Pakistan’s best designer starts India retail

In a historic fashion, business and diplomatic move, Faiza Samee, the Pakistani designer who once dressed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto for her wedding, has begun retailing in Delhi, the first ever for a Pakistani designer in India.

Samee, who will be selling at the Carma fashion boutique in Mehrauli, has even made saris for the first time in her more than two-decade fashion career, especially for the India launch.

“This is a dream come true,” Samee told IANS in an interview. “People have been telling for 10 years to sell in India. But there were too many complications and I wanted everything to be just right.

“But now everything has cleared and here I am.”

In the past, governmental bickering between the countries, that from time-to-time has frozen all links, obstructed Samee, like hundreds of business people on both sides, from doing business across the border.

Now Samee is finally free to sell her gorgeous lehenga-cholis, ghararas, salwar kameezs and capris in Delhi. “I wanted to come to Delhi because I believe Indians and Pakistanis identify with each others’ clothes – essentially it’s the same thing.

“Look at my work, so much of the embroidery originally comes from Gujarat and northern India.”

Samee believes this could be the beginning of the emergence of a powerful sub-continental lobby in fashion. “I firmly believe that if India and Pakistan were to present a common front in fashion, no one can beat us.

“We have the world’s greatest heritage of textile and fashion. The West is afraid of us. That’s why it doesn’t allow us to come up in a big way in the international scene.”

Her comments have particular relevance as they come barely a month before the textile quotas end in December. India’s $2 billion fashion business, tiny compared to the country’s overall $15 billion textile industry, is predicted to be a major gainer when the quotas end.

According to the consulting firm McKinsey, India would be one of the biggest winners from the dismantling of the quotas and is expected to push its share from four percent to 6.5 percent by 2008 in the $248 billion global market.

Some reports suggest that in the US, India’s market share would leap from the current four percent to about 15 percent and in the European Union, from five percent to nine percent.

What this share could be, if coupled with Pakistan’s very strong textile industry, is anybody’s guess.

Till then, Samee’s next step would be to take Indian prêt to Pakistan. “A lot of people there already wear Indian prêt. There’s a huge demand,” said Samee.

But this would come only when some governmental restrictions are removed. “I’m going to work on it and hopefully soon there’ll be Indian prêt in Pakistan,” said Samee, who was commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Museum of Scotland to showcase her work.

“And one day, we’ll have a fashion week together”.

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