Who is Ammara Khan, one may ask?

She is a couturier who has passionately been going about her business for 15 years now, catering to a steady clientele. Her designs are rooted in knowledge and expertise gained from the top fashion schools in the world, the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology (FTI) in New York and Polimoda in Florence where she specialised in evening wear. Her work thus far has relied largely on word of mouth and steady spurts of advertising.

One remembers a fashion week showcase of hers from several years ago, where she had encrusted an outfit with feathers. The dove and pigeon feathers had been collected over a year from the rooftop of her workshop, gilded with silver foil and then painstakingly stitched on to cloth. It was a memorable collection, artisanal and opulent.

Ammara's bridal collection at PLBW 2015
Ammara's bridal collection at PLBW 2015

One also often notices seasonal advertisements placed by the designer, announcing a new capsule line of heavy formals. It’s evident that Ammara works consistently, with a focus on business.

And yet, the designer is veritably very low-profile in a burgeoning milieu of social media savvy, starry designers-cum-showmen.

“I have always preferred that my work speaks for itself,” she points out, sticking to a policy that doesn’t always work in today’s age of self-promotion, where designers often attract in new clients by virtue of catwalk antics and eccentricities.

Instead, Ammara prefers to walk a path of her own and now, stepping away from her forte in couture, she has chosen to dabble with ready-to-wear, thereby bringing her brand into the spotlight.

Ammara Khan
Ammara Khan

Unlike most designers, who veer towards the conventional – and instantly forgettable – when creating prêt, a cursory glance at Ammara’s ‘Ready To Wear Winter ‘17’ collection reveals it to be more distinctive.

Shirts are cinched with tasselled belts, pants are worked with beadwork and embroidered butterflies, hearts, stars and florals and embellishments that are mainstays in Ammara’s couture lines are visible here and there: feathers, ruffles and fringes. A denim ‘horoscope blazer’ comes embellished with the wearer’s zodiac sign, created on order. It’s an edgy line, toeing the fine line between experimentation and commercialism, easily wearable and yet quite decipherably designer-wear.

“The clothes have been created in limited numbers in order to maintain exclusivity. I have so many clients who no longer visit local high-street stores because they don’t want to wear the same clothes as everyone else. This collection is for them,” says Ammara Khan

On the eve of her debut celebration in Lahore, an event hosted at the glass-walled Mercedes-Benz showroom on M.M. Alam Road, Ammara talks to Images about her particular vision for prêt and her take on local fashion…

Images: Your signature so far has always been opulent bridal wear. What prompted you to delve towards prêt?

Ammara: It was just something I wanted to try out. This isn’t your usual ready-to-wear line and even though the clothes are relatively casual, there are still reminiscent of my couture designs.

It took me six months to develop the prints, sketching them myself and working alongside a very talented textile designer that I have on my team. The surface treatments for the fabrics have been specially created, there are touches of hand embellishments on the machine embroideries and I have used very fine fabrics ranging from raw silks to crepes and silk georgettes. There are prints, single tone colours and denims. It’s ready-to-wear but it definitely has my signature.

It took me six months to develop the prints of my new pret line, says Ammara Khan
It took me six months to develop the prints of my new pret line, says Ammara Khan

Images: The prices for most of your designs begin at slightly more than Rs10,000. Don’t you think that the price points are too steep for ready-to-wear?

Ammara: I have created very limited quantities which means that my production costs per design have been high. Also, the quality and execution of each design are in a completely different league from the prêt available in the high-street. When customers see and feel the clothes, they realise that they are well worth their price.

Images: While ready-to-wear may be a relatively new territory for you, you have been creating bridal designs for a very long time now. Why do you insist on maintaining a low profile?

Ammara: For one, that’s the sort of person that I am. I like to become engrossed in my work and maintain personal relationships with my clients. I am not going to trumpet the names of illustrious clients in order to attract in more orders. A lot of people come to me because they appreciate my discretion and dedication. I advertise frequently and I think that my brand isn’t really low profile. But I don’t find it necessary that my picture should be in the social pages every week or that I attend every ‘it’ soiree.

Ammara Khan's debut pret collection strives to be distinctive from the ready-to-wear designs available at local high-street brands
Ammara Khan's debut pret collection strives to be distinctive from the ready-to-wear designs available at local high-street brands

Images: You showcased with the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) twice and won great reviews. You even set a precedent by following up your show with a private viewing event for clients who wanted to see the clothes up close and place orders. It’s a practice that has now become quite common amongst designers. But following this, you stepped away from fashion weeks. Why?

Ammara: It was a business decision. The fashion week needs to be timed appropriately so that I can take on orders for winter weddings following my show. For instance, if this year’s PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week (PLBW) had taken place in September, I would have definitely taken part in it. Instead, the event was timed for mid October and that’s just too late for me. By that time, I am busy working on my orders for the December/January weddings.

"I'm not going to trumpet the names of illustrious clients in order to attract in more orders. A lot of people come to me because they appreciate my discretion and dedication." — Ammara Khan

Additionally, at fashion week, I am required to present an extensive collection on the ramp. What I have chosen to do instead is create smaller capsule lines and then reveal them in gaps throughout the season. In this way, clients get to see new designs after every few weeks and it attracts in new orders.

Of course, I am still open to showing my work at fashion week. I may just do so next year.

Ammara Khan's new pret line is limited edition; she makes relatively fewer pieces per design to keep them exclusive
Ammara Khan's new pret line is limited edition; she makes relatively fewer pieces per design to keep them exclusive

Images: You’ve even chosen to launch your ready-to-wear in a different way. Instead of opting for a solo show, as has become quite the norm in recent times, you opted for a glamourous venue and a digital presentation that revealed the designs. Don’t you think that guests would have preferred to see the clothes in reality?

Ammara: We worked long and hard on the presentation and I think the guests were able to appreciate the design elements within the collection on seeing it. I could have easily set up a solo show but I wanted to do things differently.

I didn’t want my event to be typical; I wanted it to be sophisticated and synonymous with my brand. I think that if people like the clothes, they will still buy them regardless of whether or not they have seen them showcased on a catwalk.

Images: And how can the clothes be purchased?

Ammara: From November 20 onwards they will be available at my e-store and they can also be purchased from my studio in Lahore.

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