‘Aalishan Pakistan’

Overwhelmed by Indian shoppers’ response during the second edition of lifestyle exposition “Aalishan Pakistan” here, Pakistani designers want the governments of the two nations to join hands and promote fashion business for a win-win situation.

With buyers going gaga over their products as the designers from across the border sold over 70 percent of their stocks within three days, Sher Afgan, director general of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDPA), said the demand was endless.

“People were just streaming in. Our strength is cotton textiles, lawns, and so we did well in that department. There are 200-plus stalls and about 70 to 80 percent of stocks were sold. Many consumers said we should do it every month,” Afgan told IANS.

The first lifestyle Pakistan exhibition, held in 2012, had helped in generating business of around $7 million, and future prospect deals of around $20-25 million were made during business-to-business meetings.

This year too, designers are content with sales at the four-day “Aalishan Pakistan” expo, jointly organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and TDPA. It ended Sunday.

Sanam Chaudhri, chairperson of Fashion Pakistan Council (FPC), described the whole experience as “fantastic”.

“I’ve sold about 80 percent of my stock despite the fact that most of the people asked for discount,” she said.

India is a “huge market”, said designer Adnan Pardesy. He received queries from boutique owners and wholesalers and is confident that “these contacts and meetings will materialise into business”.

“They love our cotton for sure and that is something which is not happening locally for them,” he added.

FPC member Huma Adnan, however, believes the “business of fashion is incomplete without trade”.

“We want the two governments to start trade between the countries. The way people felt for us and our collections was very heartening. My jewellery is all sold out and people wanted more.

“I got enquiries from a buyer who buys for Europe and the US and she will be contacting me for my accessories, which she said is the future,” she said.

It’s not easy to do business in India because the rules, the visitors felt, are not friendly.

“Coming to India is tough for us and we have to face a lot of processes. Getting Indian visa for a Pakistani is tough. Government organisations need to get involved more: like TDAP has provided us this platform,” Wardha Saleem, CEO, FPC, told IANS.

“Such platforms help to build ties between designers and retailers in India for business,” she added.

Adnan would love to open a store in India, but the rules have discouraged her.

“If I plan to open a store here, I will need an Indian partner and I think the share is around 66 percent and 33 percent. I wouldn’t get into something like that because 33 percent is hardly a share,” said Adnan.

Deepak Perwani, a member of FPC, gave a thumbs up to “cross cultural exchange”, but added: “It’s about time India got to know what Pakistan fashion is all about and vice versa. Politics will be politics, but that shouldn’t change what people think of each other.”

FPC has 55 designers as its members and they want to showcase more in India, but need support.

“We do plan to showcase in India or do a collaborative Pakistan-India fashion week. It has started. Sania Maskatiya was one of the Pakistani designers who showcased at the Lakme Fashion Week in August,” said Saleem.

So far Lala Textiles of Lahore has participated in around 8 to 10 exhibitions in India.

“Apart from Delhi, we have travelled to cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. Delhi is good for business as women in the capital or the northern region of the country wear such suits.

“We would like to open stores and reach out to more people in India, but the government will have to help. Peace is the only solution for business to prosper,” said Pervez Lala, CEO, Lala Textiles.

Despite many barriers, the designers have patrons in India. For instance, Gul Ahmed loves to do business here as women love both unstitched and stitched Pakistan suits.

“Indian women love our collections. We have been part of exhibitions in the past also, and the response was very good. That’s why we are here again,” said the sales manager of Gul Ahmed.

And the manager was not wrong at all.

A shopper from Delhi, Indu Goyal, said she spent around “Rs.20,000 only on suits from Gul Ahmed” as the work is “really good”.

Sonal Budania admitted that she spent around Rs.70,000 in just a day as she wanted to get her hands on Pakistani suits.

Even teenagers are appreciating the designs and fabrics from Pakistan.

“Their work is subtle and the long length of kurta is interesting,” said 18-year-old Khushbakht.