Hani Taha Salim
"Oh my God! You're actually here!" she exclaimed, beaming widely while trying to usher me upstairs to her office. To say that Shagun Khana, chief buyer at Ogaan, one of Delhi's largest fashion retail stores, was thrilled to see me, a fashion journalist from across the border would be understatement and a half. And after hearing the excruciating story of my trials and tribulations of my ten days in India, Shagun did all that she could to ease that pain with most soothing of all balms: endearing hospitality, a tall glass of chilled water, and an afternoon with lots of gossip, politics and fashion: Aman Ki Asha in its most practical manifestation.
"We opened this flagship store in 1989," she tells me. "There was no culture of prÍt when we started. It was all about weddings then. So we knew we had to branch out. To grow in such a small market, like the one we operate in, you can just multiply with different product lines."
The multi-brand retail store mantra has also recently taken Pakistan by storm with quite a few outlets sprouting liberally across the fashion landscape. But where is the Pakistani fashion industry really, viz a viz the regional industry? "The fashion industry in Pakistan is where we were 10 years ago," says Shagun candidly. "There is massive potential though," she admits. "Give the industry four to five years given that things remain stable in terms of trade and politics. For us to approach each other is too taxing physically and mentally. The biggest problem is how to get things across the border legally. Routing trade through Dubai is too expensive."
How was the whole experience personally of having visited Pakistan? "My family was so proud that I went back to the Pakistani Punjab. There's nothing to be scared of. The whole Wagah Border experience was so moving and dramatic. Almost theatrical in its force," exclaims Shagun who had crossed the border from Delhi to Lahore to attend the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week. So who managed to impress? "Lahore for me was about Kamiar Rokni and Feeha Jamshed of TeeJays."
And what was her general impression from being a part of the whole fashion week process? "Pakistan has now taken off with these fashion weeks. Now they just need to do quality checks and keep an eye on production. I didn't find anything wrong with the way things we done at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week. The biggest drawback was that there were no stalls to revisit. We are so used to having stalls at fashion weeks in India that we were a bit confused about what to do. It's not a trade event if we can't meet the designers after the show or even see the clothes. There's no point in calling in buyers if there are not going to any stalls for us to revert to. We tried to fix appointments with the designers but they seemed rather non-approachable. Very few designers in Pakistan have the production capacity to meet the different demands of the fashion weeks. Traders will not buy clothes worth 70,000-80,000 rupees a piece," says Shagun in her characteristic forthright way.
Akin to the Indian fashion industry, where Delhi and Mumbai are at loggerheads, Lahore and Karachi also seem to be at daggers drawn. Both metropolises have their own aesthetic to offer and hold their own fashion weeks under their respective set-ups. And Shagun promises that she will visit Karachi soon and admits that, "We need to make one trip to Karachi. Karachi is more progressive and edgy".
Yet the most crucial question remains: what can the Pakistani fashion fraternity do to be at par with its Indian counterparts?
1. Re-look pricing, production and design to cater to a much broader market. We need to understand that we don't need to ape the West. Resort wear and occasion wear is what is better perceived abroad. Our edge will come from our own local craft though. Wherever in the world there is an appreciation of culture and crafts, our work will be valued.
2. Our biggest asset is our aesthetic of colour. Nobody in the world has the kind of colour pallete that we do. We have the kind of colours that can lift moods!
3. Analyse markets. For example Kavita Bhartia is doing phenomenally well in the Middle East since her clothes are well priced and are full of colour bursts. We need to understand that our garments can be roughly divided into two categories: trends, that are seasonal and classic investments, that are essentially wedding and traditional wear, and then price accordingly. We need good pure prints and an education in the skill and mechanisms of exporting.
Given the warmth and hospitality that citizens of both nations receive on a personal micro level from each other, can an initiative like Aman Ki Asha truly bring peace and harmony in the region? "We really need to breakdown the borders," says Shagun emphatically. "It's not really worth it for anyone. What is happening now is that there are two extreme attitudes emerging; one that the devil may care and another that is severely negative due to the constant media propaganda. If industries meet they can shake the political walls that have been erected. It's a very good move from my perspective. And the businessmen across the borders will do it since the borders are an impediment to trade. And once these borders are down, fashion will bloom phenomenally in the region."
Monday, July 12, 2010
Page 186 of 174
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw