LAHORE: When the textile empire Al Karam initiated designer lawn 15 years ago with Sana Safinaz, no one ever thought that lawn would nudge its way into mainstream fashion and become the next big thing. With literally ‘every designer and their mother in law’ jumping onto the lawn bandwagon, one wonders how the gurus of lawn are reacting but Al Karam and Gul Ahmed are not the slightest bit unnerved.
If anything Al Karam Director Abid Umer is pleased that his company was the pioneer behind the designer lawn trend. “We started with Sana Safinaz and then got Karma, HSY and Mehdi to work with us. It’s a good way to refresh our image and product line by making such huge fashion connections in the industry,” said Umer.
This year Al Karam has collaborated with Couturier Umar Sayeed and will be launching their joint collection of prints in March through their concept store, Al Karam Studio.
Although the brand will still be distributed through their traditional channels, Al Karam has decided to open its own ‘brand experience outlet’ where they will “display creativity and the length and breadth of the product range” mentioned Umer. They are also seeking to make serious fashion headway by taking part in a credible fashion week in the near future.
The Al Karam group recently split with one of the senior directors, Iqbal Ibrahim, forming his own company, Oreint Textiles. Orient hopes to make a bang this summer with a line by Deepak Perwani. “Deepak is as passionate about fabric, colour and styling as I am. When I suggested the idea of Oreint to him, he began to ask the right kind of questions and I knew this was the designer who could understand my vision,” explains Ibrahim.
The line will be called Oreint Naksh Lawn by Deepak Perwani and will hit the market as soon as branding for the product is complete. This collaboration will continue for the next three years with Perwani also designing for the brand’s winter collections.
Nishat Linen is another well known entity that has already inundated the market preempting all the scheduled lawn exhibitions. “We launched two days ago and are already sold out,” said Maheen Khan the consultant designer for Nishat under the brand name Mint. “They don’t force you to buy an entire suit!” exclaimed Khan. “That’s why I loved designing for them. There’s enough freedom to create your own ensemble,” explained Khan.
The Jofa group stepped into the lawn game last year signing on Iman Ali as their brand ambassador along with the styling duo Athar and Shahzad to make the right connections with fashion. This year the brand will hold an exhibition in exemplary style with a red carpet hosted by Anoushay Ashraf.
Surprisingly enough, textile guru Gul Ahmed has sought no designer alliances and have chosen to remain independent. Yet the Director at Gul Ahmed, Ziad Bashir encourages the trend, “Designer collaborations lend legitimacy to lawn since they are transporting the fabric into the realm of high fashion,” says Bashir.
Of all the textile magnates in the lawn game, Gul Ahmed gains an edge with a highly comprehensive catalogue that becomes the bible for all tailors in the summers.
Kayseria from the house of Bareeze differs from its parent company by focusing on prints rather than embroideries. As a young brand Kayseria too does not want to associate itself yet with an established name.
This year the brand promises exclusive prints culled from the arts and indigenous culture. “We provide a range of fabric from silks, chiffons, digital prints on specific fabrics and swiss lawn. We reap fabric according to our own requirements and experiment,” explained brand manager Bilal Ahmed Khan.
A significant player in the textiles industry, Lala is focusing on bringing their brand into the spotlight this summer with intense campaigning without the use of any celebrity or designer. “We are a brand that everyone wears from the top down,” said Daanish Lala. “The designer lawn is for a small niche which is hardly one per cent of the market. But the effect that it now has is that a designer has become more accessible to the masses at large,” says Lala. This year they will be offering a Jaipur collection and lawns with chiffons and crinkle dupattas, lace and embroidered necklines that will make lawn a semi formal ensemble.
While a celebrity’s image does turn heads, as it did last year when Kareena Kapoor was roped in for Sitara Lawn, what ultimately spurs sales is desirability for the product and its image as quality merchandise. Long before the masses knew of Sana Safinaz, they were confident of Al Karam’s product — with their brand already a household name, they may not require the kind of support a textile mill like Al Karam can provide, but it remains to be seen if the same model can be successfully be replicated by other designers such as Umar Sayeed, HSY and others who are banking on their name to sell.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2011.