|Maria B goes from lawn to linen|
13 November 2013
Designer Maria Butt aka Maria B. has been a player on the fashion circuit for over a decade. While she has managed to maintain a consistent presence in a competitive market, she is still a far cry from being in the ranks of hot and happening retail brands. With M girl, a line of stitched cottons and a lawn collection under the her belt, the designer is now venturing into a collection of linen, an area that has mostly been dominated by textile house Gul Ahmed.
With three-piece, unstitched suits in a range of dark and bright winter shades like charcoal grey, fuchsia and mustard yellow, Maria says her linen line is a business-savvy undertaking.
“Pakistan has a vast Northern region with very cold winters and there is hardly anyone catering to that sizeable market,” says Maria, adding that the sheer size of the lawn market often means designers cater to just the summer season.
She says the idea occurred to her because of the nature of Lahore winters — luxurious yet affordable ready-to-wear winter clothing was very much the need of the hour. “A smart businessperson sees an opportunity and acts on it. What followed is a historical achievement — we are the first designer linen in Pakistan’s history… the market went crazy,” she adds.
Crazy isn’t the word we would use to describe the market response to her linen venture, considering the mixed reaction her designer linen announcement has received on Facebook. Priced between Rs4,400 to Rs5,000, some consider her line too expensive given the simplicity of the fabric. Others critique it for bringing nothing new to the table. The ads show the same old galas on long, unstructured shirts — where’s the innovation?
Despite the mixed reviews, Maria appears to be on a roll as she plans to launch her Indian Pashmina collection on November 15, which she has already introduced to her customers in India last month. “We will also be launching our Indian lawn collection here in February and later in New Delhi,” she shares. This particular line is priced at below Rs4,200 and has also been exported to England, where Maria says the demand is high.
When asked whether Karachi will warm up to the winter fabric, Maria maintains that it absolutely will. “Linen is rayon, a wood-pulp based fabric. It is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Our sales there are good and we predict that Karachi will be the next big linen market. Not as big as lawn of course, but it has great potential.”
Although the designer works had to maintain a presence in both local and international markets, her ramp collections hardly get rave reviews. Most recently, her PSFW 2013 Sunshine Collection had some lovely colours, but featured ponchos, jumpsuits and asymmetrical hemlines that are quite passé.
“I go to fashion weeks when I want to and if I want to,” Maria says in her defense. “If it makes business sense to me I will participate, otherwise I can’t stand the fake crowd dying to be seen in the front row and blowing their own trumpets,” she says. “I have a different vision of fashion now — one that is streamlined and practical. I now have a sense of what sells in retail,” she adds.
Whatever her decisions may be when it comes to fashion weeks, with her linen collection Maria is a catalyst for a new trend and expects it to quickly gain momentum.
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