Mashal Fatima Valam is a floral jeweler.
The material she works with isn’t as durable as gold or silver, but her pieces aren’t meant to last a lifetime, either. Part of their beauty (and their worth) is in their fleeting nature.
Valam, who was born in Pakistan and raised in Houston, markets her work entirely on her Instagram account – @CreationsbyMashal. She reaches so many people that a website isn’t necessary, she said. In fact, Instagram is where she found her recent collaborators for a promotional video filmed in McGill Rose Garden near NoDa. The video is available – naturally – on Instagram.
Flowers for a Southern wedding are a big deal. (Anyone who’s seen Steel Magnolias knows that “bashful” and “blush” are specific shades of pink a bride can order her bridesmaids’ dresses and her flowers.) Flowers for an Indian or Pakistani wedding are a very big deal.
In the United States, the average cost of a wedding is $35,000. Pakistani weddings in the U.S. can go as high as $100,000, Valam said. In big cities such as Washington, D.C., Dallas and Los Angeles, an Indian wedding — generally a multi-day affair — can cost $200,000.
Said the self-taught designer: “It’s so much fun going through Instagram seeing different vendors and how unique their work is. I went through the #charlottenc hashtag and found every single person I thought would match with this project.”
“I wanted the theme to be pink and yellow, so I coordinated with the designer (Neha Patel of @NareekaCollection) who let us use her gorgeous dresses for the shoot,” she continued. “It was a really fun and unique experience. It was all local women so, you know, girl power! And the location was breathtaking.”
“More Is More”
At first blush, it might seem that a rose garden setting would compete with floral jewelry. But Fatima’s philosophy seems to be “more is more.” More color, more blossoms, more fragrance, more of everything.
Her collaborators had the same mindset.
Patel’s fabrics are imbued with deep saffron, electric pink, tangerine, ruby red, cobalt – vibrant hues that are full of life. “Western flair with an Indian soul” is how the fashion designer described the look.
“I always wanted to have my own boutique,” she said. “When I moved to the United States about 20 years ago, it seemed like this dream would never come true. But in 2018 – when my girls had grown older – my family suggested I should think about pursuing my dream.”
Patel, too, relies on Instagram and Facebook for marketing. Her design business is based out of her home, her clothes are made “back home in India” and her customers come from all over the country.
Valam asked Paris Reinhard, a wedding filmmaker (@thepariscope) to bring her vision to life. Other creatives involved include makeup artist Pallak Manocha (@MakeupByPallak) and jewelry designer @AndaazJewelry.
Manocha is a University of Georgia alum who went the corporate route right out of college. That’s until she discovered that a traditional work environment stifled her creativity. She describes her makeup style as “full glam.” But she lets clients guide her.
“Personality should show through in the look,” she said. “The more the makeup fits the client, the happier the client will be.”
The seeds of a business
“I’ve always been into creating,” said Valam, who started her business in Houston with flowers brides could carry or wear. Soon, she branched out into centerpieces. “Anything having to do with flowers,” she said, “I can do.”
She put her floral design business on pause when she got married and moved here in 2015. Two months into her marriage and newly landed in Charlotte, she got pregnant. That didn’t end her creative ambition. It was just a delay.
Valam began making floral jewelry again about six months ago. It’s a job she can do entirely from home except when she needs to get source materials. Her long-term goal is to grow her own flowers. For now, she gets them at the grocery stores, farmers markets and wholesalers.
Many of her clients are Muslim and are preparing for a nikkah, a Muslim wedding ceremony. But a desire to be festooned in flowers crosses cultures. Lots of brides of other faith traditions have hired Valam to make their wedding jewelry.
Queen for a day
Whatever a bride wants made out of flowers – a necklace, bracelet, earrings, a naha (hair crown) – Valam can create it herself. She has no employees or assistants. It’s a one-woman shop.
Not all Valam’s customers are brides. Her art is priced so well that it doesn’t need to be reserved just for special occasions. Garlands and neckpieces start at $50. Bracelets can run anywhere from $35 to $100. A headpiece starts at $35. Floral earrings start at $30.
“I know brides getting married now are struggling to plan their weddings because of COVID,” she said. “So, I try to be fair. I feel if I can help by keeping my prices low, that goes a long way.”
She uses all fresh flowers unless a client specifies silk or paper. Clients will sometimes ask for something identical to what they saw on Instagram, but Valam’s favorite order is when a client gives her creative freedom.
She gave the same license to her collaborators on the video.
It takes a lot of time – and a lot of tries – to make something wearable out of such a fragile material. Carnations are the easiest flower to turn into jewelry. The delicate, temperamental rose poses the biggest challenge.
“I have to buy more flowers than I need,” she said. “You can’t believe how many flowers I go through to get the final product.”
More is More. So, learn more about these creatives.
See the full video here.
Creations by Mashal (floral jewelry)
Pallak Manocha (makeup artist)
River Rose Photography (still photographer)
*This article’s featured image is credited to River Rose Photography.
McGill Rose Garden Events
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