There are just too many lawn brands and too many lawn billboards scattered all over Karachi this year. Yes, they looked pretty at first and, alright, if lawn does well it’s good for the economy. And we’ll admit, initially, some of the prettier billboards were tempting enough to make us want to brave our way to the exhibition and try to take a peek at the clothes while being jostled and shoved by lawn-fanatic shoppers. But, then, as one billboard after the other has popped up, it’s gotten a bit tiring. Whenever you think the round of exhibitions is finally coming to an end, yet another billboard gets erected. How many lawns can a woman want to buy, after all? It’s enough to make one want to go off the fabric forever!
But, as many a lawn retailer has smirkingly pointed out time and again, we really can’t go off lawn here in Pakistan. The weather is hot for about nine months a year and lawn is the only fabric comfortable enough to wear in the sweltering heat. So, perhaps the masses of lawn-loving ladies really do have a point as they charge their husbands’ credit cards to a dozen suits or so.
But, coming back to the billboards, designer Wardha Saleem’s exhibition advertisements stand out from the milieu. The billboards show model Aamina Sheikh smiling euphorically with her Wardha Saleem lawn outfit fanned out around her. The images, shot by Tapu Javeri, are colorful and very eye-catching. Aamina may not be a Bollywood star but she certainly looks like she’s having much more fun than the haughty Sushmita on the billboard next to her. It’s because Wardah’s lawn has a very vibrant color palette but it’s also because Tapu is one of the most creative fashion photographers around. “This is the only lawn I have photographed this year,” he explains. “I didn’t want to shoot for different brands and make the images look repetitive.”
And while getting Tapu on board was a clever move on Wardha’s part, the designer hasn’t opted for any other fancy public gimmicks in order to gain mileage for her debut lawn collection. Wardah hasn’t taken on a glamorous brand ambassador or Bollywood star or organized a grand fashion show to get her lawn noticed. “I think people may be drawn to an exhibition with glitzy advertisement billboards but they’ll only buy the lawn if they like it and feel that it is well worth their money. I think my billboards are striking enough to get noticed and once people visit the exhibition, they’ll know that the lawn is well worth being purchased. As a textile designer, I understand fabric very well and this shows in my lawn collection. There is a lot more to a lawn print than putting a paisley here and an embroidered motif there. A lot of people have entered the lawn business this time, after having witnessed Sana Safinaz’s success last year. They think it’s easy money and their celebrity statuses and showy advertisements may draw in the crowds the first few times. But without any background in design and textiles, they can’t last in this market, which is getting more and more competitive. I think they’ll eventually fade out. You need to understand fabric and design in order to bring out a pretty lawn print and with so many options available to them, customers are getting more discerning about what they want.”
For the past six years, Wardha has been designing semi-formal prêt wear for a niche clientele but with lawns, she hopes to make an impact in the mass market. “We’ve got a limited number of lawn joras this time around. It was our first time and so, we decided not to produce too large a stock. I don’t plan to distribute to local retail stores, but if stocks last from the Karachi exhibition, I do also want to exhibit in Lahore.”
But it is possible that Wardha won’t be left with much stock. At the press meet held one day before the exhibition’s official opening, buyers kept filing in and purchasing suits. “The manager at the venue told me that I had managed to garner more customers a day before the exhibition than other designers had gotten in three day long stretches at the same venue,” Wardha smiles. “I think people appreciate the quality of my fabric, the prints as well as the prices. The lawn price range begins from Rs 1800, which is very reasonable considering the prices being charged by other brands.”
It just goes to show that you don’t really need overt publicity stunts to get your lawn noticed. Sensible pricing and good quality may just get you through. And hey, who needs to import in actresses from Bollywood when you’ve got Tapu Javeri right here to jazz up your billboards?