With international brands seeping into the market in hopes of appealing to local sensibilities, Pakistan’s fashion landscape is gradually becoming lusher. Swarovski, a prime producer of crystals, is one such name that forayed into Pakistan last year with a standalone retail store in Karachi and an alliance with Nishat Group for their jewellery line in Lahore. Collaborating with Fifth Element, it went on to open a second retail store in Lahore, which focuses on distributing loose crystals to Northern areas of the country. The Express Tribune speaks to Andrew Mojica, managing director of Swarovski Middle East, who also looks over Pakistan and Iran, to get a crystal clear look at where they’re headed with the venture.
“What better way [to enhance the brand’s distribution] than to tap into Pakistan, which is one of the top garment makers in the world and boasts some great techniques and craftsmanship?” said Mojica about Swarovski setting foot in Pakistan. He holds that since Pakistani female consumers are brand-savvy, they appreciate that they’re part of a brand heritage when wearing Swarovski-embellished outfits.
Now celebrating its 120th anniversary, Swarovski is looking to build a mutually lucrative partnership with Pakistan. The Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) Swarovski Crystal Couturiers show took place in March and, while the clothes garnered mixed reviews, the show was a great display of the difference quality crystals can make to their design aesthetics. “There’s a wide range of possibilities here, from lawn to formals to bridals, and we’re looking to make our presence felt across the field,” he added.
Mojica said the brand is in talks with 20 designers in Pakistan. “That figure will see an exponential increase since we have two bases in Pakistan now. The more designers we collaborate with, the better we understand how they operate,” he said. “We want to enhance crystal embellishments in already rich Pakistani craftsmanship because designers haven’t previously been exposed to them and related techniques,” he added.
The store in Lahore houses select jewellery pieces from Fifth Element’s own line, created using Swarovski stones. In an attempt to take up a proactive approach to the Pakistani fashion scene, the brand looks towards making their presence known by joining forces with designers. One such collaboration is with Zara Shahjahan for her latest lawn collection that features Swarovski stones and was launched on June 22.
Of the line, Shahjahan shared, “We did an experimental range with Swarovski crystals and it’d probably take a while for the masses to acquaint themselves with their usage. But the designs with them did the best out of our entire range.” This has never been done before as Swarovski stones are slightly more expensive but the large volumes designers work with allow them to balance out price differences.
Swarovski is a family-run business and is now being managed by their fifth generation. Pakistan hasn’t been adequately exposed to crystal embellishment from authorised dealers, so they’re generally of poor quality and inconsistent. With Swarovski having established its base in Lahore and Karachi, those channels will hopefully dwindle. Swarovski, which has collaborated with the likes of Coco Chanel and Roberto Cavalli, hopes to focus on distribution and work closely with the local fashion industry. The brand is planning on hosting another fashion show by the end of the year.
Mojica said the stones can be applied to all kinds of surfaces, including silver, leather, home interiors and shoes. The staff will be trained to educate people about the use of the stones. Swarovski is home to around 80,000 products, for which they also work with pearls. With a vast product range, Mojica feels they’re well-equipped to advice clients on the techniques related to their products. “We want to create a place of trust through our stores, where people access new stone colours and cuts, and improve in terms of future designs,” noted Mojica.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2015.
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