The one show that left a lasting impression last year and even set a thousand ideas afloat in the industry, in my opinion, was Élan’s Palais Indochine. Not only was the collection designed impeccably but the entire solo showcase was testament to Khadijah Shah’s vision for where she is taking her brand. And her brand is going places, just as is evident in the way Sapphire has grown. This month at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week in Lahore, the high street brand showcased a collection that exhibited that Sapphire is not just something she’s lent her name to but something she owns, just as is her eponymous lawn. What impresses us most is that Khadija Shah is not a fashion legacy; she has worked hard to earn the respect her brand now demands from peers and the press.
There is no doubt that Élan has upped the ante and has become a yardstick of success for everyone; at the risk of sounding ostentatious, Élan has inspired a movement that has swept the industry like a tsunami. We are well aware that there is a degree of denial associated with that notion but there is no denying the fact that she has developed a business model that everyone is trying to emulate. Does it bother her, I ask when we meet up over a long overdue cup of coffee at the Élan headquarters in Lahore. Shah has been busy, caught between her lawn, her fashion week showcase and that very high profile show in Berlin.
Acknowledging the problem of copycats, Shah said that they certainly did irk her at times.
“There are certain brands whose business philosophies rest upon becoming copies of Élan,” she said. “There are a lot of brands that have come up in the last couple of years whose businesses are running on making cheaper versions of Élan and it definitely doesn’t please me. However,” she continued, “every brand should always have a distinct aesthetic. Not everyone would like Élan; maybe you are somebody who would appreciate Élan’s aesthetic and maybe you’re someone who’s an Ali Xeeshan fan. Designers should realize that there is room for different aesthetics to do well. Just because I have done well with Élan does not mean that nothing else can do well.”
Khadijah Shah has a long list of achievements under her belt but one of her key successes is her lawn, that once again sold out across the country in less than 20 minutes. Women look forward to their campaigns, which are not only aesthetically delightful but have incredible aspirational value.
“The one thing that I invest a lot of time with is my lawn and it has grown a lot over the years,” Shah shared the creative process of developing Élan lawn. “The reason why it is so popular is because there is a definite difference in quality and mostly people who buy Élan lawn see a higher level of quality, apart from the aesthetics.”
Giving us a little teaser of what’s to come, Shah revealed that there won’t be a volume 2 of Élan lawn but there will be an unstitched luxury festive collection. Eid Mubarik, ladies!
The most impressive thing about Khadijah Shah is the fact that her success is not a coincidence or a swift stroke of having the right surname but a carefully thought out plan developed through time and commitment to her work. She isn’t just a creative head but is also just as well tuned-in with brand mechanics, which many designers are not cognizant about. Maybe this is why when Élan talks, people listen and Khadijah Shah has made that happen. Walking away from her desk, I felt like I had confronted a lot of my theories about success in an unforgiving industry that might have treated her as an outsider before but holds her up as an example now.