Pakistani designer Sania Maskatiya, who will showcase at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, on striking a balance between conservatism and fun, and the secret behind the popularity of her designs.
At Sania Maskatiya’s flagship store in Karachi’s Bukhari commercial lane, rows and rows of her designs stand in attractive arrays. There are printed jackets and tunics in silk, kurtas in luxurious crepe, block-printed dresses, salwars in Gul Ahmed cottons and lush hand-embroidered dupattas in cotton, silk, nets and voiles. It’s a sneak peek into what the 31-year-old Pakistani designer has to offer, and an indicator of her astute business acumen. “I don’t want anyone to come into my store and not be tempted to buy something. Many of my clients come to me for luxury pret or couture, but there’s also a lot for them to browse through while they are at the store,” says Maskatiya over telephone from Karachi. One of Pakistan’s most popular up-and-coming designers, she is part of a four-member delegation from Pakistan who will showcase at the winter/ festive 2014 edition of Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) in Mumbai that takes off on August 19.
For a designer who turned down an offer to study at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, Maskatiya has done well for herself in the three years since she launched her eponymous designer label, with clients such as Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy wearing her designs. “At that time, my mum wasn’t fine with my going abroad to study, so I joined the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi and majored in textile. But eventually, both my brother and sister went abroad to study. Now we all work together. I handle the designing and they look after the business,” she says. Her father had a flourishing textile business and his established infrastructure and experience came in handy while setting up her label. “We put an immense amount of stress on the fabrics and weave most of them from scratch. It helps to have a solid understanding not just of the process, but also the machinery,” she says.
The ingenuity of Maskatiya’s designs lies in striking a balance between conservatism and fun. There are barely any sleeveless or backless outfits in her collection, unless it’s made-to-order; instead, she gives traditional outfits contemporary cuts and plays around with the prints and embellishments.
It’s a choice she made after her initial foray into fashion with the label Chamak in 2008 got a lukewarm response. “As a newcomer, I wanted to show something fantastic on the ramp, but that did not always translate into wearable clothes,” she says. With the label Sania Maskatiya, she rearranged her vision and the turnaround was immediate. “My designs involve a lot of customisation. I make dresses and spaghetti tops to order for them, but on the rack, I make sure the clothes are feel-good and comfortable for every possible demographic,” she says.
So, the dupatta finds pride of place in her designs, ramped up with prints and embellishments, making it a must-have component. On other outfits, there are quirky animal and bird prints, which she morphs into floral designs for the traditionalists. “Most of my collections are imagery-centric. I recently did an Africa-based collection for which we had a lot of elephant, monkey, lion and butterfly prints and it sold well.
Some of my clients wanted me to make the animals without eyes or ending in flowers because it would make them feel more comfortable when they offered prayers, and I absolutely understand that. Fashion should be as much about comfort as about pushing the boundary, and for me, my customers are priority,” she says. The price points of her pret collection start from Rs 4,000 and go upwards of Rs 25,000.
At her show on August 20 at the LFW, Maskatiya will showcase a capsule luxury pret collection inspired by Japan. “There are jackets, fun pants, tunics, capes and dresses,” she says. In India, Maskatiya only retails out of the PFDC boutique in Delhi.
The story appeared in print with the headline The Karachi Connection