ISLAMABAD: Fashion in Islamabad has been booming in terms of trends and volume, albeit slowly. Although the city may not always have been or become a fashion hub as such, things have been changing as every new generation brings with itself new aesthetic choices.
According to renowned fashion choreographer Rezz Aly Shah, comparing Islamabadi fashion of the yesteryears to that of today is like “comparing Timbuktu to Paris.” He offered a sound explanation behind this, saying that one cannot juxtapose the capital with mega cities like Lahore and Karachi on account of its size. “Islamabad cannot be compared to other cities because it’s much smaller. But the fashion industry here is definitely expanding as we have some good designers and great young talent,” Shah said.
If fashion weeks are anything to go buy, then one can safely conclude that Islamabad has finally arrived, seeing as how no one had thought to hold an event there up until 2011. “I am directing Islamabad Fashion Week myself so will say that things are evidently changing,” added Shah.
Even industry big weights like Maria B echo Shah’s sentiments, pointing at the diffusion of fashion archives through the city. “It is definitely getting stronger in terms of its fashion presence,” said the designer. “There have been many new designers and much fresh talent coming out of Islamabad. I believe people are starting to recognise the city as a growing strength in the fashion industry.”
Despite these developments, the question of Islamabad’s profitability looms large. Has the city really become enough of a force to be reckoned with, that designers should consider tapping into its market? Or is there still a long way to go before its residents are freed from having to drive down to Lahore, every time a family wedding comes around.
For Islamabad, multi-brand outlets such as Labels, Ensemble and L’atelier have been key. These shops are amongst the handful of platforms budding designers can use to introduce themselves. “Previously, there used to be only two fashion outlets here but now, we have five,” shared L’atelier head Sarah Raza. “The industry is progressing and people are coming up with new designs in the market. The overall extent of the market may be smaller but the hopes are very high.”
One must note that Islamabad does have some unique qualities to offer which add to its appeal. According to Labels CEO Zahir Rahimtoola, economic liberalisation across Pakistan has made it easier for many to lead lavish lifestyles. “And the interesting thing with Islamabad is that it is doing well fashion-wise due to the strong diplomatic presence there,” explained Rahimtoola. “Living standards in general have improved over the past few years, thanks to higher income levels. Therefore, Islamabad has become one of the best cities to do business in, because of a large, transient population which doesn’t exist in any other city.”
Rahimtoola cited his own example to elucidate why he believes more clothing brands ought to establish themselves in the capital. “Opening a Labels store in Islamabad was a very wise decision for us,” he claimed.
Naturally, this applies to not just high-end fashion but regular brands such as Khaadi, Gul Ahmed, Sapphire and Al-Karam as well, all of which have been generating ample business in the capital. “Out of the entire northern region, Islamabad seems to be performing the best,” shared a representative from Khaadi. “In other cities, pret is what people want. In Islamabad, however, there is an inclination towards un-stitched apparel.”
Islamabad’s burgeoning market can partly be attributed to the opening up of Centaurus, which came soon after Karachi’s Dolmen Mall and The Mall of Lahore. Centaurus has arguably given rise to ‘mall culture’ within the city, redirecting foot fall away from the Jinnah Supers and Kohsars, towards the air-conditioned stores, eateries and greater variety that it offers. But with many high profile names like Nomi Ansari, HSY and Nilofer Shahid yet to jump onto the Isloo bandwagon, only time will tell how far the things will go.
Courtesy : Express Tribune