The Days of Our Lives: Sobia Shaikh, ISLY Handbags

In The Days of Our Lives we meet some fascinating and creative folk and take a look at what their typical day holds. Far from being about the mundane, it is a celebration of what it takes to juggle the day-to-day with big ideas, a successful business and a full home life. It’s about keeping all the balls in the air – what is important and what isn’t. It’s about (extra)ordinary moments that fill our every day

This week, let me introduce you to Sobia Shaikh, the designer and founder of ISLY Handbags, a range that is handmade in San Francisco with hand-dyed and hand-woven fabrics from micro-communities in Pakistan. Not simply something to throw your keys and purse into, each of Sobia’s bags are a love letter to colour, texture and truly unique textiles.

Recently Sobia visited Pakistan to source fabrics for her 2013 collection. Here she shares a day from her trip – and even some snaps she took along the way!


7:30 am

Wake up!


7:45 -8:45  am

Make a cup of chai in mom’s kitchen and respond to all the work emails that have accumulated in my inbox over last night. Given that Karachi is 12 hours ahead of San Francisco an entire work day has elapsed in SF while I was asleep. Organise the swatches from yesterday’s store visits.

9:00 am

Make a quick call to SF to say goodnight to the kids.


9:30-11:00 am

Shower and change. While eating breakfast review/send changes to my graphic designer in California for the new layout of the ISLY website which is being revamped to include the F/W 12 collection.


11:30 am

Most stores in Karachi open around 11.30 so I head out to a fabric vendor. This is where I source all the Taanmba Style fabrics. Today they are showing me their Spring 13 fabrics that have not yet been launched. Of course, they are gorgeous and I collect as many swatches as possible.

1:00 pm

Stop and take pictures at Mohatta Palace, a fine arts museum in Karachi. It’s built with a combination of pink jodhpur stone and yellow stone in the tradition of stone palaces in Rajasthan. I am truly inspired by the architectural details and stain glass I see here.

2:00 pm

Quick lunch/debriefing meeting with a friend who’s organized a set of meetings for me at a textile factory that specializes in hand woven fabrics.


3:00 pm

Arrive at the factory. Again I’m struck by the beautiful architecture. Meet with the General Manager and the Production Manager. Walk through the production facilities where a lot of women are working on the looms. . Most of the design team consists of women as well.

This place prefers to hire women and as a result is among the few factories in Pakistan that have a day care center on its premises.

I pick up a LOT of swatches!

5:00 pm

Head to a wholesale fabric and trims market. Visit about 15 stores and collect swatches from several of them. Feel overjoyed as one of the store owners agrees to produce fabrics in as many colors as I want for my Spring 13collection.

6:30 pm

Last stop of the day – Koel- a tiny and exclusive boutique that produces limited quantities of organic handwoven fabrics using natural indigo dyes that are drawn from flowers, leaves, bark, fruit rind seeds and minerals. The hand carved door at the entrance takes my breath away. I’ve never used these fabrics for my clutches so am eager to see their product.

I’m in love – stunning colors and fabrics! I get a million swatches.

8:00 pm

Finally home at my parents place. Had a long but productive day.


9:30 pm

Dinner is eaten pretty late in Pakistan, so I leave for a super fun food street called Port Grand, with my sisters and nieces and nephew.

It runs along the harbor and is lined with food vendors and little arts and crafts stalls. My favorite shot is of this fortune teller’s who uses trained parrots that choose fortune cards for his clients!

12:00  am

Back to mom and dad’s. Tomorrow will be another long, colorful and exciting day!


You can keep up-to-date with Sobia and ISLY Handbags on Facebook and Twitter.

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