LAHORE: The casual sporty look has been reigning international ramps since last year with fashions big names focusing on bringing comfort back along with ‘cool’.
Alexander Wang, Anna Sui and Michael Kors looked towards the stereotypical American woman for inspiration as they worked around creating fashion that transformed the new health and gym life style into high fashion. Ofcourse main stream brands like Juicy Couture have always been doing causal sport and lounge wear for ages and have predicated that their brands on a health motivated life style.
Yet, to date Pakistani designers have not picked up on this niche — Ammar Belal prudently launched ABCD as a causal wear outlet, the king of couture Hasan Sheheryar Yasin dabbled with resort wear last year, but no main stream fashion designer has launched an exclusive luxury lounge wear.
Zara Shahjahan has been in a pioneer in the field, and even though she is known to be a couture designer she has finally picked up on the sudden rise of an active life style amongst women in Pakistan and designed a complete range of velour track suits.
“Active wear has picked up considerably with the gym culture and with all these young moms picking up their kids from school,” says Shehjahan who started her career as a designer by working at her family’s now defunct store, Sprungle.
Currently, Shahjahan has just completed a hundred pieces to test the market and is stocking at the PFDC in Lahore and at Labels in Karachi. “At the moment I am just test marketing with my track suits but intend on producing a full line of lounge wear with structured tank tops, sweat shirts, tee shirts and linen pants,” said Shahjahan.
“It looks really odd to have huge price differentials between your casual pret line and couture line that’s why I didn’t want to get into the game by making cheaper pret since I am originally a couture designer and did not want to dilute my brand. Hence doing sporty wear which is affordable allows me to reach out to a larger audience but on my own terms,” says Shahjahan.
Her plush and snug track suits are luxuriously soft and have a flattering fit that adorns all kinds of body shapes. The collection comes in a range of royal colours like aubergine, navy blue, raven and fuchsia.
Considering Shahjehan’s collection is equated to designer wear, the track suits rate high on quality, affordability, comfort and structure. However, one aspect of the newly designed suits seems to go against the Shahjehan and that is the single rose embroidered on the side with three diamantes that could be argued represent feminity but may border on tacky. However, Shahjahan takes critique in good stride, “The rose and crystals add that hint of luxury and settle well with the ladies here who love bling,” defends Shahjahan as she adds in a whisper, “You know how Lahori women are!”
Lounge wear is another lucrative niche that has yet to be fully capitalised on. With people traveling more often, particularly young girls going abroad to study, many prefer to wear a comfortable pair of tracks on their long hauls. The market for active wear is growing beyond gyms, if the comfort can come with a strong design element, like what Stella Mc Cartney has done with her sports line for Adidas, then that’s a double victory.
With women becoming more fashion conscious even gyms have become potential catwalk runways thereby increasing the demand for stylish sports wear. It would be interesting to see who jumps into the arena next after Shahjahan. Ammar Belal would be an ideal choice given his maverick sense of style and an understanding of casual wear retail as would the new kids on the block like Mohsin Ali and Ali Xeeshan whose personal style isn’t complete without a psychedelic hoodie.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2011.