The local fashion scene has been booming. Earlier this month we were treated to the Bridal Couture week; the latest style omnibus to wander into local party halls and onto the blogosphere. It was an emporium of all that glitters, with some definite hits and the expected misses. But regardless of the week’s touted success or failure, it was a sign of things to come. That fashion in Pakistan continues to ascend, with the ultimate goal of becoming a lucrative corporate player.
How far it has come is difficult to measure. We can talk about individual brand equity, sales and employment statistics. Or we can analyze how complex the industry is becoming. Does it continue to be a narrow niche that is limited to expensive tailoring and an exclusive clientele? Or, is it now more than ever a trade where ambitious, savvy and creative newcomers can carve their own path?
To answer these questions, as well as many more, this instalment of Young Business focuses on Alishay Adnan. The Karachi based fashion connoisseur wears many hats; stylist, social media manager, marketing manager, influencer. Her Instagram account is an array of drool-worthy outfits with an enviable following. Her work as a stylist has bagged coveted projects including a stint for Hamza Bangash’s anticipated film ‘Rang Raaz’, and in house stylist for Daraz.pk.
But what makes her journey particularly fascinating is how she was able to transition into the world of fashion.
“I took up this profession purely based on my passion for fashion”
“My educational background does not reflect my career,” she is quick to explain, mentioning that she has an undergraduate degree in management and economics from the University of Nottingham. “I took up this profession purely based on my passion for fashion,” a passion that surfaced while she was interning at prominent Malaysian fashion venture Zalora. Inspired by the stylists she worked with and learned from, Alishay wanted to continue working as a stylist when she completed her degree and moved back to Pakistan.
That was the dream, the execution was a little more difficult. “It was a bit challenging when I initially decided to venture into this field,” she shares, “it was not something anyone took seriously,” a sentiment that could be verified by the lacklustre designs and styling of a mere five years ago.
When she was given her chance in the sun, it was by another mind who wanted to go against the grain, “Muneeb Maayr, the CEO of Daraz.pk at the time, valued my learnings at Zalora,” she recalls, “and realized that they required a stylist to market their fashion products,” and so began her relationship with a company that would become a pioneer.
“I pay a lot of attention to detail and ensure that the content is visually appealing and does not seem promotional”
A relationship that in hindsight was mutually beneficial.
Hiring a stylist was a smart move for the company because it allowed Pakistanis to acclimatize themselves with the then new idea of online shopping, and accept Daraz.pk as a viable vendor. As she describes it, the intent was to create a “visual identity for Daraz.pk” and it worked.
But it also allowed Alishay Adnan to establish her own brand. Once videos of her styling their products were published there was no going back; she was cemented as the poster child for contemporary Pakistani fashion.
She then went on to manage the company’s social media and ever the champion of changing times, Alishay was quick to familiarize herself with all the tricks of online marketing. “I can’t emphasize the significance of social media enough,” she says, “each channel has its own market, with various consumer habits. You’d be missing out if you’re not catering to people who might not have seen a billboard, or subscribed to a magazine or go out shopping every day.”
As with her experience at Zalora, Alishay learned on the job and in the wake of managing the official Daraz.pk Instagram account she started her own. “I would not call it strategy,” she says explaining her social media plans, “but I pay a lot of attention to detail and ensure that the content is visually appealing and does not seem promotional.”
Again, it was a step in the uncharted direction and once again it paid off. Soon there were articles declaring that she was among the “need to follow” crowd of opinion-makers. And at a time when few had her panache for aesthetics, the masses were more than willing to accept her. A style star was born.
“The importance of fashion styling has surely increased, now I can confidently say that there is a plethora of opportunities for upcoming stylists”
Since then she has only leapt to new heights. She continues to be in demand as a stylist, and her online influence is unparalleled. But because of her eagerness to venture onto an uncharted path, and craft a career out of something that many didn’t take seriously, she also has that rare accomplishment of propelling the fashion scene forward.
The transition to today, where styling is imperative for most productions (film, television, and even theatre) can be attributed to motivated talents like Alishay who didn’t just want to enter the industry; they wanted to bridge a gap. “With the fashion and film industry growing at such a rapid pace,” she chimes, “the importance of fashion styling has surely increased, now I can confidently say that there is a plethora of opportunities for upcoming stylists.” Given that styling is just one part of the fashion pie, it isn’t surprising that the expansion of the former is just indicative of how the latter is also growing. And like other members of this new generation of fashion enthusiasts, Alishay Adnan is poised to continue making her mark, “There is nothing I would change at this point. I wish to keep learning and playing an important part in the Pakistani fashion industry.”