Long before everyone’s aunt, mother and sister got into the pret game touting ‘who goes to darzis now’, Maleeha Chaudhry of Daaman made that move of offering simply-structured clothing for Karachi’s working women three years ago. An Islamabadi who moved to Karachi, Chaudhry launched her own business after her brief stint as a buyer for Mantra, where she learnt about the business facet of retail.
“Daaman was quite frankly a very self-servicing notion for me since back in those days we just had Generation doing casuals but those outfits did nothing for fashion,” explains the Lums graduate citing her impetus for getting into clothes despite always being the ‘frumpy one’ at college.
The fashion retail landscape has changed dramatically since Daaman began its operations, but the way the brand has evolved to organically incorporate those changes is commendable. From offering 20 to 30 new designs every month, to experimenting with fabrics like jersey, playing with cuts, silhouettes and drapes, the brand seems to be on trend.
Many designs by Daaman can easily be worn on the ramp and this kind of dexterity comes from Chaudhry’s democratic style of decision-making, which allows people at her studio to pitch something into the overall design philosophy. “I feel things in Pakistan are generally over-designed, so while we don’t work with very strict design guidelines, we also try not to deviate from Daaman’s core values of simplicity,” asserts Chaudhry.
And so, since the international trend and local catwalks have been promoting a print look, Daaman’s new line is also print-based with fuss-free cuts. The brand now epitomises the concept of ‘off the shelf clothing’ that doesn’t hurt the pocket with a price range of Rs1,400 to Rs1,850 for lowers and Rs2,000 to Rs5,500 for shirts and twinsets.
Even though the brand became a hit amongst fashion and pocket-conscious women soon after its birth, there was never a face that could be associated with it; only a hugely successful Facebook page. While it may not come off as a surprise that there’s a young, mother-of-two behind the phenomena, the fact that how well-hidden she is in an industry based on images is definitely mind-boggling.“I honestly have no time with two kids to take the ‘promote brand through fashion events’ route,” says Chaudhry candidly. “I’m camera shy and like being in the background,” she asserts.
The only other name in the fashion industry that followed this approach till two years ago is the design duo Sana Safinaz, whose business and design sense is undisputable. Incidentally, both women inspire Chaudhry. “I can identify with their aesthetic personally but I also admire Kamiar Rokni and Sanam Chaudhry’s work as well,” she says.
To make up for her absence at fashion events, Chaudhry gets the word out through regular fashion shoots. “I realise that times have changed and we have to think of new ways to get to the market. We are still small fry, so we can’t put up large billboards everywhere but what we do try to do is make expansionary efforts rather than marketing ones,” she says.
Daaman intends on participating at fashion week next year and intends to open up at another retail store at Dolman City Mall, Karachi in a fortnight. “It’s bleeding us dry but if we are not there we will lose out on the biggest thing that ever happened to Karachi’s retail market,” states Chaudhry.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2012.