vuitton or Prada bag girl.”

With a toothy grin she explains, “I believe in quantity over quality.”

Even so, Rana is quick to point out that she is not consumed by fashion. Nor, she says, does she have any ambitions of being a fashion designer because “it’s very scary, I can’t deal with women!”

She is, however, very passionate about bringing a foreign fashion magazine to Pakistan. She questions why none of the major Pakistani media groups have invested in a good local fashion and lifestyles magazine or brought in a foreign franchise when India has Indian versions of practically all the big titles: Bazaar, Cosmo, FHM and GQ, just to name a few.

“I understand that it is not feasible to bring Bazaar or Vogue here because they rely on advertising from niche brands and there aren’t that many brands like that in Pakistan, not to mention that our designers don’t know kak (Punjabi for ‘nothing’) about advertising. What we need is a mass appeal magazine like Glamour or Marie Claire here.”

She makes a passing reference to a foreign magazine which has approached Xpozé but says that she wants to withhold the details until something materialises.

For the time being though, Rana is happy with Xpozé. When she gets bored with the ‘slow’ pace of a monthly magazine, she loves travelling.

“My friends say I have paiyaas (wheels) on my feet.”

And what is her ideal destination? I had assumed she would name one of the fashion capitals of the world but instead she surprises me with Cambodia.

“I was born in Pakistan and brought up in Nigeria so I love Third World countries, their rainforests, their culture, their history.”

Clearly Andleeb Rana is not your average fashionista but as she told me in a conversation after this interview, her dad thinks she is a lot like the ‘butterfly’ from the book, The Diary of a Social Butterfly by Moni Mohsin.

At her recommendation, I bought the book and couldn’t stop laughing reading most of it. But when the ‘butterfly’ ‘innocently’ describes a woman with “big-big hulkas under her eyes and skin all loose-loose and pale jaisi” and another as “Jolen ka kamaal” and yet another as “a creature from Star Wars with three-three eyes, ears like palm fronds and skin like an alligator’s,” I have to admit that I agree with her father.