When it comes to Indian and Pakistani borders, there is always speculation regarding the viability of cross border collaborations. Whether Indian actors endorse Pakistani lawn brands or Pakistani artistes star in movies or provide playback music; it has always been an area of debate.
One hears comments about India such as, ‘they don’t really appreciate Pakistani talent’, ‘why are we getting Indian actors to endorse our brands?’ However, with stores like PFDC opening up in Delhi and Karmik and Rabbiyat opening in Lahore there is a lot more awareness regarding the fashion aesthetic of the two countries. Major textile conglomerates are reaching out across the borders to bring in new aesthetic to their clothes.
To those who criticise India for not reciprocating the gesture of good will, Sahiba Ltd came as a breath of fresh air when they hired Maria B for their lawn collection this year.
“This is a very exciting project for us because it’s the first of its kind for any Pakistani designer,” says Maria Butt of Maria B, “representative of Sahiba walked into our store after the expo last year and showed interest in a collaboration.” The design house started working with them in a linen collection for the winters and after its success in India, the textile group asked the design house to design their lawn.
“India is a very different market from Pakistan as far as aesthetic is concerned. They want louder prints with a brighter colour palette. They want the Pakistani look and sensibility but with the Indian palette,” continues Butt.
India has a thriving middle class that is the main consumer of this particular lawn. “I had to really study the market and see what they like because both the countries have very different styles and aesthetics,” says the designer. While Butt discusses the viability of the product, she also highlights that affordable fashion is not available in India. “While the retail market is huge and they have major designers, affordable fashion is still not predominantly available,” says Butt.
Maria B marks her 15th year in the Pakistani fashion industry this year and this collaboration is opening doors for her across the border. Sahiba Ltd has a major distribution network panning across over 25 cities in India. “This is immense exposure for Maria B as we are not only getting recognition, but also being able to study the market out there,” she concludes.
The collection has a more bohemian and tribal sensibility rather than the floral pastels that generally work in Pakistan. Last year, Pakistan’s 5 Star Textile Group hired JJ Valaya from India to design their lawn for the season. One wondered if the day when Pakistani design houses will be asked by Indian companies to take on such projects will ever be seen. The collection is priced at INR1,500.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2014.