Only the best brands — in fashion, or otherwise — are able to evolve with time; intuitively moulding to changing customer demands. The House of Shamaeel by designer Shamaeel Ansari specialised in heavy eastern couture at the time of its inception, 27 years ago, and has widened its umbrella while staying true to its high-end regal ethos.
The various lines that now form the design house include bridals, formal couture, lightweight silks and cottons that form the prêt-line and capsule collections of clutches that go fabulously well with the clothes. The brand’s regular sell-out seasonal exhibitions have won fashion week acclaim and have paved the way for future expansion by legalising itself into a corporate structure. The only missing link in Shamaeel’s business structure was the absence of standalone retail stores. And that is not the case anymore as the designer puts the finishing touches to her first standalone store ‘House of Shamaeel’ which is , quite literally, a house located close to Karachi’s fashionable E-street.
“My brand has always been easily accessible for my regular clientele but of course, with a store of my own I can reach out to a wider market,” observes the designer. “It will also serve as a permanent exhibition area for the divergent lines that define the House of Shamaeel. I didn’t want to set up shop in a mall. We have a very exclusive ethos that draws target customers all on its own and don’t need to rely on the footfall generated by a mall.”
The store in Karachi is tentatively scheduled to open by the end of the year while plans are underway for another retail standpoint in Lahore, to be opened by next year. Shamaeel’s apparel has unfailingly remained true to her distinctive design signature and, according to her, this will continue to be the case as she delves deeper into retail. “Even with my affordable ready-to-wear I don’t ever want to create clothes that are commonplace.”
For instance, last year’s ‘Tughra’ brand dabbles into ready-to-wear priced predominantly under Rs15,000 but still emulates the beauty of a luxe Shamaeel. Now, with her exhibit from a few days ago, Shamaeel has re-launched into her initial claim-to-fame, eastern couture. “I have always been creating bespoke formals for clients but now, I am going to be promoting this line more vociferously,” she says.
The exhibit is one of the brand’s chosen ‘Miracle mentors’ — featured intricately crafted traditional clothes, velvets mixed in with silks and nets and vintage zarodozi and marori-work. The invite-only event had aficionados milling about, wearing Shamaeel outfits from older collections — one spotted politico Sharmila Farooqui in a long tunic cinched at the waist. The ‘flash sale’ that followed the next day had more customers; regulars who came in to make purchases or place orders for the heavier designs.
These are the clients, then, who are going to make a beeline for the upcoming Shamaeel store. This collection could be considered to be a precursor to the designer’s showcase at the imminent PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week, the first time she will be showing in Lahore, where she has a considerable clientele. Prior to this, Shamaeel is scheduled to be part of a TDAP-organised fashion show in Delhi.
With regular fashion showcases and soon, a stronger retail identity; this is a brand that is evolving with its market. Other designers, still functioning in their ‘home-based’ order-only businesses, take note.
Maliha Rehman is a fashion and lifestyle journalist with an obsessive, compulsive need to write. Log on for more updates on Twitter @maliharehman.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2014.