Pakistan’s underrated luxury brands
Pre-historic or post-modern, in peace or in trauma, human beings have always been inclined towards the creation of beauty and self-expression as means of their personal survival and identity.
Modern Pakistanis, too, are heavily invested in the creation of tools of aesthetic indulgence; it’s a sound business enterprise as the need for pleasing surroundings and luxurious products is one that does not diminish; it hasn’t faltered since the Neanderthals wore pigment-stained seashell necklaces around their necks. It’s what we draw solace from in a world that has been consistently unpredictable.
Brands are identity- national identity
There are imported products and there are Pakistani brands. While not priced too low, many Pakistani brands compete with international ware in the local market. The simple reason is they are good. Not only are they offering quality products but also drawing on the indigenous style-sense, colours and raw material to fashion articles of clothing, home décor, dinner sets, leather goods and even chocolates!
While brand identity and brand loyalty are a known phenomenon, brands that support and nurture national identity are worth celebrating too. These are gift items that tell the world of our superior workmanship, these are export items that portray Pakistan as a land of tasteful creativity, these are also personal buys that subtly feed our famished sense of national self-esteem, whether we are aware of it or not. Designer silver-ware by Taneez, leather bags, shoes and accessories by Hub, Luscious Lips Lipsticks, are some examples.
Economy: Jobs and skill development
China may make the headlines with its exponential economy growth rate; yet the Chinese labourers still languish in sweat-shops. In one unique stroke, enterprises like Sungi (craft shop) and Nomad (art gallery and craft shop) are teaching new skills, empowering women, bringing to urban Pakistan the much-in-demand flavour of our rustic land through practical, useable and aesthetically delightful products, all this while making profits to keep their concerns running.
Instead of leaving behind worrying carbon footprints, these workers hand-produce most products, using local resources, sometimes recycling waste material such as using the cardboard cylinder inside rolls of cloth to make flood lamps. These are truly ideas worth sharing!
We are now into all businesses: multiple cosmetic brands, alcohol free perfumes, even chocolates that are being locally made, with some help from imported flavours, of course. While cotton has always been our pride and primary export, designers of lawns for women, children’s wear, bed linen and upholstery fabric are now outdoing themselves with both impressive production and marketing strategies.
No wonder they can set up shop in competitive markets such as Dubai, and hold their own there.
Speaking of marketing
While some brands are proudly marketing themselves as Pakistani, others remain unsung and under-represented. Although cutlery from Wazirabad is known to be famous, it somehow doesn’t find its way into our markets as much as it should. When it does, it is passed off as imported stuff and its true origins are not revealed by retailers angling for a better price.
Of course, the quality of these cutlery sets, pressure cookers and beaten copper serving bowls is such that it could be from anywhere in the world, so the clueless customer really cannot tell if it’s Pakistani or imported -- we must grow to recognise and appreciate our own products.
In the process of putting together this write-up, I realized that many of the enterprises I mention here are female-fuelled. Now isn’t that something. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise, as creating critter comforts and beauty is a feminine pursuit.
We lament the slow demise of local crafts such as slate-work; the Export Promotion Bureau commissions the making of documentaries to boost exports by telling the world about our crafts, and then holds a tight reign over it so that the documentary doesn’t get disseminated as it should have been.
It is the business enterprises who can make the survival of these arts possible and feasible by contemporizing them; it is they who can create new crafts and develop the relevant skills, as they are the ones who can align the feasibilities, the profit sheets and the immeasurable largesse of home-grown elegance.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.
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