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Dubai is the next best, easiest and most lucrative market for Pakistani fashion and that’s a fact that savvy fashion retailers more than understand. Ensemble may have been the last of Pakistan’s major multi-label boutiques to have opened in Dubai (Labels and The Designers already operate here) but by the looks of it, they may be one of the most organized and successful, a fact that establishes itself with the Husains’ social clout in Pakistan as well as Dubai (evident in the turn out), strong connections with Indian fashion and the fact they are the first official stockists to bring Ritu Kumar to Dubai.

Zeba Husain with her daughters Shezray and Shehrnaz and sister Faiza Malik, who’s acting Creative Manager of Ensemble Dubai. Photo: Sohail Nazish

Simran Shroff, a fan of Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Umar Sayeed

 High heeled and well-bagged fashion conscious socialites walked in the moment Ensemble opened its doors on Thursday evening and one witnessed how difficult it was to  shut down even at 23:00 the same evening. Ten of the eighteen Sana Safinaz outfits were skimmed away in the first two hours, there was a lot of hustle bustle around the Sabyasachi and Ritu Kumar racks, and from the looks of it, Nida Azwer, Deepak Perwani and Nomi Ansari (all three were present at the launch) were generating a lot of interest that was translating into sales. Order forms were also being churned out for women who wanted customized fits for outfits that tipped over Dhs 2000.

Sobia and Wajiha loved this Nida Azwer outfit

On Talking to many women who were walking out with Ensemble shopping bags, I gathered that they liked what they saw because of a) the variety of labels present and b) the prices that many quoted to be a good 20% cheaper than rival high-end fashion boutique Soiree.

“We have kept the mark ups low to keep the prices competitive,” Zeba confirmed, “Women will vouch for the fact that Sabyasachi prices here are the same as his own stores in India.”

Known for the uber popular Carnival de Couture that gave fashion a mega-platform when fashion weeks did not exist in Pakistan, Zeba can be credited with playing an integral role in giving fashion a push in the right direction, glamorizing it with the presence of Bollywood and Pakistan’s biggest stars and putting it in direct comparison with Indian fashion powerhouses such as Rohit Bal, Tarun Tahiliani and Manish Malhotra. The store, it can be said, pushes the same agenda, and it can be approximated that Zeba’s close association with Sabyasachi, especially, will materialize in the form of something very exciting.

Nomi Ansari, Rabia Ghaznavi and Shezray Husain

Nomi Ansari has brought out his range of digitally printed occasion wear, his bridal and trousseau collection as well as Bubbles, the range for little girls. Rabia, Faiza Samee’s daughter, is stocking the Slate pret label and will be sending light-range Faiza Sami formals around Eid and Diwali time.

Umair Tabani, Nida Azwer with a friend.

Media was out in full force with Shehrbano Taseer covering for Sunday Times, Kiran Haroon for Instep (The News), Fathma Amir for Xpoze, Raheel Rao for Diva and myself being the independent reporter/blogger. Umair Tabani represented the house of Sania Maskatiya (and I have to add that so many women requested for the red Turkish tunic I was wearing which wasn’t in stock though it should have been!). And Nida Azwer looked over her own label, which visibly gleaned a huge amount of admiration from fawning fashionistas.

Selina Rashid wearing Sania Maskatiya (Lotus did the PR) and Kiran Haroon in Sheep.

Saba Hamid with her co-star from Annie Ki Ayegi Baraat.

Saba Hamid made a star appearance at the opening and it was interesting to learn that she’s started her own interior designing services in Dubai and has already started working. I was of course very interested in the development of the next season of ‘Kis ki Ayegi Baraat’ but the two actresses shared that nothing was concrete yet and negotiations were underway with the TV channel. Even if a next season was shot, it would be next year.

Pavan and Huma, who live in Dubai, and are drawn by Pakistani fashion.

Other then the usual crowd that likes safe designer clothing, it was refreshing to see a younger, edgier clientele like Pavan and Huma (right) who were looking for more cutting edge and different designer wear than what is regularly available at other boutiques around town. While they were looking for wedding-wear, they said they had hoped to find something more innovative and different.

Though I do think that fairly edgy clothing was available (with Body Focus, Sania Maskatiya etc) Pakistani designers will eventually need to go back to the drawing board and create with a bit more sharpness than the clothes they feel safe making. Fashion can’t always be about safe and what sells.

Deepak Perwani and Nida Tapal of Delphi

Deepak Perwani has found mighty success in his commercial side, for which he says he has happily sacrificed his creativity but he does indicate that he has big plans of expansion in the pipeline, which will serve much more that what is expected of him. Nida Tapal of Delphi, on the other hand, is happier to create a niche product (she designs crocheted designer-wear like what she is wearing) that serves a small yet discerning clientele.

That’s all from the launch of Ensemble Dubai. You’ll be able to get snippets of the travelogue on the blog soon!


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