LAHORE: While the’ Aman ki Asha’ agenda may be hurt after the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid us a compliment — “epicentre of terrorism” — at the UN General Assembly, artists and designers seem hell-bent on defying all boundaries and uniting on a common front. Not so long ago, entrepreneur Mini Bindra joined hands with the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) and launched the multi-brand store PFDC Boulevard in New Delhi. However, this time around, our Indian counterparts have decided to take an initiative and bridge divides.
India’s top multi-label store Kimaya Group recently launched its prêt-a-porter subsidiary Karmik in Lahore in collaboration with Arshadsons. The store brings big names like Rohit Bal, Anamika Khanna, JJ Valaya, Neeta Lulla, Kavita Bhartia, Rina Dhaka, Ranna Gill and Rocky S over to this side of the border and offers a variety of shalwar kameez, churidaars, tunics and stitched saris.
Arshadsons is known for launching international retail brands such as Quiz and Moda in Pelle but with Karmik, the company has managed to bag a notable achievement in Indo-Pak peace movement. “We feel that Pakistan is a brand conscious market and high-quality products at reasonable prices are in great demand here. Indian designers and garments are also very popular in Pakistan,” says Aftab Arshad of Arshadsons. “However, the only source of their availability has been Dubai, so far. We spotted this gap in demand and supply and hence, have brought Karmik to Pakistan. Our main aim is to use all the best marketing practices to ensure that the brand becomes a household name in Pakistan.”
But while customers are eager to buy traditional Indian clothes, they don’t come cheap. The exchange rate between Indian and Pakistani currency is almost insignificant but imports from India have 50% custom duty on them. This means that the price becomes more than double the original. “We understand that the prices are towards the higher end. We are in talks with the government to reduce the duty on women’s garments to 25% and also negotiating the prices in India so that the product becomes more affordable,” adds Arshad.
Apart from custom rates, the growing popularity of Bollywood and celebrity culture in India has also led to inflated prices — a reason why Indian bridal wear seems out of reach even for those who are interested. Hence, a prêt wear store that offers clothes in the range of Rs5,000 to Rs35,000 obviously seems more apt in Pakistani market.
But with hundreds of local designers offering the same, it remains to be seen whether Indian designers will match local tastes. Indians focus more on embellishments and work whereas Pakistanis seem to have a higher preference for silhouettes and cuts. Previously, Five Star textile house collaborated with designer JJ Valaya for a signature lawn collection and that wasn’t as well received as collections from local designers like Sania Maskatiya. But, Arshadsons stress that Indian designers are eager to accommodate and address Pakistani tastes through Karmik. “Rohit Bal was very excited about stocking in Pakistan and has even offered to create a line specific to Pakistani tastes,” asserts Arshad.
Located in Defence, Karmik will soon be expanding into other cities throughout Pakistan. Arshadsons plan on opening six stores across Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad in the next three years.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2013.