Fashion is not always about being shiny and beautiful. The severe downfall that global fashion giants like Gucci and Prada faced with last year’s onslaught of debilitating recession proved that fashion could no more just afford to be just luxurious (pun intended).
Locally one witnessed a huge change as a brand as established as Deepak Perwani began its D Philosophy pret line that was fun and quirky with prices that were consumer friendly. Soon after designer labels, such as Elan, Maheen Karim and Kamiar Rokni followed suit.
However it is not just the big names that have had to succumb to the market’s slump, even the high end fashion retail stores like Labels and now Ensemble have generated their own budgeted product lines.
Zahir Rahimtoola of Labels has been the first to start his store’s in house line apart from stocking various designers at a wide spectrum of price points. “Labels caters to the cross section of Karachi’s society,” explains Rahimtoola. “We do not claim to only retail high-end fashion. Since its inception Labels has a vertical pricing strategy offering the best value for money. Our pricing starts from Rs800 upwards hence the question of compulsion is irrelevant in our case.”
Ensemble, which has been a treasure trove for Indian fashion icons such as Ritu Kumar and Tarun Tahiliani, amongst illustrious names from Pakistan’s own fashion industry, is also set to launch its own line of garments. “I would like to clarify that we are not giving up one concept for the other,” explains Shehrnaz Husain, the creative director for the new budgeted pret line. “Ensemble has seen this upcoming trend where women prefer to buy a finished product. A big market segment for us is working women, young mothers, basically (those) who don’t have the time to run after tailors and want easily accessible good quality casual day wear/work wear.”
It is noteworthy that the store was the first to encourage a brand as renowned as Ritu Kumar to design an affordable line of tops and kurtis.
A few months ago, Ensemble had test marketed the strategy with an intriguing ‘Peacock Collection’. “We have an inhouse label called Ensemble Design Studio, and that launched the Peacock line – it was basically everything from casual day wear starting at Rs1,800 going up to wedding wear including saris, light bridals etc.
The inspiration behind this line was peacocks so we used peacock motifs and peacock colours in every which way including jumpsuits and cocktail dresses,” says Hussain. “However the new line has nothing to do with the Peacock Collection, this is a whole different label aimed at a different lifestyle.”
One issue is that given the glamorous image that both Labels and Ensemble have, doesn’t such a move towards lower price points dilute their persona? “In my opinion it is the product that creates the glamour and not the price. We take it as a compliment that we are perceived as a glamorous store, however it is our objective to offer quality clothing at affordable prices,” said Rahimtoola. Hussain feels the same way claiming that “Glamour and true style does not have a price tag! And if fashion houses across the globe can do this successfully, I should hope we would be able to do the same.”
Fashion in Pakistan has come a long way from when it seemed satisfied to be within the purview of a fortunate few. With horizontal expansion and more vertical price points, one can see that high end fashion retail stores are taking up the model that stores like Ego, Sheep and Daaman had started and the design house TeeJays began almost three decades ago.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2010.