The trend of multi-brand fashion stores seems to have taken Lahore by storm, the opening of the Ensemble and Ritu Kumar store last week being the latest addition to the trend, while patronising the fad is the Mall of Lahore.


Zeba and Shehrnaz Husain of Ensemble have brought to Lahore's fashion-savvy clientele a palette of Karachi's accomplished and budding designers. Faiza Samee, Rizwan Beyg and Maheen Karim; promising designer Nida Azwer, Umar Sayeed and Batul Rizvi, Sanya Muneer and Sadaf Malaterre are among those displaying their eponymous prêt and eid collections at the outlet.


Providing fashion brands with opportunities for diversification and enhanced exposure, luxury multi-brand stores are fast becoming the in-thing these days. Combining a brand with another helps leverage brands into new markets, and expand the customer base, especially for emerging designers for whom, in our country at least, there are few platforms to catapult them into limelight.


A branded outlet that carries exclusive range may have the advantage of creating certain ambiance to convey the right image, but multi-brand outlets put it and its line right in the middle of the arena with its competitors. Also offering convenience to the customers, they enable new collections to be showcased in a way in which fashion followers can compare and decide, while the sheer volume of customers attracted by multi-brand outlets make them an attractive choice for contending brands. Moreover, with increasing competition in the industry, a single fashion label fails to attract as much attention, as do multiple brands under one roof, while allowing cost-sharing and brand bracing to emerging labels.


The highlight of the opening was undeniably the Indian collections by Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani and Simar Duggal, as a crowd of socialites, fashionistas, celebrities, style aficionados, besides others, thronged the venue to get a feel of designs from across the Wagha border, an opportunity that never fails to enthrall Lahore's fashion-crazy, well-coiffed begums.


Scrambling and jostling their way through the rather succinct outlet swarming with visitors, some women appeared to want to be the first to pounce on the collections sleekly displayed in racks lined along the walls. Somehow our sophistication and refinement as privileged, educated women gives way to a rather boorish mannerism when it comes to occasions such as these that may demand deferring gratification.


The wide collection by haute couturer guru Ritu Kumar was impressive. In a single word the collection could safely be described as 'traditional'. Ritu is known to have nurtured a unique and incomparable style of her own, blending ancient Indian handicrafts of zardozi, bandhani and chikan work. She combines them with a contemporary flair to create stunning outfits and her pieces bore ample testimony to the claim.


Her bridal collection was equally entrancing and very traditional, yet it is known for its practicality and comfort. Ritu's bridal collection was delicately adorned with the intricate use of expert zari embroidery, embellishments and thread work on naturally rich silks, georgettes, crepes and tissues.


The designer's specialty of creating traditional Indian clothes, famous for depicting the textile and embroidery heritage of India, was clearly visible in all of her bridal pieces. The Indo-West fusion wear, pret and couture, also had all the paraphernalia of block prints, embroidery and craft inputs on western cuts and style, embracing brilliantly, both conventional textile crafts and the lineage of western design culture.


Known for his 'timeless and voluminous' pieces, the collection by Tarun Tahiliani was spectacular, to say the least. He is known for heralding a fashion and retailing revolution in India, while the collection by model-turned-designer, Simar Duggal, was also enchanting. The lines of both the designers included halter-neck shirts, trousers and long dresses. According to some visitors, the distinctive feature of the Indian collections was their signature attribute the fact that it was possible to tell one collection apart from the other, a characteristic that they felt is disappearing from our local brands.


Also spotted at the event were local designers Nilofer Shahid, Nickie and Nina, Sadaf Malaterre, Kamiar Rokni, Sara Shahid of Sublime, Ammar Belal, Zara Shahjehan and Mahin Shaikh. Models Sabina Pasha, Natasha Hussain, Iffat Omer, Cybil Chaudhry, Mehreen Syed, Meesha and Nael Ahmed, and former model Aaminah Haq were also among those present at the launch.


While speaking to Images on Sunday, most fashionistas said that the introduction of Indian fashion labels will not only induce healthy competition into Pakistan's fashion industry, but will also help elevate and shape the taste and preferences of our consumers. “I think that the buyers will not only appreciate the qualities of foreign brands, but most importantly they will also begin to realise the positive features of the local collections, a lot of which they take for granted because of  the limited exposure to international brands and markets,” said one designer requesting anonymity, adding, “The quality of our textile, for instance, is much superior to anything manufactured in our neighbouring countries and this gives us a great edge over others, provided we bring this asset to proper use by being creative and original, and not indulging in mindless plagiarism and design piracy.”


Ensemble has also recently developed its own line in collaboration with the charitable Behbud Assocation of Pakistan for their block-print fabric and the line was put on show at the outlet. The collection ranged from prêt to elegant bridals.


Faiza Samee's passion for unique embroidered motifs was apparent in her display at the outlet. Her collection of dresses conveyed minimalism, traditionalism and vibrancy. Long shirts with capri pants, the craftsmanship of her creations and the intricate zardozi spelled opulence and individuality.


Playing around with concepts, Rizwan Beyg also put up a fine display of his collection. In line with his signature style as a non-conformist designer, who increases trouser lengths when everyone is going short, or crops shirt lengths when all else goes long, Rizwan's collection merged innovation and creativity, combining western sarongs or blouses with eastern wear to come up with unique outfits.


Maheen Karim's work has always been a unique mélange of glamour, style and aura. Her penchant for silhouettes is inexhaustible, and her display featured creativity in the use of embellishments to give a fine and exclusive finish to her work.


The Nida Azwer label employed pure fabrics including Irish linen, chiffons, hand-woven silks and brocades to put her pieces together. The fashion label also seemed to be inspired by traditional crafts of tukri ka kaam, rilli and kantha work. The designer is known for infusing her pieces with detail, innovative cuts and inimitable tailoring.


While welcoming all these brands to Lahore, Zeba and Shehrnaz Husain heralded the opening of the store in Lahore thus “Opening in Lahore is an extension of Ensemble's vision, which is to help make fashion exciting, accessible and dynamic; and what better place to execute this vision. Lahore does, after all, share both, a historical and contemporary relationship with high fashion and style.”


Zeba Hussain has been supporting charity through fashion for over two decades through initiatives such as the Carnivale de Couture in aid of the TRC, the MALC annual ball and other fundraisers and balls in aid of the Kidney Centre and the Lady Dufferin Hospital. She is responsible for bringing numerous Indian designers, including Rohit Bal, Manish Malhotra and Suneet Varma, to the exclusive Carnivale de Couture. This year Ensemble also plans to hold a Fall/Winter fundraising fashion show in Lahore for the IDPs.


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