NEW DELHI — The Pakistan Fashion Design Council has entered the Indian market to sell clothes by Pakistani designers to Indian customers. The initiative to open its first store in India comes amid recent efforts by the two rivals to improve trade ties.
The festival and wedding season is approaching in India and thousands of women are scouring the market for new outfits.
This year, they have a new stop - a flagship store of the Pakistan Fashion Design Council opened in an upscale neighborhood in the Indian capital. On display is a collection of intricately embroidered bridal wear, as well as garments by 18 Pakistani designers. They come in a mix of bright oranges, reds and yellows that appeal to Indians, as well as pastel colors that are more popular in Pakistan.
Well-known Pakistani fashion designer Khadijah Shah is in New Delhi to showcase her 2013 bridal collection. She says India presents massive potential.
“For Pakistani designers in terms of scale it is going to be, it is your one wish come true because you get such a huge market," said Shah. "And it is the only other country in the world where they wear the same clothes. Making eastern wear you can’t really export it anywhere. With India it is actually another huge market that you are able to tap. So that way, it is amazing, it is a great opportunity.
Pakistan and India, divided along religious lines when India became independent in 1947, share a similar heritage and culture. In both countries for example, formal wear is often heavily embellished with intricate handwork.
The Pakistan Fashion Design Council store has been opened as a franchise with an Indian partner, Mini Bindra, amid new moves by both countries to liberalize trade. Bindra hopes the new store will foster communication between the two sides.
“People have no issues among themselves, that is what I think, like we are interacting with 18 different designers in two different cities of Pakistan and we are in Delhi, they are very cooperative,” said Bindra.
Akanksha Bhalerao, who helped establish the store, says Pakistani designers are turning out to be popular with many Indians.
“The response has been incredible," said Bhalerao. "We have brides coming in whoa are getting married this year or early next year and they are wanting to wear like Sana Safinaz pieces or Umar Sayeed.”
Designer Khadijah Shah hopes the New Delhi store will catapult Pakistani fashion into India.
“If we are able to achieve peace between the two countries, if trade stays on track, we are able to sort of realize that our differences aside, this is something that is very good for the two countries, very good for the people of the two countries, I think this is just the first step, we will expand further into India,” said Shah.
The Pakistani Fashion Design Council has plans to open stores in other Indian cities such as Mumbai and Chandigarh.
As first steps aimed at mending their often tense relations, India and Pakistan have taken several measures in the last year to boost business ties. Pakistan has agreed to substantially increase the number of products that both countries can now trade. India’s Trade Minister has said that strengthening economic ties could be the biggest confidence building measure between South Asian rivals that have fought three wars.