Undoubtedly, Pakistan’s renowned textile industry has gained international recognition for its exceptional manufacturing infrastructure and production. However, despite the fashion industry flourishing locally, local designers and brands rarely collaborate with international fashion industries. Scarcity of established fashion entrepreneurs, limited knowledge of fashion marketing and a lack of access to international markets contribute greatly to this.
There is no absence of raw material, talent and creativity in Pakistan when it comes to fashion, in fact, Pakistani designers and brands have been raved on international platforms when given exposure at events. In 2005, the Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design (PIFD) was affiliated with Mod’Spe Institute of Marketing Paris established by the Parisian ‘Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin’ with the objective of developing a curriculum and training faculty for the Fashion Marketing and Merchandising Programme. Similarly, eight designers were also invited to hold an exclusive fashion show in Paris, along with an exhibition where designers showcase their work only on invitation. Local fashion brand and powerhouse Khaadi has also been seen establishing its brand internationally with a flagship store in London and UAE, showing the great potential of our local brands.
Therefore, the solution lies in extensively developing local brands to gain further recognition internationally. In order to do so, it is essential for both local designers and brands to pool resources domestically under the patronage of the government, which would enable brands to manufacture and produce products that would reel in foreign recognition for international collaborations.
“Honestly, it all boils down to the law and order situation in the country due to which buyers are reluctant to fly down to Pakistan,” commented Umair Tabani, CFO of the Sania Maskatiya label, when asked what seemed to be hindering international fashion collaborations. “Also, our government does not promote local talent enough. Another reason would be that our design houses need to reach a certain level of professionalism and focus on organizing shows in Pakistan and invite international buyers.”
The Pakistan Fashion Design council (PFDC), Pakistan’s first fashion council founded in 2006, aimed to help facilitate Pakistani designers both domestically and internationally with its establishment. Since the year 2010 PFDC has held regular fashion weeks in collaboration with global brands such as, Unilever and L’Oreal Paris. These fashion weeks were meant to provide local designers with a platform to showcase their work and network with personalities from the international world of fashion and media to better build their brands.
Despite these efforts Adnan Pardesi pointed out, “Presently, Pakistani fashion, designers and fashion weeks do not exist in the fashion calendar or amidst fashion businesses of the world. Unfortunately, no one really wants to work with us or is even remotely interested in investing with our design houses. We have a long way to go before we make our existence felt in the international scene. To be honest it’s absurd to even think about international collaborations for at least another decade. Till then, I hope local collaborations in our country can someday be done on merit and talent rather than PR and friendships.”
Plenty of raw talent exists within Pakistan, however to polish that to benefit the fashion industry the following skills must be developed and perfected: understanding international fashion systems, brand identity, business strategy, seasonal merchandise and range planning, technical delivery, customizing production, sustainability and ethics, profitability and competitiveness, digital presence, image-making and presentation.
“There are very few couturiers that work with details. We create art pieces and to promote that to the international market we need local media and blogs for promotion, which unfortunately charge us a fee but promote Indian brands and designers for free,” designer Nomi Ansari pointed out. He also asserted that in order to target the international market for collaborations, the fashion industry must realize that, “Lawn is not fashion.” When we asked who he’d want to internationally collaborate with, Nomi promptly replied, “I personally would love to collaborate with the Japan’s Onitsuka Tiger or Retro Superfuture!”
Another downside to our fashion industry is the repetitive and un-inventive designs brought out by majority brands based on the latest bandwagon of trends. “We can say that some of our designers are on their way to stand out from all the rest, such as, Umar Sayeed.
However, I believe that designers are following a certain formula and lack variation,” Shezereh Husain of Ensemble commented on this very issue. “If pastel colors and lace work is ‘in’, then every designer will be making the same designs. Ensemble stocks approximately a 150 brands and it’s evident that there is sometimes difficulty in distinguishing anything different amongst them. We’re only trying to tick the boxes to match the criteria of our own market rather than considering what the international market would be attracted to. A few brands that we stock up with have a strong market in the Middle East such as Tarun, Rabbani and Rakha who cater to the Middle East fashion demands. If we really want to have international collaborations, designers will need to observe the demands of fashion markets outside of Pakistan.”Bottom of Form
Starting with baby-steps, it is essential for Pakistan to focus on polishing raw skills of emerging talent within the fashion industry and encouraging collaborations. Creating opportunities for local brands to showcase their designs internationally, along with improving marketing and PR expertise while monitoring global shifts in the international fashion industry is also imperative in taking local fashion to the next level.