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

Enterprise - - Interview -

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

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