Is fashion the new virtual watchword?

Online businesses may be booming but how conducive the internet is to the industry remains to be seen

Saadia Qamar July 15, 2015
Recently held Daraz Fashion Week featured various designers in an online fashion show. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: About a month ago, internet-based retail portal made headlines by launching Pakistan’s first-ever online fashion week. The three-day event was viewed by over 25,000 surfers and continues to receive at least a thousand additional hits every day. Co-founder Farees Shah describes the response as ‘fantastic,’ seeing as how it revolutionised online shopping in Pakistan. “The online fashion week managed to reach the next level where customers were able to view the fashions how within the comforts of their homes and as per their own convenience,” said Farees, in an interview with The Express Tribune. “We incorporated social media and shared snippets of the show on our Facebook page which generated over half a million views. The publicity increased our sales by 40 per cent.”

From a statistical point of view, hit gold with their innovative idea but does the same hold true from a practical point of view? According to Farees, physical fashion shows are limited in terms of the number of people they can cater to – a problem easily avoidable over the internet. “Our event reached out to anyone interested in fashion, in every part of Pakistan with no restrictions on the number or location of the viewer,” claimed Farees. Not to mention, it allowed multiple viewings as well. A point to be noted is that when it comes to physical shows, the items being displayed are typically not on sale yet and audience-members are often clueless as to how to get them. “We offered immediate purchase of anything a viewer liked, just a few clicks away,” he added.

At the other end of the spectrum is Zahir Rahimtoola, the CEO of Labels, who finds the entire concept difficult and impractical. “We were actually the first ones to attempt it with the Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW), some two years ago. It was a ramp-to-net project, in collaboration with the Fashion Pakistan Council,” said Zahir. “We had a FPW page that was updated in real-time. Soon as the models went on ramp, photos were shot and uploaded so that our followers could place orders.”

As the clothes displayed were samples, everything was ‘made to order.’ And although the event sparked a number of requests, delivery of the clothes were delayed by most of the designers. “One must understand that internet sales are a commitment carved in stone and if they do not deliver, they are dead,” said Zahir. “A number of e-stores have opened up but eventually died because they lacked fulfillment. Unless the designers have line sheets in order, with details and pictures or the full collection ready for delivery, online shows will remain disasters.”

So an online fashion week doesn’t really set a new benchmark for our fashion industry?. “At Daraz, we hope to give people more and more reasons to spend time on our website and interact with us,” he said. “We have already established ourselves as the chief destination for shop collections. Our strategy now is to make it a platform for customers to learn about latest trends from. The fashion week was just one of the many such initiatives we will be conducting in the future.” Zahir, however, remains skeptical and claims that, “Online fashions sound great as marketing tools but do they really beget results in Pakistan?” We suppose only time will tell…

Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th,  2015.

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