Pakistan’s designer lawn wars took a new twist yesterday. This time, it involved model Rabia Butt.
The top model has accused designer Mina Hasan of releasing a lawn campaign that features her without her consent or knowledge.
The lawn campaign in question is Mina Hasan’s 2016 lawn collection for Shariq Textiles, which launched today. Billboards with the smouldering Rabia Butt have been all over town for days.
According to an angry Instagram post by the model, the campaign was shot in July of last year. Its release now complicates her exclusivity agreement with Sapphire for this lawn season:
“Shot in July 2015, revealed in March 2016, without my concent (sic) or knowledge or consideration for my current exclusivity status, is alarming. I am suffering from a case of being blindsided. Shocked that in this day and age a well known brand can but up a campaign at freewill, after 8 months and without getting in touch with the model to show some respect and most importantly to avoid discrepancy.”
How did this happen? We find out.
A matter of time
Alisha Hashmi from Mina Hasan explains, “While we shot the campaign in July, we had not made any decision about when to release the collection. Our entire design ethos is based on timeless elegance rather than yearly trends so for us, the decision to release the collection was based purely on production and seasonal constraints.”
When the campaign was not released in August, Rabia had asked Mina Hasan’s team about the delay and was clearly told that the release of the campaign and the collection was entirely at Shariq Textile’s discretion.
“We loved working with Rabia,” says Alisha. "Her striking features and bold stature made her the perfect face for this collection while Abdullah Harris’ camera brought out the organic beauty of each outfit beautifully. The shoot was done in the scenic Margalla Hills and Saidpur village, where the team worked together wonderfully. Since the collection was completed towards the tail end of the summer season, it was decided it would not do justice to the brand to release it in a rush or compromise on the quality."
While one can't fault Mina Hasan or Shariq Textiles for making a sound business decision, it can't be denied that Rabia has serious cause for complaint. She says on Instagram that the mix-up has "jeopardized (her) relationship with (Sapphire)". This only underlines the need for models to have managers who can ensure watertight contracts every time they sign a campaign.
Mina Hasan confirms that there was never any suggestion of a time frame within which the campaign should be used. Rabia was paid her asking fee by Shariq Textiles and, as per international norms, they felt it within their rights to release the campaign according to what made sense from a business point of view.
“We were never informed of [Rabia's] exclusivity [agreement with Sapphire] until the 9th of March by which point all the billboards were done and the entire campaign was ready to go. Of course we could not do anything at that late stage. If a model wants to set a time-frame for using a shoot, she should let a brand know when she books with them," says Alisha.
"Internationally campaigns are often shot months in advance. Many models here work for more than one brand, so how could we anticipate any exclusivity arrangement. Rabia was well aware that this campaign was pending when she signed her exclusivity arrangement [with Sapphire].”
Rabia’s position is that the brand should have kept her in the loop.
She says, “There was never a mention regarding the exact date of release of the campaign except that it would go up late summer 2015. 10 out of 10 times I am told by the brand when a campaign will go up because brands expect their face to play an equal role in promoting ad campaigns for it takes the hype to another level and personally I make quite an effort to help out whichever way I can. In this case I was kept completely out of the loop. No one approached me with any release dates. When I say I was blindsided, I meant exactly that, because I was made aware of the campaign by friends who sent me pictures of billboards around the country.
"This is nothing personal...it is strictly professional. No brand should ignore a model who they have shot with for a major campaign. I can't even call this bad communication because this is a case of no communication at all from the other party.
"A lot of times the work we do is based on verbal agreements, given the nature of the business, specially when there is a sense of urgency. This was a one-time campaign so there was no extensive contract required, otherwise we would have paperwork. I was told it needed to be done immediately for there was little time between the shoot and release so I went for it and here we are discussing it, after 8 months from the actual date of the shoot. Mid 2015 to Spring 2016 is quite a long time to keep an eye on a single project.”
Rabia also claims that she did try to keep in touch with Mina Hasan’s team but, with no response as time went by, moved on to other projects.
Alisha Hashmi clarifies, “We actually did not know the release date ourselves until early March. The collection was delayed as the dupattas were printed abroad and did not arrive in time for release at the end of last summer. Although I was not given a specific time by the mill, I assumed it would come out this season – it’s simply common sense.”
The debacle caused Rabia significant problems with her current exclusive contract with Sapphire, who commented, “It has put us in a difficult situation as we has signed an exclusivity contract with Rabia. We have suffered on account of this lack of understanding between Rabia and Shariq and have had to renegotiate terms with our model. We hope that the company realizes and takes steps to rectify the situation.”
The exclusivity equation
Designer lawn is big business and brands spend millions on their campaigns during the peak February to April season. With a limited model pool, brands go to great lengths to stand out from the crowd, signing exclusivity or bringing in foreign models or celebrities to be their brand ambassadors.
Faraz Manan has used Kareena Kapoor as the face of his lawn for years while Shehla Chatoor is shooting her campaign with Nargis Fakhri. Sania Maskatiya used a Brazilian model last year and Elan this year used an Indian model.
Plus, the same models across lawn campaigns can be confusing for customers. Lawn clothes themselves don’t look that radically different at first glance so the campaigns should look as different as possible. However, many top models do end up working for more than one brand. For example, actress Syra Shahroz has modeled for both Zara Shahjahan and Al-Karam this year.
Rabia Butt herself tends to stick with one brand during peak lawn season. She modeled Sana Safinaz Lawn in 2013 but was the face of Elan lawn in 2014 and 2015. However, she also modeled for the Sana Safinaz Eid Lawn campaign last year, although that was in June.
With models working for multiple brands, it’s unlikely that brands will make the effort to keep track of their exclusivity arrangements. That has to be the models' responsibility.
Rabia is not wrong in expecting a brand to keep her in the loop, but we'd like to see models take charge of the business side of their career. Image is their fortune and they cannot afford to leave things to chance, especially given that it's their loss when complications like these arise. Rabia signed off her Instagram post with a “Time to stand up for my rights as a professional model/artist, to get things right….not just for myself but for everyone.”
A more thorough approach can only be good for models and for the industry.