ISLAMABAD: Unlike the deliberately ostentatious displays and overpriced merchandise at multi-brand stores in the federal capital, the recently launched Asmani goes against the grain by actually offering an array of quality trappings and accessories that won’t burn through your wallet.
“I stock designers that fit with my ethos,” says Asmani CEO Asmat Jaffer, “meaning quality, fashionable clothes at affordable prices.” The Express Tribune met up with Jaffer at Asmani’s sartorial confines. Prior to Asmani’s launch, Jaffer sold pure English sterling silver products, which are still on display at the store and include a plethora of cufflinks, bowls, frames and silverware. Asmani grew from this, quite naturally, and was launched on May 25. “It sort of just happened,” comments Jaffer and proceeds to explain that she envisioned a place that could accommodate up-and-coming as well as established designers that lacked outlet spaces in the city.
At the moment it’s all about womenswear and accessories, although Jaffer plans on expanding to menswear soon. She is quick to point out a designer, Sania Maskatiya, whose elegant cuts and tasteful embellishments make this designer a strong contender in today’s fashion scene. “Sadaf Malaterre’s crushed cottons and western tops [Rs5,000 and up] are also a popular buy here,” says Jaffer, busy gesturing and selecting pieces. Umbreen & Sharmeen (Karachi) make the list as well, displaying a sundry range of beadwork with traditional and western twists — remarkably priced at Rs1,500 and upwards. The House of Kamiar Rokni’s new diffusion line, Tia, also stocks at Asmani, pulling in merchandise that’s both fashion and body conscious. Jaffer explains, “What I really like about Rokni’s line, Tia and designer Sania Maskatiya is that they do clothes in all sizes, from extra small to extra large.” Jaffer elucidates that a lot of local designers stick to medium or petite sizes, without any consideration for customers with varying body types.
In terms of accessories offered, Krizmah bags dominate with their unique prints and socially conscious approach. Crafted by Chitrali women, each bag seeks to incorporate the region’s rich folkloric heritage and culture into the designs. “Each piece is completely hand-stitched by a single artist, echoing her hopes, aspirations and proud heritage,” reads the insert within the ‘Hashim Bigim’ (the disappointed princess) bag — with its brightly coloured motifs inspired by the princess’ romantic quest, this is no ordinary buy.
The next step for Jaffer is opening up a coffee bar in a sepulchral yet cosy corner of the store — including a smattering of baked treats, teas and coffees. The bar will undoubtedly open to much fanfare as customers always enjoy brief and in-house respites from shopping excursions. A strong start and a promising future ahead for Asmani; the sky’s the limit!
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2011.