Pictures: Shabaz Shazi | Design by Saad Arifi

Shamoon Sultan has all the time been exhausting to pin down. His life strikes at a busy tempo, with him scuttling from retailer visits to conferences to, what I think about to be, large masterminding periods, the place he devises new methods of ruling the excessive road. He doesn’t take days off, arrives diligently early in all places and even confesses to working via weekends.

He’s been doing so for 22-odd years, punctilious to the core, weaving collectively his design acumen along with his knack for enterprise to construct a ardour challenge that’s now Pakistani vogue’s largest success story: Khaadi.

It’s admirable — though, on a private word, it makes coordinating for an interview with him extraordinarily troublesome. Prior to now few months, nevertheless, there was a time once I was surprisingly in a position to attain out to Shamoon extra simply, cornering him for an astute quote on the altering methods of the style world, or just a candid telephone dialog. In these early weeks of a national lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, when life as we knew it had come to a whole halt, I had laughingly instructed him that he was lastly behaving like a star!

Shamoon, in fact, is certainly one of Pakistani vogue’s largest stars. He could be credited for shaping the Pakistani excessive road to what it’s immediately and in vogue faculties, his specific tackle design and enterprise is put ahead as a benchmark. Admired — and behind his again, envied — by his friends, Shamoon is true on the high of vogue’s most coveted A-list. However you wouldn’t realize it, for those who have been to see his regimented work ethic. Caught at residence because of the Covid-19 lockdown, he was lastly dwelling the superstar life-style: waking up late, staying up late, possibly brooding a bit. He even ended up watching Netflix.

Shamoon Sultan’s love for challenges has made him certainly one of Pakistani vogue’s largest stars, with Khaadi proper on the high of vogue’s most coveted A-list. However you wouldn’t realize it for those who have been to see Shamoon’s regimented work ethic

“It was a really powerful time for me. What saved me going was that simply Khaadi wasn’t struggling, the entire world was,” he remembers.

Some months later, having weathered the preliminary months of the Covid-19-induced terror, life has returned to some semblance of normalcy, and Shamoon’s hectic routine too has resumed. Malls are open, albeit in socially distanced methods, and Khaadi is launching new collections with nice gusto: the same old seasonal line-ups and a particular collaboration with Turkish actress Esra Bilgic, the very talked-about main woman within the sequence Dirilis: Ertugrul.

The Esra connection

I ask him the very first thing that involves my thoughts: why collaborate with Esra when Khaadi has by no means taken the superstar route earlier than?

“This could possibly be the start of extra collaborations with celebrities,” he says. “We didn’t simply go for a well-known face. We constructed a whole assortment based mostly on Esra’s character, and invested quite a lot of effort into devising the advertising and marketing marketing campaign. Working along with her at this cut-off date made quite a lot of sense. Folks throughout Pakistan have beloved the Dirilis: Ertugrul sequence. The hype has been phenomenal, and even the Prime Minister prolonged his help to the present.”

The Esra x Khaadi assortment has accomplished very effectively and the actress appears lovely, photographed towards the backdrop of the Turkish panorama. Nonetheless, doesn’t he assume that the marketing campaign has launched a bit too late? The preliminary Ertugrul frenzy has subsided and, regardless that Khaadi is the one vogue model that Esra is working with, she has already been seen a number of occasions endorsing different native merchandise, together with a cell phone and a housing challenge.

“It isn’t too late,” he says, including, “and this was the correct time for us. We have been making a particular assortment devoted to her and that takes time. Then, we wished the photographs to be shot excellent, and I might solely permit our staff to journey to Turkey as soon as it was protected to take action.

“Folks have beloved the gathering,” he observes, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s a standout line; funky, younger, labored with the ethnic particulars and vibrant colors which might be quintessentially Khaadi. Nevertheless, I’m wondering if persons are all the time telling Shamoon that his collections are fabulous, even when they don’t seem to be fairly as profitable as Esra x Khaadi…

Being Sultan

“It doesn’t matter what individuals inform me as a result of I’m all the time second-guessing myself,” he solutions my query. “My staff and I focus on all the things at size and, when one thing does effectively, it solely challenges me into determining how I can do it even higher subsequent time.

“In addition to, we’re all conscious of our personal flaws, no matter what individuals inform us,” he factors out.

So, regardless of being thought to be a paragon of success in Pakistani vogue, his ego hasn’t gotten bloated uncontrolled? 

“No, and there are such a lot of occasions once I make errors, and should make adjustments. There’s nothing incorrect with making a mistake, so long as we realise it and repair it earlier than issues worsen.”

I’m inquisitive about these errors made on Khaadi’s street to success, a path that appears to be pretty clean from my vantage level. I attempt to guess: was placing an finish to the Khaadi Man line of conventional kurtas a mistake?

“The menswear was all the time a distinct segment product that significantly did effectively throughout Eid and marriage ceremony season, and halting manufacturing was a choice that made sense at that cut-off date. We had been engaged on a five-year enlargement plan which might have been in movement had the coronavirus pandemic not come alongside. 

“Now, although, I realise that we missed out on a piece of our market by ending the menswear. The ladies who come to our shops used to purchase garments for themselves after which, usually, they might find yourself making purchases for his or her youngsters or the lads of their houses. We have to seize that market once more.”

Has it been a mistake to open so many colossal shops throughout Pakistan in addition to internationally? The large rents should make breaking even troublesome at occasions. 

“No, I don’t contemplate it a mistake in any respect,” says Shamoon. Referring to the 22,000 sq. toes retailer in Karachi’s Dolmen Metropolis Mall, which opened again in 2016, adopted by many extra big retail factors, he says, “With that retailer, we modified the retail expertise in Pakistan. Every part can’t be measured by way of revenue and the Khaadi shops have been instrumental in constructing a model picture. 

PFDC Trend Week 2019

“Prospects come to us not simply to buy but in addition as a result of they establish with the identical décor and atmosphere applied in each Khaadi retailer. Even with our worldwide branches, I’ve by no means believed in compromising on the placement or interiors. We have now about 15 or 16 worldwide shops, and I might at some point love so as to add a ‘zero’ to those numbers.”

We didn’t simply go for a well-known face. We constructed a whole assortment based mostly on Esra’s character, and invested quite a lot of effort into devising the advertising and marketing marketing campaign. Working along with her at this cut-off date made quite a lot of sense. Folks throughout Pakistan have beloved the Dirilis: Ertugrul sequence. The hype has been phenomenal.”

There are 62 Khaadi shops throughout Pakistan proper now. Is he planning to open extra? “In fact, it’s my dream that there needs to be a Khaadi retailer in each metropolis in Pakistan. When the coronavirus lockdown befell, 12 Khaadi shops have been within the strategy of getting constructed in several elements of the nation.”

And does this enlargement make sense even when demand is low in a sure space? “A single retailer isn’t perceived as a serious earner,” Shamoon factors out. “The enterprise needs to be doing effectively, total. We are able to’t actually make selections based mostly on the income generated in a 12 months or two. In the long term, correctly deliberate out stores are important for development, in addition to for model fairness.

“The one factor that I’m specializing in proper now could be to have better management over the infrastructure of e-retail,” he continues. “The Covid-19 lockdown significantly highlighted how e-commerce is rising in Pakistan, and a major buyer base is now inclined in the direction of procuring on-line. 

“We depend on expertise companions to maintain the heavy site visitors we get on our e-store and the subsequent step for us is to make the net supply course of extra environment friendly. If meals could be ordered on-line and delivered promptly, then a purchase order from Khaadi also needs to be deliverable inside two hours. Our employees ought to be capable of entry the Khaadi retailer nearest to the place the net buyer resides, establish the merchandise bought and ship them out. From this attitude, the large shops make much more sense, since they’re our ‘achievement centres’, not only for bodily prospects but in addition for many who are on-line.”

A very big Khaadi retailer that’s opening quickly goes to be within the Dolmen Metropolis Mall in Karachi, relocating from one in depth retail house to an excellent bigger one. 

“We’re hoping to reinvent the wheel with this new retailer. Each model has began imitating the basic Khaadi inside, to the purpose that typically I’m unable to inform the distinction if I stroll right into a random retailer. So now, we’re merely altering our personal look, creating a very totally different buyer expertise. I’m very enthusiastic about it. In actual fact, the shop would have opened by now had it not been for the coronavirus.”

Weathering the Covid-19 storm

Hum Showcase 2019

The coronavirus pandemic, in fact, put a spanner within the works of most companies, together with the enterprise of vogue. Did Shamoon make adjustments in inventory, decreasing sure product strains with a view to break even in the course of the preliminary weeks of lockdown? 

“I made a decision that we would have liked to focus on our core strengths — ladies’s unstitched material and ready-to-wear — with a view to survive. The opposite product strains, from Khaadi Youngsters to Chapter 2, Khaadi House, Khaadi Khaas and Kanteen, have been placed on the backburner till we absolutely recovered, or at the very least had better readability on how issues could be sooner or later. Now that issues are higher, we’ll be increase on the opposite strains once more.”

“It’s not like we hadn’t been via troublesome occasions earlier than,” he observes. “We confronted setbacks when the world financial system collapsed in 2008, and we endured the political turmoil of Benzair Bhutto’s loss of life in 2007, however we have been only a larger enterprise this time with in depth plans in movement, and on the brink of getting into the summer season season. A lot of our inventory was prepared, much more had been ordered and we had festive collections lined up for Eid.”

Regardless of the setbacks within the preliminary months of lockdown, I recall that there have been lengthy queues of customers outdoors Khaadi as soon as the market lastly opened. A lot of Shamoon’s rivals introduced gross sales with a view to entice prospects however Khaadi, even with out an ongoing sale, had crowds lining up. 

“It gave me an enormous confidence enhance and I actually had wanted one on the time,” he admits. “It was tempting to announce a sale as a result of we had stock piled up and there have been money constraints. Even malls have been encouraging it as a result of they felt that it will enhance prospects’ confidence to start procuring once more. Nevertheless, I felt that it will be too dangerous for patrons, in addition to my very own employees, if the shops received too crowded.”

What made prospects are available droves, then? “Possibly it was simply that outlets have been allowed to open for only a restricted time. As a substitute of window procuring via totally different manufacturers earlier than making a purchase order, prospects merely went and shopped at shops that they trusted.”

The style aspect to the enterprise

The coronavirus pandemic additionally stalled Shamoon’s plans for vogue reveals in 2019. Chapter 2 by Khaadi was scheduled to be a part of the designer line-up for Hum Showcase, and the model was additionally planning to place out its first ever solo present. Why had he wished to fly solo? 

“We simply wished to plan out a present that may have Khaadi’s distinctive id. I feel that manufacturers all around the world plan out solos for that reason. They wish to showcase not simply the garments, but in addition their model picture. At vogue weeks, it’s all the time good to be a part of a present that options thrilling designer names however, recently, there simply appears to be no standards as to who shall be featured within the line-up.”

A lot of his latest reveals have been centered round Chapter 2, the spin-off that launched underneath the Khaadi umbrella about three years in the past, bringing again the hand-woven material that had as soon as fashioned the very essence of the model. With its minimalistic fashionable method and comparatively larger value factors, as a result of using hand-woven material, how has the model been faring in comparison with the rather more industrial Khaadi? 

“Chapter 2 won’t ever be for the plenty. It has its market however we have to work on it much more. The purpose is to construct a wider understanding and appreciation amongst prospects for material that’s created painstakingly on a handloom.

“I additionally wish to get extra inventive with Chapter 2, construct extra various strains,” he continues.

I imagine that he shall be in a position to take action. In its fledgling years, the area of interest model has already received its share of awards and has a loyal clientele. And Shamoon, as he had instructed me earlier, loves a problem. Someday, in the midst of our dialog, he additionally commented that determining easy methods to make the enterprise survive in the course of the coronavirus lockdown had given him ‘top-of-the-line experiences’ of his life.

Why did you not go to Turkey to shoot with Esra Bilgic, I ask him. A lot of his contemporaries who had not too long ago labored in collaboration with the Ertugrul actors for vogue shoots had made it a degree to journey overseas to satisfy them — and had taken loads of selfies within the course of! “I imagine in delegating and have quite a lot of religion in my staff,” he says. “One of many guidelines to enterprise is that you just don’t should get entangled except there’s a disaster, or you could be part of strategising.”

There are numerous extra guidelines to the enterprise of vogue that I’ve come to know via my successive interviews with Shamoon Sultan over time. There have been occasions when I’ve tried to steer him in different instructions — his private life, likes, dislikes — and but, one way or the other, now we have all the time ended up analysing the market, design, the nitty-gritties as a substitute. 

He’s keen about all of it however there has additionally all the time been a technique to his insanity, constructing Khaadi into the behemoth that it’s immediately. Twenty-two years down the road, he’s nonetheless raring to go.

Printed in Daybreak, ICON, January third, 2021


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