Rahat Khan speaks to Enterprise
As a fashion designer, what was your experience at the LifeStyle Pakistan event held in India?
My experience was overwhelming. Initially, I was really nervous getting into something major like this. There were a lot of questions and inhibitions. On the thought of going to the Indian market, I was concerned about how the people would respond. As you know, you become a little dicey when India is concerned.
But my compliments to TDAP, they arranged everything in a highly organized manner. The same was the level of organization by the Indian Trade organization. None of the designers faced any issues. There was also extensive coverage of the show by the active Indian media. As a designer going there for the first time and despite the initial nervousness, I would like to go there again, even if they call me every three or six months.
How did you get into garment designing?
I had always been doing it, but just for family and friends. Professionally, I got into it about three years ago. Basically I have been a teacher of Dyslexic children for the past 15 years at READ ( Remedial Education and Assessment of Dyslexics). When I took a break of six months, as my children were settling down, one of my friends in Canada asked me to send some clothes. I was a bit hesitant at first but I received a very good response in Canada. Then I had exhibitions in Chicago, Dubai and Karachi and they were all successful.
What was the response to your designs in India?
The Indian public is very responsive and they appreciated my clothes, liked the finishing and particularly the cuts. They have a very common style of anarkali, but our cuts are really different. I even had clients in the age group of 70 to 80. They were so curious about Pakistan and asked lots of questions. About 80 percent of them said they had relatives in Pakistan. The Indian visitors loved talking to us like a family. Many were just there to enjoy it, particularly the Pakistani food at the stalls set up there, to see Pakistani clothes and particularly our lawns were a major hit there. Overall, LifeStyle Pakistan was a great success.
How do Pakistani designers compete with their Indian counterparts?
I feel that we have healthy competition here in Pakistan as well. There are so many designers, with whom you are always in competition. Before going, I wrote to certain Indian designers to invite them to our stalls just to have a look and the best part was that they did come and appreciated our clothes. The competition, whether in India or Pakistan, is healthy. So the question is why not when it only brings improvement to the work. Our textile industry in terms of fabric is much better than India and we have much better ideas than them.
With the opening up of the Indian market to Pakistani products, how can the industry benefit, particularly in textiles?
I received a number of orders which I am going to courier to my Indian clients. With such a big scale event and opening of trade, there will be more confidence, trade will improve and the industry will boom. Our big groups like Gul Ahmed and Nishat were present there and received immense response. The Indians are highly interested in Pakistani fabrics.
What were your learnings from the exhibition towards improving your product in the future?
I brought back a lot of love, sentiments and emotions. I also got to know what exactly the styling is like in the Indian market. They are looking for new styles and there is a difference in sizes there and here. But as far as our embroidery, machine work and handwork is concerned, I do not think that India can come even close to it.
What differences did you notice in the preferences of Indian and Pakistani customers?
Interestingly, people visiting our stalls were curious about the modern styling of clothes and asked that do our people really wear such clothes? So there is still confusion where Pakistan’s name is attached with fashion. But I would say that wherever our fashion designers go, they receive overwhelming response because of the quality of our clothes. Indian fashion is more exposed to the world through their fashion shows and, importantly, through their film industry. I hope people will start changing their impression of Pakistan.