Admit it. Even as the city gets splattered with billboards dedicated to technicolour three-piece suits, even as you shed away your shawls and ponder over switching on the air conditioner, and even as the weather begins to swelter, those lawn suits simply aren’t enticing you anymore.
They look great in catalogues, thanks to stylists and the marvels of Photoshop. However, whether the suits are ‘designer’ lawn, professing to translate high fashion into daily wear or by a brand churned out by a textile bigwig, there’s nothing new about an unstitched three-piece suit, and its myriad add-ons in chiffon, silk and embroidery. Been there, bought that and worn that far too many times. It’s time to move on, ladies.
The lawn fad, after a long reign on summer fashions, is well and truly stuck in a rut. Sure, it’s still the most sensible fabric to wear during the long Pakistani summer. It’s just that lawn of the three-piece unstitched variety is really not high fashion any longer.
Perhaps, this is the reason why every year, certain designer lawn brands resign from the market. Some designers find the market too hackneyed while others prefer to put their focus on couture and prêt.
For instance, Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, Nomi Ansari and Karma are not delving into lawn for the moment. Shamaeel Ansari and Sania Maskatiya are planning to delay their lawn line-ups till later in the summer when they will be made available as options for Eid.
Besides, while retailers and designers may go hoarse pronouncing themselves to be ‘sold out’, one can see a multitude of those very prints available on sale a mere two months later. Some lawns may mint money, but it’s no secret that there are others that fail miserably.
Compared to the variety available in the market, women aren’t buying as many lawn suits. For one, it’s no fun ending up wearing the same clothes as a gazillion other women. Even though there are a multitude of lawn brands in the market – nearly a whopping 150 were available last year – there are some that are all-time favourites.
Élan, Sania Maskatiya, Khaadi and the kingpin of all lawns, Sana Safinaz, sold exceptionally well last year. As a result, one can see those prints virtually everywhere. The suits may have been beautiful, but they got monotonous very quickly simply because they are so common.
And then, there are the hefty stitching costs of putting those complicated lawn ensembles together. Not to mention the repetitive trips to the ne’er-do-well tailors. The stress and expenditure often don’t seem to be worth it; especially now that there are so many ready-to-wear options available in the market.
Ready to wear – affordable, easily accessible and available in multiple sizes – is the main element nudging three-piece lawn right out of the fashion-conscious woman’s wardrobe.
Internationally, women have been buying off-the-rack clothes for a long time and Pakistani fashion has finally caught on. Ready-to-wear retail stores like Ego, Daaman, Sheep and let’s not forget, Khaadi, dot mainstream malls, and multi-label and standalone designer stores are now primarily dedicated to affordable prêt.
Even the hardcore lawn brands have jumped on the ready-to-wear bandwagon. Gul Ahmed and Nishat Linen have entire sections in their shops cordoned off for prêt, Junaid Jamshed’s J lawn is available in both stitched and unstitched versions, Kayseria has a prêt line and Bonanza’s dabbling into the high street by stocking prêt designed by Sanam Chaudhri and Maheen Karim as well as economical, basic daily wear through their in-house label Satrangi.
Likewise, quite a few designer lawn stalwarts have extended their ateliers on to prêt. Maria B and Vaneeza Ahmed stock stitched as well as unstitched lawn suits and last year, Sania Maskatiya debuted into the lawn market with unstitched suits and a capsule collection of stitched lawn tunics. This year, Khaadi offers three-piece stitched options and of course, Sana Safinaz Prêt stores sell a wide selection of stitched lawn separates.
“The market is slowly veering towards ready to wear,” observes Safinaz Munir. “Perhaps, in another few years, it’ll be the most popular sartorial option for women.”
Has the demand for their lawn wavered in favour of ready to wear? Not yet, says Safinaz. “Our prêt is available all year round. Meanwhile, lawn is more exclusive, simply because it’s only available for a limited time every year until stocks last. Also, a lot of women like three-piece suits stitched exactly according to their particular requirements.”
Lawn is for the mass market, explains Deepak Perwani, yet another frontrunner of designer lawn. “Designer prêt is just available at a handful of stores while lawn gets distributed everywhere,” he points out.
Apparently, lawn sales are a whole different ball game, according to Shamoon Sultan of Khaadi. After ruling the roost for affordable prêt wear for years, his brand branched out to unstitched lawn three years ago. “Prêt and luxury prêt may sell well in big cities and it is the most popular choice when it comes to glamorous red carpet affairs. In smaller cities, where women often don’t work, it is a hobby for them to buy unstitched lawn and get it stitched. The demand for lawn is possibly five times or more than that for ready to wear. It is, after all, a necessity to wear it during Pakistan’s hot summers.”
And it is out of necessity, more than anything else, that we’ll still be purchasing those lawn suits. Admittedly, some of them are always hard to resist. Sana Safinaz have delved into chikankari this year and Khaadi has one-upped the competition by starting off prices for suits with embroidered shirts at Rs2,900, when the market rate, in general, wavers at Rs4,000 and above.
It’s just that we probably won’t set aside our lawns to make a statement at red carpet affairs, and perhaps, we won’t buy as many lawn suits as we used to. Lawn just isn’t that exciting anymore!
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2014.