Every summer, women from Faisalabad to Karachi and beyond, clamour to cloth malls and department stores to purview the endless variety of lawn available. All over the world, during this period, international designers meet deadlines fulfilling orders for Fall/Winter (F/W). However, in Pakistan, because of the dearth of seasonal collections and fresh offerings by Pakistani designers, it is lawn that has remained the go to fabric of choice. In lieu of a strong and viable prêt à porter market, which admittedly is still growing, it is lawn that has established a conduit between fashion and the public.
Brands from Faisalabad include VIP Lawn, Shumaila Lawn, Sonia Lawn, Samia Lawn and Jubilee Lawn. Leading brands from Karachi’s mills, such as Gul Ahmed and Al-Karam have traditionally had a snob appeal as a myriad of Pakistan’s leading fashion doyennes and designers have designed for these mills, including Sana Safinaz, Shamaeel and Rizwan Beyg.
Lawn has other economic dynamics in play which retailers are apt to manipulate. Gul Ahmed, Al-Karam and Classic range from 80-220 rupees per metre, depending on quality, shop locale and the buyer’s monetary status. Yes, lawn is also the ultimate consumer product which is heckled and bargained for. Smart retailers know that women never want to look like every second Jane and Javeria, and will thus stock a wide range of unique designs and patterns to cash in on the trend.
Lawn from the mightiest mills has another trickle down economic effect, as when the fabric hits the markets the rush at tailoring businesses speeds up. According to cloth store salesmen, women often buy lawn material a dozen to 15 at a time. During balmy summer days lawn shalwar kameez suits are the de rigeur uniform of choice for practical women on the go.
The years 2008-10 saw the maximum number of fashion designers lending their label to textile manufacturers: Rizwan Beyg, Sana Safinaz, Sara Shahid, Sonya Battla, Shamaeel, Maria B and Sobia Nazir are already established names in the fashion industry. These designers, who are creating lawn prints for mills, are going beyond being mere designers but veering into creating lifestyles and further establishing their brand identity by widening their client base. Through their lawn they are offering exclusivity and a glimmer of an otherwise unattainable designer lifestyle at an accessible price just like the myriad designers, including Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney did with H&M.
Designers are now further illustrating their creativity, designing prints in various vibrant hues, taking inspiration from Mughal architecture, the British Raj, Turkish arabesques, Mondrian and a plethora of other motifs, melding tradition with modernity in unexpected juxtapositions, a prime example being veteran designer Shamaeel’s lawn collection in Summer 2009.
Beyg proffers that the vision designers are bringing to the textile industry is being taken seriously by mills who are ready to invest money and this is what will push the most “viable prêt” available in Pakistan.
Other non-designers and savvy entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of the mileage that their celebrity garners them include Vaneeza Ahmad (V Lawn). Even Junaid Jamshed caught onto the lawn bug and launched his very successful line. Al-Karam made their presence felt on the city’s billboard circuit by stylising fashion model Nadia Hussain to resemble Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Firdous Textiles, who habitually have prominent fashion designers or celebrities endorse their fabric, went all out launching their Summer Lawn Collection 2010 when they hired Bollywood superstar, Kareena Kapoor to endorse the line. Kapoor was splashed over billboards across the country, much to the chagrin of some local models and actresses and was reportedly paid 15 million Pakistani rupees for her services.
However, the design house that elicits the most frenzied response from the public is the designer duo Sana Safinaz, whose sardine-packed exhibitions are battlegrounds of women fighting over their seemingly elusive and aspiration-driven, multi-hued, floral, block and Aztec-inspired prints on lawn, chiffon and Swiss voile. As per usual their lawn collection in S/S 2010 was completely sold out in two days, garnering millions of rupees.
So can lawn ever be considered a major player in Pakistani fashion? After all it is merely fabric at the end of the day? Fashion demands a trend trajectory, forecasting a certain style; a finished product as envisioned by a creator.
As fashion writer Aamna Haider Isani very astutely said of lawn:
“Fabric alone cannot predict a vision because the final product is dependent on every single woman who will take those five yards of fabric home and rearrange them to their creative capability.”
A prime example of lawn being seen as a viable fashion commodity akin to prêt wear was Maheen Khan’s presentation of her designs for Nishat Linen at Fashion Pakistan Week two in March 2010.
Textile giant Gul Ahmed is taking those baby steps toward perfecting the marriage between mills and ready-to-wear fashion, adding a designer blitz into the mix. Its Ideas retail store has been offering unstitched separates – embroidered white shalwars and embellished kurtis for several years and in 2008 they launched a menswear line, G-man. This is the long-awaited collaboration between fashion and textile mills and it should be sustained and encouraged at all costs.
Bareezé is another great example of this ethos as they teamed up with HSY in 2008. In 2010 HSY again jumped into the lawn mix. The Jofa Premium Lawn collection was launched with Iman Ali as the brand ambassador and duo Ather Shehzad as the make-up artist and photographer. HSY’s styling of a three piece suit from the jewellery-inspired lawn by Asim Jofa, with minimum embellishments was a prime example of aspiration-building for the public.
This marriage between design and industry can take the Pakistani fashion industry forward and encourage a culture of merchandising rather than mere glamorous show presentations.
With prêt lawn slowly becoming trendy and designers stocking separate lawn pieces in their ateliers, awareness about mixing and matching coordinates is setting in.
Increasingly style savvy women will feel comfortable in forging their own styles and head towards fashion stores to mix and match a Sana Safinaz lawn kameez with a Shamaeel lawn Patiala shalwar to create individual and eclectic looks. Snooty begums will still target designer labels per se but volume will be generated by mass consumers.
And lawn in its new configurations will remain the egalitarian queen of fabrics.
Also check out the hottest lawn campaigns in 2010: http://auroramagazine.blogspot.com/2011/03/hottest-lawn-campaigns-in-2010.html
Zurain Imam is Senior Assistant Editor, Xpoze Monthly. firstname.lastname@example.org