Rainwear: Will it make a splash or simply drown?

Designers explain why this line of clothing may not work in Pakistan.

Sarah Khan June 24, 2011


Pakistan’s emerging fashion industry might have impressive fashion weeks, designer stores and studios, but there is one area most designers have not ventured into yet — monsoon wear. With recent fashion shows considerably raising the standards of the industry, one wonders why designers hesitate to launch collections dedicated to protection from rain.

The trend for rainwear is rapidly catching up in India, but trench coats and light raincoats remain a distant reality in Pakistan. Designers believe that it will take such collections years to establish a foothold in the country due to our rather ‘closed culture’, lagging infrastructure and uncooperative textile industry.  However, society alone cannot be blamed as the cautious approach of designers is equally responsible for the unchanging perceptions of clothing.

Many people associate monsoon-wear with pret designers and the retail sector – a section of the industry that is not growing – because there are not enough tourists to appreciate their offering. “Unlike India, Pakistan does not enjoy the advantage of having many tourists,” said Zahir Rahimtoola of fashion retail store Labels. “This is the reason why designers cannot come out with specific seasonal collections and they have to innovate to retain the same customer,” he added.

While most designers in Pakistan are hesitant about experimenting with this seasonal line, their unwillingness to take the risk differ.

Young and unconventional designer Syed Rizwanullah welcomes the idea, but is sceptical about dedicating a chunk of investment just to rainwear, especially because of the unpredictability of rain in Pakistan. “I’m known to do crazy stuff. Who knows, I might design a clothing line for a monsoon wedding and that could be categorised as high-fashion formal rainwear,” said Rizawanullah.

While the monsoon season was once given a lot of significance in Pakistan, the country’s designers do not feel it is important enough to deserve an exclusive line. India, on the other hand, is catching up fast as designer Sonya Vajifdar has already launched her rainwear line for men, women and children. Much like Pakistan, market for rainwear in India is not that great either, but the past few years have seen people become more accepting of innovation.

A conformist society and rainwear don’t go together

Feeha Jamshed, known for her eccentric sense of style and experimental approach, argues that rainwear cannot flourish in Pakistan mainly because of the high-cost of production and the close-mindedness of people who prefer sticking to their “tailor-made cotton and linen outfits”.

“Since everything is becoming so expensive, I highly doubt there will be enough people wanting to pay an exorbitant price for rainwear,” said Jamshed, adding that since the required fabric will have to be imported, the final cost will be pretty high.

“While India’s fashion industry is flourishing with the help of their textile industry, Pakistan’s fashion industry continues to struggle on its own,” said the designer, citing another reason behind the reluctance to invest.

Another mainstream designer, Adnan Pardesi, believes that people who have a taste for rainwear would prefer wearing established international brands that are easily available here.

Clinging to the notion that society is not traditionally inclined to wear such outfits, Pardesi highlighted that rainwear is an extremely western concept. “Honestly speaking, I’d rather make a jora of silk than invest so much in trenches or raincoats which will most probably end up lying untouched in the warehouse,” said Pardesi.

Infrastructure doesn’t support street-culture

Renowned fashion designer Ammar Belal sees the lack of infrastructure in Pakistan as the main reason why rainwear cannot thrive. “That line of clothing is mostly geared towards a society that has a walking culture,” said Belal. “We, on the other hand, don’t have a street culture.” He added that if rainwear is to be introduced in Pakistan, it would most probably be in the form of sportswear for outdoor sports. “Rainwear, per se, comes much later in the list. Sportswear, which will probably need the same (parachute) material, should be initially focused on.”

However, as more and more people crowd the fashion scene, many designers are now thinking of out-of-the-box solutions to maintain their exclusivity. And who knows, rainwear could be the next big thing in Pakistan’s fashion world.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2011.


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