Omair Abbasi of Checkmate Talks with

Photography credit: Syed Awais Hassan

Omair Abbasi is one of the dynamic managing partners, heading the new Pakistani menswear brand, Checkmate.

1. We hear you, along with two other partners, have launched a new menswear brand called Checkmate recently. Congratulations! Can you tell us how and why the three of you decided to start this venture?

We come from diverse backgrounds.

Creative direction is led by M. Zahid Farooq. He belongs to a family of designers, and was born with the gift of originality and imagination. Coming from a family of businessmen, it was clear that Zahid had a natural talent from a young age.

Usman is the savvy visionary. With his varied experience and background ranging from aviation, electronic media to working within the government sector, he brings strong diversity to the team.

I, having spent much time traveling the world and possessing a flair for identifying trends in men’s fashion, brought the three of us together to start something unique.

Checkmate is the result of an ambitious and hardworking group of friends, with a big dream.

2. What kind of menswear can men find under the Checkmate label? Give us a rundown.

Currently, the collection includes long sleeve woven shirts (formal and semi-formal) and classy Polo shirts for men.

3. What will make Checkmate different from the other menswear brands in Pakistan?

Checkmate offers menswear which has a fresh, youthful edge and just makes a man look & feel good!

The essence of the Checkmate line lies in the attention to detail paid to each shirt. High thread count luxury cottons are the foundation of the line, giving the shirts a soft touch and comfortable feel. The collection includes original patterns, solids and stripes; the shirts are vibrant in color and rich in texture. Signature Checkmate design elements include: contrasting top-stitching; double-buttons; unique cuff & collar treatments; contrasting button holes & edges woven with a hip, fresh contrasting fabric; superlative embroidery and of course the Checkmate logo. Furthermore, along with Egyptian and Italian cotton we are trying to promote best quality Pakistani cotton as well. To add color, we are taking our inspiration from Pakistani art including truck art, sozni, ajrak etc. We are a proud Pakistani company.

4. Where are you stocking Checkmate at the moment? Are there any plans for Checkmate to open its own outlets in the future?

The HAP Store located here: 3-A/3, Mahmood Ali Kasuri Road, Opposite Hotel One, Gulberg III, Lahore. Yes , in 2013 we plan to open our own outlet, starting from Lahore.

5. How many collections do you plan on coming out within one year?

One for every season.

6. Why the name Checkmate? What’s the story behind it?

As the name suggests, the inspiration is from chess, the game of kings and queens. Initially we launched three lines.

 The King symbolizes:

Order, status, control, wisdom, strategy, authority, intellect, dominance and masculinity. We say, show the world that you are worthy of being hailed as a “King” by wearing this brand..

The Bishop symbolizes:

The swift vehicle of the spirit.

The Knight symbolizes:

High spirit, drive and determination represent the knight, and that is what this brand is all about.

Upcoming lines also include Rook, Pawn and Queen (for women). Coming soon will be an offering of knitwear and accessories to compliment the Checkmate line.

7. You state that Checkmate is an affordable quality brand for men – what are your prices like? What cloth do you use for your shirts and polo shirts?

Prices of shirts range from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 3000 and Polos cost Rs. 1300. We use the best quality local and imported cotton for shirts. For Polos we knit our own cloth, which is of the highest standard.

8. What international menswear brands would you say you aspire to be on the same level with, in terms of designs, choice & quality?

Zara and Massimo Dutti.

9. Do you feel there is a gap in the Pakistan market for brands such as yours? Why?

Yes, there is definitely a gap in the market for good quality, trend-setting affordable menswear. We are a concept oriented brand. We are indigenous and we do not copy others.  Most brands do not give that much attention to detail and if they do they become too expensive.

10. Will you be exhibiting Checkmate collections in cities other than Lahore in the future? If so, when and where?

We plan to do two exhibitions in Islamabad and Karachi during the first quarter of 2013.

11. What are some of the upcoming collections we can look forward to from Checkmate?

Ethnic (focusing on local Pakistani crafts) themed shirts, Polos and top quality formal wear.

12. Can Checkmate only be bought at The HAP Store in Lahore or can people order online as well?

We are in process of finalizing arrangements with a number of online stores. At the moment we are available at the HAP store and Facebook (orders can be made via facebook with free home delivery anywhere in Lahore).

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