How many times have I heard the question, “What do fashion weeks achieve?” as most people feel it’s an opportunity for certain designers to claim the spotlight before they disappear into the woodwork for the next six months. People feel that way because while runway images may make for ample media fodder (and we do love churning pictures out on different angles for the next six months) clothes shown on the runway were seldom seen in stores. I said ‘were’ because that holds true no more.
From the PSFD Sunsilk Fashion Week alone: Sublime, Misha Lakhani, Sania Maskatiya, FnkAsia, Maria B, Asifa Nabeel, Elan, Sana Safinaz, Khaadi, Karma and Nida Azwer all have flagship stores today and that means 10 collections will make it to ready to wear retail. Many other designers, like Shehla Chatoor, Maheen Karim, Wardha Saleem etc will be content catering to multi label boutiques though that will never give them the discipline that comes with running and operating an independent store. With the amount of talent they have, one hopes they will open standalone stores soon. I would say this especially of Shehla Chatoor who has the design finesse and the retail background of having Threads and Motifs in the family business. I see that as a huge opportunity.
That said, there is a small pool of ‘what’s the point’ designers who will show but their collections will never be made available. Like I said, “what’s the point” of showing then? Collections that are never available after showing off at fashion week sort of fade away as let-down/disappointments. To show and not sell is like showing a movie trailer for a film that never releases. I won’t even say the names; we all know who they are.
But I am enjoying the buzz that fashion retail is creating these days. Credit goes to Sania Maskatiya for being a game changer with the first store she opened two years ago; she made the most of the runway to retail loop. And her store came at a time when we were wondering why so many fashion pioneers – Shamaeel, Rizwan Beyg, Maheen Khan, Nilofer Shahid – could not open or sustain a single store in their twenty+ year careers. Thankfully Sana and Safinaz, once on that list of studio designers, were smart enough to move with the times. In fact they moved ahead of the times.
Fashion retail, today, has become a frenzy for consumers. Sana Safinaz have opened their second store in Lahore, Sania Maskatiya will be opening her third at Dolmen Mall later this month. The flagship on Bukhari will become a studio for customized orders. Nida Azwer has opened two stores, one each in Lahore and Karachi.
Khaadi, Maria B and FnkAsia already have nationwide availability and Karma will be opening in Islamabad next week. One can hope that Sublime and Coco by Zara Shahjahan will speed up their presence in Karachi soon.
The best thing is the brand new price point. We had been paying 12000+ for an (exceptionally designed) outfit at Body Focus, Sonya Battla and even Sania Maskatiya but then one couldn’t afford more than one exceptional outfit every few months. The new price point – revolutionized by Sana Safinaz – is under 4000 for a tunic. Now, Khaadi and similar outlets may have been giving equally competitive prices but the SS design is superior, with embroidery, lace, and a mesh of fabric trimming for a fashionable product. What I love is that there are no floor length flowy shirts (which I still see at Khaadi, Daaman etc) and the trendsetters have made the knee length shirt with straight trousers the new in thing. People are complaining about the stiffness of some of the cotton fabrics used and hopefully it’s an issue that they’ll overcome.
But going back to fashion week, here’s a fashion shopper’s guide for people visiting Pakistan. These are the must-visit places for latest fashions…
1. Sana Safinaz Stores
2. Sania Maskatiya
3. Nida Azwer
5. Coco by Zara Shahjahan (Lahore only)
6. Karma and MK Nation
8. Working Woman by Adnan Pardesy
9. Bonanza by Sanam Chaudhri and Maheen Karim
11. Sublime by Sara Shahid (Lahore only)
12. Misha Lakhani (Karachi only)
13. Maheen Khan and Gulabo
14. Deepak Perwani
15. Body Focus Museum
16. Sonya Battla
These last two are unchallenged when it comes to design but are limited in accessibility and price though the BFM does have an affordable casual line. It has to be said that Iman Ahmad and Sonya Battla were two of the first few designers to open standalone stores in Karachi even though they may not have been able to branch out to Lahore. When you’re looking for something special you must look here.
Many of my favourite designers will be available at The Designers, Labels and Ensemble in Karachi, Lahore and Dubai OR online, incase you’re not visiting. It’s time for some serious retail people; Pakistani fashion is no longer elitist.
Most pictures are by Faisal Farooqui @ Dragonfly and are courtesy Lotus PR