If you’ve read the ‘about me’ section, you’ll know that I am British Pakistani. Growing up through the years I’d rarely dress up in Pakistani clothing, mainly on the odd occasion to visit my relatives house, attend an engagement party/wedding/mehndi and to celebrate Eid (I know, shame on me!). Things gradually started to fall into perspective (with age) and I am proud to parade around looking nothing short of well, me. The beauty about South Asian clothing is the diversity of the colour palette, the reds, greens, purples, pinks, blues and a handful of embellishment. The intricacy of each garment (and I’m sure countless hours) is simply sublime and hence my attraction and appreciation for each piece , I mean just take a look at the pictures above – the clothes are elegantly exquisite. I am utterly proud of the talent that comes from Pakistan, as more often than not it goes unnoticed, hence this post.
LABELS emerged onto a non-existent fashion scene in 1996 to now offering the world a taste of what Pakistan has to offer through an online platform. Zahir Rahimtoola (CEO) vision has come a long way, from a humble beginning LABELS has become Pakistan’s premier multi-designer store retailing fine clothing, accessories, hand bags and precious jewellery. I had the pleasure of interviewing Zahir about what triggered him to choose fashion and a lot more.
1) Hi Zahir – What made you open up a fashion concept?
In the late 90’s, Pakistan was opening up to the world with the arrival of Satellite Television and International Food Chains. However, Fashion retail was very limited, hence, I thought it was a good idea to open a Fashion Retail Store with western sensibilities. Since we were in the textile business and had a Textile Buying House, it was easy for us to obtain retail stocks.
2) What made you come up with the name Labels?
Since, we were representing major US importers and stores, we had access to production overruns. I thought that LABELS would be a good name since we planned to stock different labels.
3) In 1 word, how would you describe Labels?
4) Pakistan is conservative with its culture, does Labels take into consideration a particular type of woman when deciding which designers to advocate?
In recent years, due to the expansion of the middle-class in Pakistan, there has been a big demand for fusion clothing with an eastern twist. Moreover, unlike most cultures, power-dressing for women working in the corporate sector revolves around Shalwar Kameez as opposed to a business suit. Furthermore, due to the regional conflicts, Pakistan has very little transient/tourist population. Therefore, retail stores are geared towards the local populous. These are the factors we take into consideration, whilst selecting designers.
5) What Pakistani clothing trends should we be looking out for?
Current trends in Pakistan combine the traditional with the innovative. Unique prints screen and block prints can be seen on angarkhas, pallazo pants and edgy tunics. Use of color has always been a specialty of Pakistani designers. This season the colors are bold with color-blocking continuing to be a popular choice whether it is contrasting brights or pairing vivid colors with neutrals. Animal prints used sparingly give classic looks a modern feel. Metal work details in the form of studs, buttons or other embellishment reflect luxury and sophistication. Cuts are pared down and simplified with chic wrap around tops with belts and softly draped shirts and trousers.
6) Who would you choose to represent Labels in the media? And why?
Mahira Khan is the single most powerful personality today in Pakistan as there is a huge conversion of sales whenever she is branding Pakistani designers e.g. She wore Feeha Jamshed’s collection in the play “Humsafar” and Sania Maskatiya’s collection in the play “Shehr-e-zaat”; both of these collections have been huge hits.
7) What do you think about fashion blogs, I notice you have a section on your website?
I am a firm believer that Fashion blogs and Social media communications are the way forward for fashion reporting. We are going through a generational change where the press and print media is having a reducing role since the younger generation is into smart phones and other technologically advanced gadgets and are moving away from the habit of reading. It is an age of instant news and instant gratification; As fashion blogs offer instant news and information they attract a far larger audience.
Fashion blogs are the best form of fashion reporting , Furthermore, Fashion blogging is at a nascent stage in Pakistan , We have provided a platform to Fashion Bloggers on the homepage of our LABELS E-store as we enjoy a huge traffic and this in turn can help create awareness of Fashion Bloggers.
8) Fashky is based in Dubai, any plans to visit this region?
LABELS has always been at the forefront of fashion in Pakistan, from being the first fashion retail store, the first store to go beyond the frontiers of Pakistan and the first comprehensive fashion retail portal. We established a co-branding relationship with ‘Studio 8’ in Dubai in 2010, Hence, We do have presence in the Middle East, However, our focus has shifted and we prefer selling worldwide through our E-store.
9) What plans do you have in store for Labels?
Currently, We are very focused in developing our E-store as we have received a tremendous response since there is a huge South-East Asian Diaspora worldwide, it is our intention to reach out to this untapped resource.
10) Last but not least, what advice would you give to an entrepreneur?
My advice would be to cross the ‘t’s and dot the ‘i’s in any business that one undertakes. It is very important to stay focused in order to build a successful business.
I want to thank Zahir for taking the time out from his busy schedule for this interview. The responses received are thorough and clearly represent Zahir’s passion for fashion on a large scale.