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28 Feb

An open letter to Textile Giants (TGs)

Dear textile mill owners,

Thank you for making our country, Pakistan, retail heaven for women every summer. It’s when desi girls start behaving like firangis would if Chanel were to go on clearance sale. And keeping in mind our usually sour and crabby disposition, this madness is terribly refreshing. It’s almost like we have a life between Raymond Davis and Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

With Kareena last year and Deepika now, Firdous is making inroads to popularity via Bollywood. And the trend is catchy as Crescent boasts a stunning Sushmita Sen in their new campaign!

It is uplifting to see beautiful women impose themselves on us mortals from heavenly billboards, a far cry from the unsightly politicians and religious figures we usually have to bear. You, dearest TGs, have recreated Christmas time in Pakistan’s retail world and what you have achieved is nothing short of a miracle.

We cannot help but gaze up in awe at the shapes and sizes of brands that have already started waving their fancy flags at us.

Asim Jofa lead the race (as far as timing is concerned, though their prints left a lot to be desired) and commissioned fashion model Iman Ali to market their brand. We had just started admiring her star value as a lawn ambassador when Firdous started marketing their annual Carnival, this time with a star appearance by Deepika Padukone. To be fair, their campaign was divided between Deepika and morning show host, Shaista Wahidi and I’d have to say that while Wahidi has never looked this good, one has seen Padukone look more significant on a billboard.

Asim Jofa (Jofa is an acronym for ‘Jewelry OF Asim, get it?) with celebrity VJ Anoushey Ashraf

Anyway, the skyline has started looking better now that the battle of the billboards has begun. Everyone from Yahsir Waheed, Deepak Perwani, Bonanza, Gul Ahmad, Nishat, Vaneeza, Lala, Firdous and many others are vying for the hot spot. Time tested TGs definitely have more moolah, something you’ll understand better if you compare the size of the Firdous billboard with the Deepak billboard (at Two Talwar). The game may not be equal, with some designers even taking a piggyback ride on the TG’s back, but let us draw out some rules before this game gets out of control.

Understand the difference between fashion and fabric

No matter what you do and how many thousands of yards of fabric you sell, you will not/never acquire designer status (unless you become one) because fabric can never be fashion. The only way fabric passes as fashion is as six yards of a sari and that too needs a blouse to be styled. One looks forward to the day you up the game by bring around a ready to wear revolution but till then, you need to know the difference.

I had the misfortune of running into two very nouveau riche daughters of a TG at an exhibition last year. They were wearing extravagantly hideously tailored Sonya Battla prints on the second day of her exhibition, and in search of a story (not knowing who they were) I asked them who their tailor was considering he had done an unfathomably quick job.

“Sonya Battla is our tailor,” they pompously replied. Now I’ve known Sonya for a decade and I know that she would never be able to design anything as atrocious as what I saw. Their pomposity in saying so (lying!) was offensive. Sonya Battla is a fashion designer – and one of the best this country has – not a tailor. And most textile giants are businessmen not connoisseurs of good taste, let’s be very clear on that. Again, know the difference.

Red carpets are for celebrity royalty not the rela of relatives!

Can we please stop celebrating munna’s birthday with a red carpet launch! This is an extremely annoying trend, especially when these abused red carpets feature no one more exciting that the TG’s extended family. Mian, biwiaan, bachay and woh…the woh being unknown and unfashionable celebrity wannabes!

The red carpet is sacred and should be kept exclusive to celebrities, no matter which walk of life they come from. I have to say that not even all fashion designers are red carpet material, lesser so are you.

We know that channels are all too accessible and you find it hard to resist the lure of the red carpet/spotlight especially since no one gave you the time of the day despite your bank balance outnumbering that of any fashion designer. But resist it. Please.

You are the corporate counterpart of fashion and corporate types are rarely cut for stardom. Especially not in Pakistan though Greek shipping tycoons would be more than appreciated. But unless you look like that can you please lose the obsession you have with the social pages?

Do not mislead women with fancy designing and add-ons

Zooming into what you sell, please stop misleading your customers into thinking they are buying what you are showing them. Firstly, the lawn joras you retail rarely come with all the kaam that is featured in shoots (take the embellished neckline Iman is wearing in an Asim Jofa ad for example). And secondly, the pre-packaged fabric is rarely enough to tailor the extravagantly flared designs you boast.

One appreciates the way Yahsir Waheed promotes his brand; his marketing always emphasizes lawn prints and the shoots he puts out in magazines use only the fabric and add-ons that are sold with the ensembles. Add-ons, by the way, are the laces, buttons, frills, embellished sashes etc that designers use to spruce up plain voile.

I would describe what most of you do as cheating. Refrain.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch (read jora)

And while we’re on the topic of cheating, please understand that sending full (wearable) suits ie joras to journalists is equivalent to bribe. In fact sending anything that is usable by the journalist is equivalent to an attempt of winning over his/her favour. And don’t start feeling guilty if you’ve already sent out a nicely packaged parcel…you won’t be the first. Designers have been sending lawn joras to journalists for donkey’s years (Rizwan Beyg, Sana Safinaz, Asim Jofa, Vaneezah Ahmad have all been generous) and even journalists who consider themselves morally upright – like yours truly – are guilty of accepting as the ‘normal’ thing to do. Not anymore. We are not Uganda, no matter what Shah Sharabeel says, and need to follow the international ‘ethics in fashion’ laws instead of forever improvising to our convenience.

International regulations outline that samples being sent out to the media should not be of a usable quantity. Cosmetic companies send out tiny sample sizes of perfumes, creams, lotions, etc. And the best thing for fabric designers to do would be to send swatches of their designs with a catalogue and price listing. One appreciates that designers like Sana Safinaz also make their brochures available to journalists ahead of time, so they can choose, book and ‘buy’ whatever they like instead of braving the crowds. And that gesture is privilege enough.

So while we welcome you into the fashion industry with open arms, especially since you bring in a huge cash flow that even bridal manufacturers haven’t been able to manage, we’d like you to follow some ground rules. This game is about to get bigger and we would want it growing in the right direction.

The Haute Team

This article is written by one of our competent team members, who probably didn't have enough to say to own up to it.