The APEA and Koshland awards winner Saad Ali, Chief Executive Officer, Pakistan Fashion and Design Council, brings strength to PFDC through the vast experience of his multi award-winning design house Karma and international names like Levis. He speaks in
How can PFDC provide a platform to the fashion industry and regional representation to Pakistani fashion?
PFDC as an institution plays various roles in the fashion industry. It provides scholarships to deserving fashion students of PIFD (Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design). On a practical level, the Council has set up a high-end retail store for upcoming and established designers called ‘The PFDC Boulevard’. The store occupies 10,000 sq. ft. of space in Lahore and approximately 5,000 sq. ft. in Karachi. Over 50 designers are stocking these two stores collectively. This excludes all the exhibitions that take place at these locations. From here, the PFDC supports business worth over 200 million annually. This is a big contribution towards the business of fashion.
Apart from this, all management and marketing support is provided to the designers stocking with PFDC. The sole purpose of this is to turn up the talent of the designers for proficient businesses.
Through the Fashion Weeks (PFDC - Sunsilk and now PFDC - L’Oreal), the Council aims at uplifting the image of the fashion business, locally as well as internationally. The core purpose is to put Pakistan on the map of world fashion. Buyers and international media are invited so that they can see what Pakistan and its designers can offer. Export opportunities are created for the designers who showcase their collections and a softer image of Pakistan is projected to the world.
Indirectly, through these activities, we are guiding designers to organize their internal working and planning so their business models are more efficient and successful. After the 3rd Fashion Week, we have seen a marked difference in the way designers are planning their collections and working out business strategies. Regional representation is also strengthened through these events as the invited buyers are chosen with relevance to our products.
InshAllah in the next 2-3 years, the fashion industry in Pakistan will be generating substantial revenue locally as well as internationally.
What are your expectations from PFDC - L’Oréal Paris Bridal Week 2011?
The bridal market in Pakistan carries enormous business potential. This collaboration aims to bring more structure and strength to this industry. PFDC brings together professionals in terms of PR, logistics, technical production, event management and business consultancies to promote the business of fashion. This activity will mainly be focused on the local market and will increase awareness as well as business within Pakistan. We also plan on introducing annual trends for the bridal markets by introducing new looks and concepts. Renowned stylists and salons will be a part of this activity and will be using these trends for their clients all year round. The jewellery industry will also be given an opportunity to showcase their collections on a professional platform.
How are the collaborative forces of skilled workforce, textile industry and market helping the fashion industry?
Fashion cannot move without such collaborative forces. We need a skilled work force like any other industry. Fabric and raw material supply also needs to be through more structured, consistent and organized channels. As we move forward towards professionalism, more serious players will start getting involved and supporting the industry to achieve greater volumes and targets.
The market is close to its targets and we are in the process of growing it further locally as well as internationally. However, market dynamics or numbers are not on the map or documented due to which the fashion businesses don’t know of the potential that awaits them. We are also working towards making this information as authentic and public as possible. This will give the fashion businesses the confidence to grow.
Everything is linked. If the market grows, the demand grows with which the need for skilled work force will grow, resulting in higher consumption of raw material and fabric. It’s a cycle.
What is PFDC looking at towards building the infrastructure of the fashion industry in Pakistan?
It is going to be a long journey and we are MashAllah heading in the right direction. Step one was credibility. I feel that PFDC has managed to create a positioning in which it correlates with professionalism and seriousness. This was the most important thing. Once people know that the intention is honest then everything else falls into place. The PFDC Boulevard stores have provided an opportunity to the fashion designers of Pakistan to sell their products and create a market. This automatically forces them to build their business and move towards economies that in turn will create jobs. Through the Fashion Weeks (both Pret and Couture), the Council is guiding as well as educating the fashion businesses to focus on the salability and identity of the
product. Consultants from Paris have been contracted by the Council to come and guide the designers accordingly. All such initiatives taken by PFDC will directly and indirectly result in the building of an infrastructure and eventually an industry.
After launching Levis Marketing in Pakistan, which other international collaborations have you listed for PFDC?
A lot of collaborations are on the table. We are constantly looking for organizations that can provide the synergies required to take us forward as an industry and also project the name of Pakistan as a country that can provide high quality products at par with any international supplier.
What initially moved you to be a business consultant for the fashion industry?
I always thought fashion in Pakistan was not being accorded justice. We have immense talent but unfortunately it was rarely channeled in the right direction. The business side was missing in Pakistan’s fashion industry. We mostly have ‘one man shows’ here, due to which the businesses unfortunately grow only as much as the individual does. There has to be a tie-up between the business side and the creative side. Only then can you have a successful fashion business.
I always loved challenges hence this was a challenge and a half for me. I first experimented with my own company, Karma. Then, after almost 7 years of systems, processes and team building, I felt that now I could move towards a bigger goal. This goal was to share my learning with more people/companies in order for the fashion business in Pakistan to grow systematically and the PFDC
was a perfect platform for this.
Express your partiality for Karma.
Karma is doing well MashAllah and is headed in the direction I would like it to go. It still has a long way to cover. Whereas my experience with Levi’s and Karma help me run PFDC better, my own company is not connected in any way with my involvement in the Council.
Being on the board of governors, TIE Lahore Chapter, how do you view the development of fashion entrepreneurship?
Developing a fashion business was like setting up a company with no precedents from the industry. There were no benchmarks to follow and no systems/SOPs exist in the Fashion industry of Pakistan. Bringing global concepts and executing them locally was as difficult as making them from scratch. TIE helped me in gaining the confidence that nothing was impossible. The mentor sessions with senior self-made industrialists gave me the inspiration to get up every morning and to keep fighting against all odds.
Apart from the mental strength, through TIE I get to learn how entrepreneurs in their respective industries run their companies in Pakistan. How they tackle the challenges and diversions the Pakistani business environment presents. Then whatever is relevant to my company or industry, I would apply there.
Now I see more and more fashion entrepreneurs budding and it is a delight to see young people coming into the business with the energy as well as qualifications. We are always inviting them to be a part of TIE and to take advantage of the mentorship programs