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For those of you who have visited Ensemble in Karachi, you may have noticed a quiet yet smart and very intrinsically Pakistani clothing label called Inaaya. Those of you who know Naushaba Brohi from the media world (she was editor of the Life & Style pages of Express Tribune before Atika) will know the person behind Inaaya. Others may have simply appreciated the label for its simplicity, modern and yet restrained elegance.

Inaaya, named after Naushaba’s daughter (it means empathy in Arabic), is an ethical brand of clothing working to revive Pakistani craft while simultaneously empowering artisans. Currently Bee is working with around 50 women in the Khairpur district of Sindh.

Naushaba Burney with her team of artisans.

Naushaba with her team of artisans.

The results, which we can see and appreciate, are quite impressive. Sindhiness is very visible in the rilli (patchwork) craft that the designer is bridging with fashion and the fact that the artisans are employed with ethical aims and objectives makes it ever more relevant.

Annie Ali Khan models for Imaaya

Annie Ali Khan models for Imaaya

That said, design cannot be evaluated by good intentions alone. Is Inaaya worth buying beyond the desire to be philanthropic? Here’s what I think…

It’s a young label, started after the 2010 floods, which makes it not even three years old. For it’s age, its design is already quite distinctive. I can, more or less, identify an Inaaya outfit if and when I see one. I do think the craft to garment transition is a bit too literal, which means that there’s a tendency to go overboard. I would want to wear something that hints at my ethnicity with stylish accents instead of making it the sole purpose of the garment. I feel, at times, there is a bit too much ethnicity in Inaaya, but if that’s the USP of the label then that is the way it should be and stay.

The aesthetic, however, is very fine. The use of colour, balance and design is often eye catching (which is why it’s distinctive) and for the price – 8000 to 12,000 – it is a high value product. The liberal use of white cotton makes Inaaya desirable for long Pakistani summers and the current collection, focussing on Eid and the rains, with a blue and white palette makes it trendy as well. We know that blue and white is trending this season.

Inaaya's celestial collection pays tribute to the rains.

Inaaya’s celestial collection pays tribute to the rains.

There’s always room for brands that look inward into cultural roots and take them beyond Pakistan with design pride. Designers like Faiza Samee, Deepak Perwani and Kamiar Rokni have accomplished this so well. Rizwan Beyg, with his last truck art collection, and Maheen Khan with her use of flat embroidery and the Gulabo philosophy continues to promote the cultural cause. Newbies like Baani D started on a strong foot but then faltered.

Inaaya appears to be grounded but a fashion label, I feel, can only be fairly evaluated when it makes a fashion show debut. It’s only as a complete collection does a label’s philosophy emerge and a designer’s vision come forth. But the good news is, Naushaba shares, that she will be making a fashion week debut early next year. That, I predict, is when Inaaya will make it’s full impact. Till then it’s a promising label to check out next time you’re at Ensemble in Karachi, Fashion Pakistan Lounge in Lahore or L’Atelier in Islamabad. And you know that when you’re buying Inaaya you are indirectly empowering women in Khairpur.

Images courtesy Naushaba Brohi


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