When edgy, monochrome textured walls were put up at the Mall of Lahore and Centaurus Mall in Islamabad in the form of geometrical cabins, with posters of a foreign model epitomising an interesting version of Queen Cleopatra, Pakistani fashion enthusiasts were introduced to the concept of pop-up stores.
Although not a pioneer of the pop-up store phenomenon in Pakistan, Creative Head of the Los Angeles-based brand CLEO Hani Naveed, was the first one to introduce it across the country, instead of limiting it to one metropolis. It was only a matter of time when the brand unfolded its off-beat and cutting-edge collection, leaving small crowds of young women in awe of its edginess.
With a major in Finance, Naveed always had a creative flair and hence, it wasn’t much of a surprise when she chose to ditch a career in accountancy and become a fashion entrepreneur. “Somewhere, I knew I had it in me to do something more than just number-crunching at a big four firm,” says Naveed. “It was always on my wish list to showcase my artistic flair through two things — extend my aesthetic sensibilities to the fashion world via my own brand and satisfy taste buds through my culinary concoctions that are infused and influenced by my travels. With CLEO, I am able to fulfill number one.”
From chunky metallic statement necklaces to striking cutwork and glitter shoes, her brand draws inspiration from the shining glory of Cleopatra and the Egyptian era and therefore, the brand name appears to be quite apt. “I identify with Cleopatra a lot and the mystery that surrounds her has intrigued me from a young age. I think she was years ahead of her time and I see her traits in all women who are independent, focused, strong-headed, and fashion conscious,” shares Naveed. “My brand, CLEO, is my fantastical interpretation of the idea that if Cleopatra was a woman of this era, this is how she would look.”
Like numerous other emerging entrepreneurs, Naveed has also limited her brand to multi-label stores and the online world, but unlike them, she was more innovative in launching it. “Pop-up stores are fun and trendy. The idea is to keep our retail feeling fresh. We want to draw in the crowds and then disappear for a bit. We feel that this is a very befitting model with our brand philosophy as it retains an element of exclusivity, surprise and excitement,” emphasises Naveed.
However, it was quite surprising that the brand did not cater to its fans from Karachi. Naveed assures that it was only because Karachiites deserved something grander. “We are looking at opportunities to bring the brand to Karachi. We want to get it just right over there, hence we have bigger plans for it and they’ll take a little longer for us to implement,” she says.
Amid intense competition from both local umbrella brands and international ones, the logical differentiation point would be to offer products at a cheaper price. However, CLEO does not seem to follow that strategy as the price range is Rs750 to Rs25,000. “CLEO is not a mass-market brand and we want to retain that factor of exclusivity. Our products are not for women who want to blend in. They’re for women who want to stand out. Our typical customer is fashion forward with a healthy, disposable income. She shops at international brands and never compromises on her sense of style,” asserts Naveed.
Customers seem to be appreciative of CLEO’s coming. Wooden clutches, patterned trousers and neon-coloured shoes — the design creativity has undoubtedly thrilled the modern, urban, fashion-forward women of Pakistan. And it appears that Naveed is no different from all these ambitious and independent women of today.
Not only is she heading this fashion-savvy brand, but also leading a motorcycle apparel brand in United States with her husband. With plans of another round of pop-up stores in the coming season, CLEO is definitely on the verge of setting a high benchmark for local Western wear brands.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2014.
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