Pakistan: The British Council hosts the second cycle of Fashion DNA Pakistan
Pakistan has always been known for its textiles, high quality manufacturing infrastructure and production at par with international standards. However, Pakistani brands/labels have never managed to gain international recognition – which can be attributed to multiple factors including scope of local manufactures, limited capacity of fashion entrepreneurs and overall lack of knowledge of fashion marketing and access to international markets.
That said, some local fashion brands have recently seen success in establishing themselves in the international market. One such example is Khaadi who has opened a flagship store in London which shows great potential for Pakistan origin labels making it big in the European markets. With the right kind of market intelligence and skills the Pakistani fashion industry can create a mark for itself.
Addressing this very need, the British Council launched Fashion DNA Pakistan, a designer mentorship programme for Pakistani fashion design businesses led by UK industry experts in 2015.The programme takes the format of an 8-month-long exclusive, intensive training for selected design houses, including face to face and online sessions, a market entry boot camp and catwalk shows in the UK and Pakistan. Specific skill focusses include understanding international fashion systems, understanding brand DNA and brand identity, business strategy, seasonal merchandise and range planning, research and development, design skills, technical delivery, supply chain management, customising production, sustainability and ethics, profitability and competitiveness, retail logistics, digital presence, image-making and presentation (trade stands, fashion show plans, look books, photography), communication, marketing and market positioning etc.
Now in it’s 2nd year, the exclusive mentorship’s new cycle was launched on 11 August 2016. The project took on board 4 Pakistani fashion design houses in 2015 for its first cycle, and in 2016 the programme has scaled up to involve 6 local fashion businesses: an ingenious, eclectic group from across Pakistan including Gulabo, Jeem, Munib Nawaz, The Pink Tree Company, Sonya Battla and Zuria Dor. These design houses were chosen out of a substantial pool of applicants through a rigorous and transparent selection process led by a panel of UK industry experts, including Martyn Roberts, Director of Fashion Scout; Rebekah Roy, Fashion Stylist and previous mentor on Fashion DNA; and Ayesha Mustafa, the Founder of ethical e-commerce site Fashion Compassion. UK mentors include Toby Meadows, fashion business consultant and the international best-selling author of 'How to Set up & Run a Fashion Label'; Carri Munden, Stylist, Creative Director and Founder of the cult label Cassette Playa; Safia Minney MBE, Founder and of People Tree; and Sury Bagenal, Sustainable Fashion Design Consultant. This year through a partnership with the Ethical Fashion Forum and SOURCE consultancy the programme will focus on sustainable and ethical approaches to fashion. The mentorship will result in the development of a line of ready-to-wear apparel by each of the 6 design houses and these trans-seasonal, capsule collections will be showcased in London in February 2017 at Fashion Scout, which is one of the UK's largest fashion showcases throughout London Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week and Kiev Fashion Days.
Fashion DNA Pakistan is a 3 year project by the British Council that aims to create a platform which provides long-term support to exceptionally creative young/mid-career designer labels which are interested in producing for foreign markets and taking socially conscious business approaches. The programme also brings together British and Pakistani fashion professionals and institutions through workshops and showcases and hopes to eventually help build a collective identity for spunky, edgy fashion from Pakistan to make its overseas offer more coherent.
The programme also has a wider fashion and textile industry facing element in the form of a series of open workshops and lectures, providing them a chance to learn from and interact with the UK experts. On 11 August 2016 in Karachi the programme organised talks by this year’s mentors that covered topics of high importance and relevance such as global shifts, challenges and opportunities in the international fashion industry, the link between cultural heritage and the design process, fair trade and sustainability, creation direction, styling and digital PR and marketing. The talks were attended in full force by designers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, PR and marketing professionals, academics,, and university level students. The talks were well received and provided the audiences with an opportunity to ask questions about the international fashion industry, network and seek support from the UK experts.