Faraz Manan did quite a bit of globe-trotting last month. All through April – before Ramazan began and the local celebrity diaspora shook out their dupattas and became holier-than-thou morning show hosts – Pakistan was swinging to the beats of multiple fashion weeks.
And Faraz was figuring quite frequently in the limelight, steamrolling his way onto multiple catwalks with his whopping 100-outfit summer couture line ‘Mirage’, which drifted through kaftans, floor-length jackets and intricately worked tunics.
His choc-a-bloc fashion calendar kicked off with a solo show in Dubai, which good friend Kareena Kapoor dropped in to attend.
Given that we’re all big fans of Bollywood, the Pakistani social media entourage predictably swooned and posted multiple images of Kareena in a clingy Faraz Manan design on the red carpet. End April, more outfits from ‘Mirage’ were presented as the finale on the first day of Hum Network’s ‘Showcase’.
The very next day, Faraz was off to Beirut Fashion Week with another outing for ‘Mirage’ following which he hosted a private trunk show to a select audience in Bahrain.
That’s quite a schedule and one wonders precisely how Faraz’s business is faring. While the designer’s couture unarguably has a consistent clientele in Pakistan, it’s also obvious that he has his sights set on establishing himself in the competitive, clustered waters of the Middle East. Here’s the lowdown…
Images: Your ‘Mirage’ has flitted from one catwalk to another and yet, surprisingly, you opted not to showcase your work in your home-city Lahore. Why?
Faraz Manan: We will certainly be having a show in Lahore in the fall-winter season. Regardless, though, in Lahore we are now an established business. We may not have showcased there but clients still kept coming in with images of ‘Mirage’ from different shows, placing their orders. The mileage generated from the shows was enough to gain the attention of our customers in Lahore.
After Lahore, Dubai has long been a priority. We have a retail presence there and it is a middle-ground of sorts, drawing in customers from India and the Middle East. We even get orders from Karachi-based customers at our Dubai store – it is just frequented very regularly by our particular customer-base and it always make business sense to showcase there.
Images: You also ventured out to Beirut and Bahrain. Do you see business potential in these regions?
FM: I feel that I have been able to break boundaries, creating an aesthetic that is universal rather than unique to my region.
The cuts and palette of my designs easily cater to Pakistan as well as to the Middle East. Beirut is the fashion hub of Lebanon and some of the world’s most coveted labels, like Zuhair Murad and Elie Saab, emerged from the country. Given the opportunity, of course I would want to tap into the market. I was invited to attend the fashion week, it was very well-attended and extremely organised. A lot of my friends in Dubai and Bahrain are from Beirut so it wasn’t as if I was showing to a completely alien audience.
Similarly, Bahrain is not a new market for me given that customers from the region often frequent my standalone store in Dubai. The trunk show in Bahrain was very exclusive, attended by some very influential wedding-bound guests and members of the Bahrain royal family.
Images: One keeps hearing about your illustrious clientele in the Middle East and India and occasionally, your designs do get spotted at high-society Indian weddings. In the Middle East, though, your work isn’t really visible in the social pages. Why?
FM: Arab families are generally very private and don’t air out images of their weddings to the social pages. I do feel very fortunate that now some of the most influential Arabs are part of my regular clients in Dubai. There are girls who can have their pick of any brand in the world and yet, they choose to wear my design for their wedding receptions.
"Arab families are generally very private and don’t air out images of their weddings to the social pages. But there are girls who can have their pick of any brand in the world and yet, they choose to wear my design for their wedding receptions."
Images: Given that couture is your forte, is it difficult to efficiently cater to orders from the Middle East when your manufacturing units are in Lahore?
FM: We were able to do so efficiently but now, with the aim of taking our business further in Dubai, we have set up a factory there. We have flown 10 of our craftsmen there and they are now part of a workforce that includes Filipinos, Lebanese, Indians, Bangladeshis, Jordanians and Malaysians. Pakistani workmanship is unparalleled but they are learning stitching and finishing techniques.
Images: Your design sensibility may have its own standing but one major marketing factor that has long been working in your favour is the presence of actress Kareena Kapoor. For a long time, she was associated with Crescent Lawn. Was she also hired to make her much-publicised appearance at your show in Dubai?
FM: Of course Kareena was hired to model Crescent Lawn but she is now one of my closest friends and it was as a friend that she came to attend my show. In fact, at that time she was scheduled to be part of a shoot for Asiana magazine which was supposed to take place in London. Instead, she had the shoot shifted to Dubai so that she could attend my show.
Images: Kareena had long been associated with your brand but this time she was seen wearing another Pakistani designer for Asiana. It came as a surprise…
FM: Kareena is a Bollywood actress and it makes sense for her to be featured in a mass-centric magazine like Asiana, wearing the designer label that is opted for. My couture label is not for the masses and therefore, I would want my designs to be featured in a magazine that is more in touch with my target clientele.
Images: One feels that while you’ve quite ostensibly been building your couture business, the Crescent high-street label isn’t expanding quite as rapidly. There is just one Crescent retail store in Lahore to date. Do you plan to expand further soon?
FM: Even the Faraz Manan couture label is owned by Crescent Bahuman Limited and we choose to work according to our own business model rather than jump onto a bandwagon. In the case of Crescent’s high-street line, our Lahore store does very well and the e-store is popular within Pakistan and beyond.
We may expand but we’re happy with the way we are functioning at the moment. We’d rather not be in a rush to expand constantly and end up losing our focus on quality and design.