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Q&A with Aalia Jafar

Q&A with Aalia Jafar

Aalia Jafar heads SHEEP™ – a women’s wear brand that has fast established itself as the premium prêt wear label serving the Pakistani woman that value quality. Aalia, a graduate from Southeastern University, was the Textiles Sourcing and Brand Manager for DuPont Textiles & Interiors that included brands like LYCRA®, COOLMAX®, LEATHER WITH LYCRA® to name a few. During her time with DuPont, she also initiated the concept of Fashion Trade Shows that showcased innovation and new product development in yarn and fabrics from Pakistan to foreign buyers, buying agencies and garment exporters. Aalia, also a very strong supporter of working women, was the leader of DuPont Womens Network and founder of the forum DIA – a collaboration between DuPont, Shell, Unilever and ICI. She talks to Blue Chip about the clothing brand, its design philosophy and the market that it caters to.

How did you begin your journey in textile and how did you transition to fashion and women wear?

Aalia Jafar: “My career started off in advertising. During that time, I was exposed to multiple industries and brands but the one that stuck with me the most was LYCRA®. It was a brand by DuPont and when I got the opportunity I moved to DuPont as the Sourcing and brand specialist. Being one of the key exports from Pakistan, the textiles industry was challenging but lots of fun with a lot of growth opportunities. Men dominated most of the industry so it was an interesting experience. LYCRA® being the 8th top brand in the apparel segment (considering it’s an ingredient brand only) follows the strategy of brand pull and this is done via a lot of marketing activities. From trade shows in Asia Pacific to fashion weeks in New York/Paris, the brand really was educational in introducing me to the world of fashion.

SHEEP™ for us is part of a diversification plan into the local market. As this market grows, we look forward to being one of the prominent players of the retail industry.”

How does Sheep differentiate itself from other clothing brands in Pakistan?

AJ: “We differentiate ourselves through our product and branding. Our color palette is what makes us stand out along with our cuts and styling. Our focus is on simplicity; with 4 product lines we are able to cater to all segments.”

What is the vision behind Sheep and what drives its design philosophy?

AJ: “The brand’s vision is to be an active driver in evolving the local fashion in Pakistan and fashion out of Pakistan to international standard. To educate the market about the styling and cuts and all the while helping our customers express individuality through our separates that can be combined in a number of ways to make the garments all seems like different ensembles.”

What types of clothing lines in women wear have you introduced through Sheep?

AJ: “The product lines introduced cater to different tastes and occasions.

BLACK SHEEP™ is a premium line for formal evening wear, which includes cocktail tops and eastern wear – wonderful for engagements, weddings, and parties.

Luxury Prêt is a high end line for day wear and is most suited for high teas, lunches, birthdays and other formal occasions.

Workwear is for professional women or women who prefer understated elegance in the form of sharp, subtle, statement garments.

Smart Casuals is a trendy line of fusion wear, perfect for everyday wearability.”

What is the target market for the brand and how successful have you been in penetrating the wardrobe of the women of Pakistan?

AJ: “The target market of the brand is the educated woman who prefers quality over perceived value. SHEEP™ woman a strong and successful woman in whatever she chooses to do – be it study, work, raise children or all three! She is also a big believer of balance in life.”

Being an advocate and supporter of working women what ventures have you undertaken in this regard?

AJ: “There are many things in the pipeline but unfortunately we haven’t been able to put anything in place formally as yet but we do support activities supporting working women and forums related to their enhancement.

Meanwhile, our clothes are designed to give them confidence and feel good factor at work! Make them feel like they can achieve anything they put their minds to.”

How fashion aware is the Pakistani market and how well received was Sheep upon its introduction in the market?

AJ: “I’d say the market is at an infant stage. At the moment, the market follows the fabrics/lawn more than the readymade garments so there is a very big opportunity for the ready to wear fashion and appreciation for cuts, styling and individual styling where an everyday outfit combined in different ways can be made to look like a new piece by simply changing a scarf here and a belt there!

When SHEEP™ was introduced we connected with a niche market and over the last 2 years we have seen the customer base grow thanks to the garments that make a statement and generate word of mouth.”

How does Sheep fuse eastern and western wear to achieve the perfect balance of the contemporary with the traditional?

AJ: “We experiment all the time! So there is no set guideline for fusion or eastern or western wear – we follow common sense, customer feedback and international and local trends to keep putting out different things. We started off with 1 product line and today we offer 4 distinct lines only because of the above. Our design challenge is to pleasantly surprise our customers each week when they come in to see the new stock.”

What differentiates SHEEP’s retail philosophy from other brands in the market?

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