1. Sania Maskatiya
She was the only one to show entirely new collections at both Fashion Pakistan Week and PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW). Her bridal collection at PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week (PLBW) was one of the most experimental and innovative. Currently one of the most creative Pakistani designers, she has spearheaded the change to a more tapered silhouette for Eastern wear. Sania’s core strength is her textile background but she also shows a flair for cut and design. Her lawn for Sapphire Textiles was one of this year’s most popular designer lawn collections. She has also taken her collections abroad to various international desi fashion shows. This year saw two new Sania Maskatiya retail outlets, one in Lahore and one in Dolmen Mall, Clifton. Her Karachi flagship store in Defence, despite having huge display space, almost feels too small to house all the designs Sania has to show at any point in time. In terms of energy, business sense, creativity and sheer talent, Sania is one of 2013’s fashion’s frontrunners.
2. Sana Safinaz
A chain of retail stores, accolades at every fashion week of note this year and an e-store in the offing. Sana Safinaz have upped the ante this year, while continuing to excel in their core fields of luxury couture and bridals. The retail road has not been entirely smooth, with complaints about the speed at which accessories are restocked. However, from the sheer number of women seen wearing Sana Safinaz prêt, it’s clear the duo are onto another winner with their retail operation. At the opening of their third store in Karachi, Sana mentioned that they are planning more stores in Lahore and Islamabad. The pair has shown creativity and flair with both western wear and bridals on the ramp this year. Their lawn and winter silk collections continue to lead the pack in terms of sales. No other label has achieved quite so much in 2013.
Khadija Shah shone from the ramp at both PSBW and PLBW. Her unique signature was evident in each of her critically acclaimed collections. Élan was a firm red carpet favourite too, at events as varied as PSFW and the Veet Celebration of Beauty. Bollywood actress Nargis Fakhri was the face of Élan lawn, which proved as much of a hit with customers this year as it was in 2012. Élan’s bridals are amongst the most in Pakistan. Shah’s determination to use only handwork means her bridals can be very highly priced, but she is happy to work to clients’ budgets too. Elegant, intricate and much-copied, Élan’s outfits are among the best of 2013.
Khaadi recently became the first Pakistani high street brand to open in London, England. They opened two stored in Westfield malls, one in Stratford and the other in Shepherd’s Bush. The brand also has 40 stores all over Pakistan, as well as one in Malaysia and one in Dubai. At home, Khaadi is popular with both aunties and the younger crowd. Despite a high stock turnover, it’s not uncommon to run into someone wearing the same Khaadi kurta while just about everyone owns a pair of embroidered Khaadi tights. The brands popularity is evidence of their quality and commercial nous. Their PSFW collection showed design flair, though little of it made it into their local stores. The collection will however, be available in London, where Shamoon Sultan aims to open 20 stores over two years, with a mix of stock designed to appeal to overseas Pakistanis, Indians and Europeans. The label also recently opened a home store, stocking home textiles and accessories. Khaadi is one of Pakistan’s strongest retail brands and 2013 showed that Khaadi is going places.
There was a time that Labels was in danger of becoming an also-ran in terms of multi-brand stores. All that has changed. Labels has improved its mix of designers and the layout of the store. Their leap into the realms of e-retailing has taken them to new heights. With an enviable range of designers at their e-store Labels has benefited from being the first e-store to offer premier Pakistani designers online. The e-store would benefit from photographing its outfits on a model instead of on a dummy but this is a minor crib. Their years of retail experience have stood them in good stead even though selling online has its own challenges. Another area where Labels has excelled this year is trunk shows and exhibitions. Labels owner Zahir Rahimtoola is brilliant at providing the right setting for visiting designers and for society clientele. Designers such as Zara Shahjahan and Khadijah Shah of Élan have brought their bridal week collections to Karachi at Labels. Even more impressively, Labels hosted Pakistan’s first ever international designer trunk show. The son of the founders of Bottega, Corto Moltedo, brought over a superb collection of clutches. No other multi-brand store even came close in 2013.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2013.