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Interviews: Saman Arif of Nayna
Meet entrepreneur and leading fashion designer: Saman Arif. This is the face behind fashion label Nayna a well recognized and accomplished company that offers bridal, formal, casual and office wear for the modern Pakistani woman. What started as a home business, Nayna has become an international phenomenon within relatively a few years. Its level of involvement in charities and world renowned organizations is remarkable. Read on to learn more about how the fashion label came to be and what future plans it holds for itself...
How would you introduce yourself to our readers?

Nayna is a privately owned company that designs, manufactures, and markets traditional Eastern fashion for the contemporary woman. Nayna's Collection, showcasing Bridal Wear, Formal Wear, Casual and Office Wear has tapped into the wealth of rich Pakistani fabrics and employed the skill of experienced Lahori craftsmen for the production of its hand embroidered and intricately detailed products. Nayna's product line is based on the creative expression and aesthetic ability of designer Saman Arif it reflects the interrelation between superior quality and distinct designs.

When did you get into designing? Did you go to school to learn or was it something that came naturally?

I have always had a passion and interest for designing, and I started around 12 years ago when I designed some wedding outfits for my relatives. I started off very low key, and in fact had all my workers at home at the time. I graduated 4th from Pakistan School of Fashion Design (PSFD) in 2000. I also teach at PSFD and jury many of the school projects which has enabled me to keep in touch with new ideas and talent in the industry.
You have worked with other designers as well tell us about that and why you decided to start your own line?

I have worked with big names such as Miraas and Nicki n Nina in the past, and have found the experience to be exhilarating and self fulfilling. However, like all good jobs, there is nothing like owning your own business. Although the stress is much more having your own business no matter what industry it may be, has its perks. As I already did a bit of work out of home, there was always the vision that someday I would want to start my own label and try and establish it internationally.
What is Nayna fashion and who are your clients?

Nayna actually means what you see through the eyes. It took us 4 weeks to develop this name as my partner insisted that we not work on a personal name and that there should be some meaning to whatever name we choose. We must have gone through around 350 possible names for the company, of which this stood out the most when we did market research for it.

Nayna is an established brand name catering to the medium and upper classes, both locally and internationally. We manufacture more ethnic wear than anything else however, our ready to wear line has some western touches engraved in it. Our bridals start from PKR 150,000 onwards, which in this day and age for this market, is very competitive. In fact, our competitors are starting at almost double this price, but we feel that we are want to not only cater to the high end client, but also to the medium income categories as there are more volumes in this niche versus the former. Our clients are all around the world, mainly from the US, UK, Dubai and of course locally. We have recently partnered up with a very high profile individual in London to look after our interests, and soon will be hitting the US for franchises and wholesaling. In 2007, we were primarily focused on our back end and ensuring deliveries in times of high capacity however, for 2008 the focus is now on international expansion and branding.
In a very short time you have managed to make a niche for yourself in this very competitive business, tell us how you did that and what it takes to be considered as one of the top ten designers of Pakistan.

A.I think that the real success factor at Nayna has been our ability to treat this as a corporate business rather than just a store. We have a very lean and focused hierarchy at Nayna. I look after the clients, design work and production and my partner Arif, who is an MBA and BSc. from LUMS (Pakistan's premier business institution), looks after the business and marketing areas. This has enabled us to focus on the core business functions as well as our clients. By combining my expertise with Arif's, we have been able to project Nayna as an extremely lean and professional organization.

In addition to this, we pride ourselves on being the first to do many new and innovative things at Nayna. We are the only designers to have an online production system which enables customers to logon to our website and check where their outfits are in the production process. We are the only organization to have a very comprehensive customer services module that enables us to be in touch with customers and ensure that the services we provide are nothing but the best. We are the only organization to work with megabrands such as Dior, Tag Heuer and Fendi watches for shows. So, while everyone else out there is busy trying to project what good quality clothes they make we feel that quality is the innate responsibility of the organization. The real value comes from doing innovative things that benefit the customer in the long run.

In my experience, reaching to the top is not as big of a challenge as maintaining yourself. Consistency is the name of the game, and thus far we have been able to provide a consistent experience time in and time out.
You have an outlet in the UK, what type of clothes do people look for there and what is the most popular?

We in fact do not have an outlet in the UK, due to the fact that there are too many distanced places and not enough stores that could cover all of England! Instead, we have appointed a franchise in London, and are in the process of appointing a few more organizations/individuals around the UK in order for us to be able to spread our wings even further. The UK is a very diverse market, essentially all Pakistani people look for fashionable and wearable clothes. However, this market is tougher as they are not in touch with most of the current fashions, and also tend to be a lot more conservative in their approach to fashion. On the whole, clothes that look good and feel good always are on top of the list of best sellers. Since our forte is very delicate and intricate embroidery on a well cut outfit, it is sometimes difficult for people to picture the end result. Nonetheless, the response has been phenomenal so far.
How many international fashion shows and awards does the Nayna fashion house have under its belt?

Up until now, we have not really focused on hitting international markets because of the simple reason that we could not cope with the Lahori demand. This year, we have now set our eyes on attending and participating in international shows, so we should have more on this for our readers next time!
Nayna fashion also got together with some big names to raise awareness and funds for a cause tell us about that.

Arif has always had the opinion that we should give back what God has given to us. I am sure you are all aware of the poverty in Pakistan, and unfortunately over the years things have become worse. With that said, we decided to team up with the UNWFP (United Nations World Food Program) to work on some developmental projects. In 2006, we did some awareness programs for them through our fashion shows. Arif believes that we should always do something new, and that is perhaps the reason why our organization is a creative and dynamic one. In this regard, we managed to land a deal with LVMH Pakistan to do a show in Lahore. In fact, the show deal came before the UNWFP deal. Since we already had a show happening, we felt it would be a good opportunity for the UN to project their image and cause as well. We invited the UN delegates to present to our audience the facts, figures and challenges faced in our country. It was a truly disheartening experience to hear about all the hardships facing this nation.

This year, we intend to launch a Train the Trainers Program, which entails bringing less fortunate ladies from the underdeveloped and earthquake stricken areas of the country to our workshops. We plan to train them in the art of embroidery, and let them go back and train more people. The only challenge we face in all of this, is to create the demand for these women to go back and ensure that they have work that will compensate them. There's no point in training them if we cannot generate orders for them as well. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the biggest hurdle in our campaign.
Where do you see yourself in the next ten years? Do you plan to have an outlet in the U.S. as well?

Due to the security situation in the country, our board has decided to relocate all marketing operations to the UK. This will allow us to target Europe as well as the United States. In addition to this, we will be able to cater to a larger base of clientele who are more quality conscious and less price conscious which is what we sell. We plan to capitalize on that and then move to the US. We are in the process of negotiating wholesale and franchise deals in New York and Detroit, and are constantly on the look out for new partners. In the next ten years, we plan to become a group of companies with a global representation.
What words of advice would you give to people who want to follow in your footsteps?

Well, fashion is a business now, and it's becoming tougher to stay ahead of the competition. It's not easy no one person can take the credit because it's a team effort. This work involves reputation and A LOT of hard work. It's a day and night profession, and a deadline is a DEADLINE!!! It's fun at the same time as all professions are but the glamour is not that easy to earn, it take its time. It's not about being an overnight sensation, but maintaining that overnight success.

Posted on Sat Nov 08, 2008 4:04 am by Admin Sat Nov 08, 2008 4:04 am
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