Designers without stores are quite the archaic, obsolete and archaic part of the fashion industry now. In the same breath I’ll say that it’s a tough economy and so I understand that so many of them do not have the investors, partners and self-finances or hordes of money to launder (which is the case in some unfortunate, unmentionable instances) to open stores of their own. So I’ll just say that designers should either have stores OR they should have a very prolific presence in multi-retail stores. While Adnan Pardesy, Maheen Karim and Sanam Chaudhry could not open their own, they struck happy deals with Leisure Club for Working Woman and Bonanza respectively. And they made us equally happy too.
However, some lucky designers have been striking just as joyful deals with flagship stores. Sana Safinaz opened three in the last few months (I confess I have only seen the one at Dolmen Mall, Clifton), Sania Maskatiya has managed to open three is just as many years since she came into the spotlight and Deepak Perwani had a soft launch of his fifth, DCM store, this weekend. I do have HUGE respect for all designers that brave these kind of business ventures in this kind of economic environment. To maintain standards and sustain production in fashion in this day and age is no small feat. So, well done guys.
However, consumers will be consumers and critics will have critique. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles in any business, no matter how cool it is.
While Sana Safinaz design is extremely evolved, distinct and popular – every third fashion-conscious women in Pakistan is wearing one of their tunics – the fabric has been a reason of dissatisfaction, especially in Lahore.
“The fabric is too stiff and doesn’t at all feel luxurious,” said one friend to me over the phone. Obviously, the first thing I did was take the critique to Sana (Hashwani).
“I only wear tunics from my own shop and really didn’t think there was a problem,” she said, quite surprised at the feedback. “However, the Lahore store is only three months into operations and is still evolving. We have a very expensive quality control check in place and take all feedback very seriously.”
I personally feel that people have expectations of high fashion from the brand name Sana Safinaz and they are used to either luxury pret or lawn, both of which are soft and satiny to feel. The pret collection in the stores is actually design superior but of course, to keep the cost down the fabric used is a cotton based fabric. It’ll take time for women to get used to it.
The same kind of complaint goes out to Deepak Perwani, who launched his Dolmen Mall store in Karachi this weekend. The store looked sharp, the Frida collection on the racks looked reassuring and desirable and the accessories were typical DP: fun, kitschy and affordable. The fabric in some designs, however, was poly-based instead of being pure.
“We deliberately kept a mixed fabric range to keep the cost low for this particular range,” explained Deepak Perwani. “Not everyone wants to spend 15,000 or more on a tunic. Women can’t afford that. I want our fashion to be affordable and disposable and that’s why we’ve even introduced clutches for as little as 3500. I think this price is insane!”
I agree that fashion does need to get more affordable while being higher and more developed in the design area. The Frida clutches may be a plastic base but they will be valuable for anyone who appreciates design. When it comes to quality – and here I’m going to let the cat out the bag (partly) – Deepak Perwani has collaborated with a leather giant in Pakistan and will be coming out with a range of high end accessories soon.
“Similarly, there is enough choice in the store for anyone looking for pure silks, satins and chiffons,” he adds.
All that said, no product is perfect and it is human nature and thus natural to complain when one is unhappy. There are just as many disgruntled customers at the Sania Maskatiya store too, women who are complaining about the high prices despite the pure fabric and design they get in return.
“Our prices are pretty much similar to when we started,” explains Umair Tabani. “Given that the dollar has appreciated at least 30 percent, which has lead to crazy inflation, we have maintained our quality and are trying our best to still keep prices affordable. We usually don’t get complains but every now and then someone will about our prices compared to other, more affordable designers. But we print on fine cotton and supima (a very fine count cotton), we honestly can’t bring the cost down more than we do! We are not mass market and are catering to a select niche clientele who want superior quality and we pay three times to maintain that quality.”
So that’s that and my verdict is this. Sana Safinaz have taken a mammoth step in opening so many stores within a year, their designs are fantastic and while yes, the fabric does seem a bit harsh at times, it’s a small price to pay for the cost of the clothes. Deepak Perwani is a name I associate with fun, disposable fashion and statement clothing. There is enough sophisticated (pure, auntie) clothing in the store to keep it in business but the design USP is disposable and affordable fashion with an element of kitsch for those few who can appreciate. And when it comes to Sania Maskatiya, I do feel the new store does not do the brand justice (it looks more multi-retail than high end boutique) but it’s a brand that offers quality and design and for an affordable price too. These are all winning combinations and variety/competition is very good for the industry. May a thousand flowers bloom!