There are often times I meet really inspiring people who I feel are underexposed and hence underappreciated, just like the time when Iman Body Focus won an LSA and people on twitter were asking if she is a new designer that just landed on fashion horizon. So this time I have decided to interview two individuals whose body of work and experience seem quite dissimilar on the face value but both of them have recently managed to garner attention of the international press. Naushaba Brohi’s Inayaa shot to international fame when one of her artisnal necklaces were worn by Amal Amaluddin and then subsequently featured in Vogue India and being worn by Style.com editoress. Hamza Bokhari on the other hand was privileged to have one of his dresses on Grammy redcarpet and was chosen to represent Pakistan in a recent presentation by British Council during London Fashion Week.
So, how did they start? what do they do? Here is what I found out while talking to Hamza Bokhari of Jeem and Naushaba Brohi of Inaaya.
AB :What did you do before starting your own design brand?
Hamza Bokhari:I designed womenswear at Stoneage Jeans for more than a year.
Naushaba Brohi: I had a successful 10-year run in broadcast television, including heading FTV and being editor of the style pages of Express Tribune.
AB :What have you studied? Is design education necessary to be a designer?
Hamza Bokhari:I am a proud alumnus of PIFD. I firmly believe that it’s absolutely important for a designer to receive technical and theoretical training in design from a school. This makes you disciplined and trains you for the real world challenges.
Naushaba Brohi: I graduated with honors from NCA. Fine Arts is imperative for every field, be it tech or medicine; the solution had better be creative and not leave a scar.
AB:Who paid for your setup when you started the brand?
Hamza Bokhari:JEEM is a dream team brand, where three people with different expertise came together. I am the creative designer whereas the two co-founders handle the business and finances.
Naushaba Brohi: (I started Inaaya with) my savings
AB: There are so many womenswear designers out there, why did you feel there was a need for your brand?
Hamza Bokhari:Well I believe one can never have enough of fashion. There’s never a need for a designer brand, the need is created.
Naushaba Brohi: Inaaya was launched at a time when, globally, fashion was searching for its conscience. Its foundation is based on luxury being in the human investment, on reimagining the value of our traditional handicrafts. Rilli may be mainstream now, but think back to 2012—how many mainstream designers were incorporating it then?
AB:What is that one thing that sets your apart from all others? (Your unique selling proposition)
Hamza Bokhari:I think there are a very few designers who can design a Grammy’s gown and create an equally good ethereal traditional bridal trousseau. Versatility sets us apart.
Naushaba Brohi: Edgy, on-trend, hand-crafted Pakistani brand.
Who is your brand’s target market and how do you reach them? Is off the rack retail the only answer?
Hamza Bokhari: We target confident women of Pakistan who don’t just blinding follow fashion trends and we try to offer designs which penetrate the market in various capacities.
Naushaba Brohi: The informed woman.
AB:Are lawn and bridals the sole 2 answers for the question of design brand’s survival? How important are these two 2 for your business model?
Hamza Bokhari: we do have to cater masses through Lawn and niche through bridal wear because there are not enough foreign buyers coming
Naushaba Brohi: Nothing wrong with either (lawn or bridals)
AB:Who do you think is your biggest competition, name an existing local brand?
Hamza Bokhari: I think everyone in the industry is my competitor; I love how Sania has managed her retail business. The kind of enormity she has in terms of her supply, it’s remarkable.
Naushaba Brohi: You tell me?
AB:People say that there are a lot of bottlenecks and roadblocks for new entrants because all the publications and editors only push their friends forward, is this so? How do you manage this?
Hamza Bokhari: I feel all our fashion critics and bloggers need to go on such crash course of Fashion PR and Journalism like the one I recently attended at London College of Fashion. Fashion blogging in our country is about social networking, I don’t see any other passion behind it.
Naushaba Brohi: It has to be so, we’re a fledgling of an industry.
AB:What is your take on freebies and hosting soirees for appeasing opinion makers/press/bloggers? How about lending clothes for red carpet appearances?
Hamza Bokhari:I consider it very unethical to send gifts to bloggers so they write about you. I find it hilarious when bloggers complain about the giveaways ‘not living up to their expectations’ at least there’s something they can still critique. I hope we start calling spade, a spade. However, lending clothes to a celebrity really magnifies your product, it’s a two way business.
Naushaba Brohi: They apparently work wonders.
AB:You have been one of the few lucky ones to have been featured in the International Press, how did you manage to have your products on International celebrities?
Hamza Bokhari:I had just graduated when one of designed outfit was on the cover of Hello! Magazine worn by Meesha Shafi without any PR agency or any other source. Then my work at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week was tweeted by the legendary Hilary Alexander, she is one person I have a huge respect for. Last but not the least The Grammy’s, my hand painted gown was worn by international singer Heart Hays, she saw my work online under the hashtag “NativeAmerican” and asked me to dress her up for Grammys 2015. To sum it all up in all the above mentioned scenarios I think my work made its own space.
Naushaba Brohi: (It has been a) Blessing in disguise.
AB:Besides the publicity did it make any difference to your business?
Hamza Bokhari:It did generate quite a stir and yes my clients have much more trust on me now. It has affected the business immensely especially when I make retail versions of all the press pieces for my target market.
Naushaba Brohi: We all admire ‘foreign return’ anything.
AB:Name one local designer or brand whose work/aesthetic you really admire?
Hamza Bokhari:I I strongly believe that if you cannot design for your own market, you are not a good “designer”, as the dupattas and kameez are not going anywhere anytime soon.In this context I love Sana Safinaz and Sania Maskatiya.
Naushaba Brohi: Cuts: Body Focus, Aesthetic: Ather Hafeez.
AB:Any designer that you despise?
Hamza Bokhari: Haha ask me in another 10 years and I might just answer.
Naushaba Brohi: The self-righteous ones.
Ok so rapid fire……
Nabila or Sabs: Nabila
HSY or Frieha Altaf:Frieha Altaf
Maheen Khan or Sehyr Saigol:Sehyr Saigol
Showing at FPW or Showing at PFDC: Both
New lot of Models or Older lot of models: I may sound cliché, but older ones
Flats or Heels: Heels
Tights or Loose Pants: Loose Pants
Bloggers or Print Media: Both
Nabila or Sabs:Nabila hands down.
HSY or Frieha:Two-way tie.
Maheen Khan or Sehyr Saigol:Maheen has been a pillar of support. I’ve never met Sehyr.
Showing at FPW or Showing at PFDC:If only they’d merge! Imagine the edited content, fantastic mechanics and stellar showcase!
New models or old models:TALL models!
Flats or heels:Flats till you need to intimidate, then, only heels.
Tights or loose pants:Cigarette pants.
Bloggers or print Media :Social media is KING.