We’ve just embarked upon the era of the mega fashion store. In a mega mall. Opened with a mega launch, of course.
Case in point: the recent opening of Sapphire’s new outlet in Lahore’s colossal Emporium Mall. Launched merely one and a half year ago, Sapphire is certainly a local retail phenomenon.
Steered by Creative Director Khadijah Shah and merging a pretty aesthetic with tinges of the edgy, it’s collated an extensive clientele. The prices are economical, the fabric is great, the designs are wearable and women have infamously fought tooth and nail during the brand’s occasional sales. Apparently, everybody loves wearing Sapphire.
And ‘everybody’ came to the Sapphire launch – singlemindedly focused on shopping, elbowing their way through the long line at the counter and cutting the line, when possible. Coiffured and immaculate, Lahore’s social page stars were there in full flow as was print and social media personnel, many of them flown in to the city expressly for the launch. A shiny golden ticket was gifted to guests, ensuring a 50% discount on any five purchases. How’s that for incentive?!
Khadijah Shah has long been part of Lahore’s upper-crust of designers and it seemed curious – and petty – that none of her peers turned up to show support. They did, however, come in full flow to the celebratory soiree that followed much later in the night. Does Lahore’s fashion fraternity prefer to party together rather than show the courtesy of supporting each other professionally?
Lahore is, undeniably, always a pleasure to visit; emerald green from the recent rains and bringing with it the allure of binge-buying khussas, great food and a range of Lahore-based designer-wear that is yet to expand beyond the city.
In this trip, I also got to see the much-touted Emporium Mall, launched by the Nishat Group. Extensive, shiny and only partly filled for the moment, it was apparent why the city is so ecstatic with this latest installment. A far cry from the miniscule, mundane Mall One and Mall of Lahore, this one’s the real deal. There’s going to be a cinema on the upper floor, a large number of local and international brands have already opened their outlets there and the Hyperstar was teeming with avid grocery-shoppers. The heavy-duty crowds, though, converged at Sapphire.
All stops were pulled for the launch: a fountain of droplets near the store spelt out ‘Welcome’ and ‘Sapphire’ repetitively, proud storks stood tall, resplendent in Sapphire’s costume jewelry, a multi-tiered fountain stood in the central area and a flurry of humming birds were crafted in flight, suspended from a pristine white ceiling.
Far inside the store, Uzair Jaswal hit some right notes – and many wrong ones; a small play area stood in one corner and Sapphire also now has a café, serving savories and drinks to their many shoppers.
“With this store, we want to expand into new lines,” says Nabeel Abdullah, Director at Sapphire. “The café has been set up, we recently launched a capsule jewelry line and we’ve begun retailing foot-wear. Soon we also plan to expand into home accessories and textiles.”
The successive racks and prêt and unstitched lawn emptied out fairly quickly – you couldn’t tell that this event was ‘Invite-Only’. Some of this enthusiasm can be attributed to the magical golden ticket to retail heaven, but even without it, Sapphire has a tendency to inspire a fervor for shopping.
Distinctively absent was Lahore’s fashion fraternity. Khadijah Shah has long been part of Lahore’s upper-crust of designers and it seemed curious – and petty – that none of her peers turned up to show support. They did, however, come in full flow to the celebratory soiree that followed much later in the night. Does Lahore’s fashion fraternity prefer to party together rather than show the courtesy of supporting each other professionally?
Instead, the requisite star-power was supplied by Adnan Malik, brought in by Sapphire to suit up in their menswear. ‘You’re amazing,’ I heard female fans telling him – once they’d gotten some ‘amazing’ shopping down. Adnan grinned through about a gazillion selfies until Uzair Jaswal got off the mike and diverted away some of the attention. The travails of the good-looking and famous, beyond the veneer, are more exhausting than ‘amazing’!
Hasnain Lehri, the irrefutable ‘Sapphire Man’, came in all-white while Rabia Butt wore a tapered Sapphire Men kurta, presenting an ideal sartorial option for those of us rendered cock-eyed by print! Also present was a svelte Mehreen Syed.
A low celebrity quotient – and yet, a launch that was high on success. Still in its fledgling years, Sapphire has invested big time in enhancing consumer experience and building brand image.
If nothing else, it takes considerable effort and financial clout to fly in media from different parts of the country for a shop opening. I saw similar investments being made by Khaadi a few months ago when the brand’s huge new store in Dolmen City Mall Karachi was launched.
Khaadi is, of course, a powerhouse with feelers spread out all over the country. But Sapphie’s popularity can also not be denied.
According to Nabeel Abdullah, a similar concept store is on the cards for Karachi. As long as they keep an eye on quality and focus on original, creative design, this brand’s getting stronger.