Dubai designer returns to Pakistan to set up design school

After moving to Dubai in 2003, Zain Mustafa set himself up as an interior designer. Although he had no plans to move back to his hometown, Karachi, a chance meeting with a potential client two years ago made him change his mind.

He has since set up design school Cube, in partnership with two teachers, Sehr Bokhari, and Sheba Akhtar.

“Students need role models, people they can relate to. It’s time to let students take charge, take the initiative, take responsibility. Slay the dragons, let creativity flow,” he said. “Cube aims to empower individuals to build Pakistan’s design identity. It’s open to everyone and anyone who is interested, regardless of age, occupation and background.

“We also provide hands on training and emphasise the importance of being able to communicate with local karigars (craftsmen). We hope that Cube can become a social enterprise and training centre for karigars as well as design students.”

Speaking to the The Express Tribune, the designer said he wanted to set up Cube because: “the government is so disinterested that anyone can stand up and make a change. And the time is now; Pakistan is ripe for change.”

Mustafa gained a Bachelor’s degree from Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, New York. He then went on to graduate with a Masters degree in New Technologies in (architectural) Education from Columbia University.

Since then, he has built houses, been the creative director for, dabbled in fashion designing and worked in New York, New Mexico and Dubai. His portfolio of clients include cricketer Wasim Akram, whose home he decorated.

He has also taught at the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture (IVSAA), Pakistan, where he was invited to teach its interior design programme.

With four short months to transform his students to professionals in the real world, Mustafa taught them how to use 3D rendering software, put their projects online, updated their progress on Facebook and kept his lectures open.

He held an open jury every two weeks where professionals from different fields were invited to critique the seniors’ work. His hard work paid off and all five graduated.


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