I have war-scars to show for my visit to Sania Maskatiya's lawn exhibition. Standing in the long queue as I waited to pay for my purchases, I got shoved, pushed and scolded by a bevy of lawn aficionados (to do them justice, I had been trying to get a friend up in front to pay for my suits, quite unfair to the women who had been standing in line for half an hour). And this was on the day which was supposedly reserved for the media, Sania's clients, family and friends. I wouldn't dare brave the day of the actual exhibition, when purchasing was open to all and sundry. In the annals of Pakistani lawn history, violent, lawn-crazed women and long traffic jams are the true signs of a successful lawn exhibit and Sania Maskatiya's debut fitted the bill perfectly.
And to think that, following the Karachi and Lahore exhibits, these prints are going to be available at select multi-labels and Sania's flagship store in Karachi and are already available online, at the Labels and L'Atelier e-stores. Nobody wants to wait that long, apparently.
“The suits ordered online will only be available after more than a week and by then, so many women would have worn them already,” complained one shopper, who apparently liked getting her lawn stitched pronto, right off the sales racks.
“I am worried that some of these suits will have gone out of stock by the time they reach the stores,” reasoned another - an apt observation, judging from the lineup of avid customers and the fact that Sania has chosen to exhibit just one day each in Karachi and Lahore, since only a limited number of suits have been produced. Meanwhile, a satisfied few came to the launch dressed in the lawn suits themselves - Sania's staff team and fashion journalists who had perceptively made their purchases when they were allowed exclusive previews.
Fashion journalist Aamna Haider Isani brought along two students from her ongoing Fashion Media 101 class, explaining that, “I wanted them to see what a successful launch was like. I knew it would be like this.”
It was a launch reminiscent of previous Sana Safinaz exhibits - quite an achievement since this is just Sania's debut while Sana and Safinaz have been creating lawn for a long time now. Then again, Sania and Umair Tabani, her brother who handles the marketing and business end of the label, have built up the business very intelligently. In the seven odd years of her career, Sania has established herself as a favorite for red carpet creations, has won a Lux Style Award for her luxury-pret and has built up a loyal clientele consisting of the famous, the fashionable and the uber-rich. Most importantly - and this is something that sets her apart from quite a few others - Sania hasn't just focused on the market in her home-city, Karachi.
She's shown in fashion weeks in both cities and stocks her clothes at multi-labels in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Faisalabad as well as in Dubai, where she stocks at the Ensemble, at the PFDC Boulevard in Delhi and in the U.S.A. and Canada. She has a textile background that enables her to play with print and fabric and she'd much rather sell to all of Pakistan (and beyond) rather than tie herself down to just one city.
So what is so special about Sania Maskatiya's lawn that has instigated such madness within red-blooded lawn aficionados? The fabric's great - Sania has collaborated with the Sapphire group, a company well-renowned for its high-quality textiles. She's also created seven stitched shirts, available in different sizes, for the women who prefer ready-to-wear. Crisp, lightweight with minimum detailing, they make for ideal no-nonsense daywear.
As for the unstitched lawn, most of the prints are inspired by Sania's earlier, hugely successful collections: Matyala, Uraan and Dilkash, for instance. Unlike the luxury-pret collections of the same names, though, these lawn suits are available within prices that range from 4450 to 5590 rupees. It's what made designer lawn such a success back when all and sundry hadn't stepped on to the bandwagon and this is what has made it work still for Sania Maskatiya. Everybody can't possibly buy the luxury-pret, often priced well above 15,000 rupees - but now everybody can purchase the lawn, with similar aesthetics.
And literally everybody did come to Sania's debut in Karachi.
The exhibition hall featured a motley crew of socialites, fashion journalists and designers mixed in with the housewives that form the main market for lawn in Pakistan. One spotted L'Oreal CEO Musharraf Hai holding several shopping bags as well as entire families of women buying into possibly every suit in sight. There were women in designer-wear, dressed to the nines and women in veils, their heads covered, carrying bored children who couldn't be bothered with the intricacies of lawn - Sania's friends in the fashion fraternity, family and clients, all accompanied by mothers, cousins, aunts and uncles because well, that's just the kind of hype that surrounded this lawn.
The Dubai exhibit at the Ensemble was timed on the same day as Karachi and the Indo-Pak community came in droves, according to Shezray Hussain, the store's financial head. “Sania has an aesthetic which is never over-the-top,” she says. “The lawn is very sophisticated and metropolitan; it works well for the modern-day women in Pakistan as well as for the many Dubai-based Indians and Pakistanis who enjoy wearing lawn.”
The lawn suits proceed to Lahore and Islamabad in the next few days and judging from the success of her luxury-pret in both cities, the lawn is expected to draw in huge crowds. Next up, is the opening of her flagship store in Lahore. Great aesthetics and regular stocks combined with a spot-on business sense … Sania's success story continues onwards.
Sania Maskatiya, Umair Tabani (her brother, partner and business brains) with Nabeel Abdullah of the Sapphire Group taste the sweet success of lawn mania on opening day
(above) The hysteria Sania Maskatiya inspired is remiscent of Sana Safinaz lawn launches
(Left) The calm of the lawn itself... before the storm