The mirror has two faces

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Fashion designer, entrepreneur, MPA – Hina Pervaiz Butt continues to surprise and go from strength to strength as her label Teena becomes a fashion label to be reckoned despite the naysayers she inspires with her spunk and attitude 

There’s more to Hina Butt than just her pretty face, but it’s hard to look past those Barbie doll looks and take her as a serious entity. Throw in the mantle of “fashion designer” and it becomes even tougher, especially when Hina Butt is hardly a favourite with the it-girls and fashionistas that rule Lahore society. She is the unbelievable designer who churned out kurtas with LV and Gucci monograms! “How could she?” screamed the style gurus but the point is that Hina Butt simply went ahead and just did it. And she makes no bones about it. Today she is sitting on a growing business and honing her skills in politics – Hina ‘Teena’ Butt is a sitting MPA for the ruling party PML-N.

Yet, it is the prolific world of fashion that ensures the spotlight on Hina Butt; politics remains a man’s world where they are the loudest and get heard more. Also, being very pretty and rather young doesn’t help, as Hina Butt clearly is. Throw the comparison at Hina and she dismisses it completely.

“I don’t think being beautiful helps achieve success in any field,” she says matter of factly.

How about being categorized as a time-pass designer with those LV and Gucci kurtas?

“My work may not be well understood in the league of big names but it has mass appeal,” says Hina. This connect with the populace is what’s helping her play that trickier field of politics. As an MPA and a business woman in her own right, Hina has come forward as a strong advocate for women entrepreneurship.

“The educated and privileged class should come forward and claim responsibility in bringing a change. We are striving hard to come up with bills in favor of women empowerment in the assembly.”

‘We’ refers to other people in that all-powerful party in the Punjab. Working alongwith Maryam Nawaz Sharif, PML-N has recently introduced a youth business loan scheme aiming for 50 per cent loan coverage for women. This is something Hina Butt is clearly very proud of and she has bigger plans. “I wanted to to bring a bigger legislative change on issues like domestic violence and child marriage.”

The image portrayed of her as a fly-by-night designer may be skewed, but her OTT designs have made her the subject of derision amplified by her turn to politics. Judge away. Hina Butt’s mantra is to just keep on doing her own thing. She wanted to replace customary bridal attire with a diverse range of silhouettes that may not go down to well with the faint of heart, but then for her market, which is the Punjabi mundi, it works just fine because Punjabi women may be a lot of things, but faint of heart they’re not.

“I want a label everyone in the family is aware of,” reveals Hina and she has achieved that. Sitting  at her comfortable studio in Gulberg, I’m aware that one of the most frequently sold out lines at the PFDC or FP Lounge is her label. That’s the bottom line, critics be damned. Hina looks at her work from a strictly business point of view – a LUMS MBA trains you to do exactly that and Hina has one in her kitty.

She knew early on she wanted a fashion house of her own. “I’d always get raving comments on my dress sense. As time moved on I got deeper into the world of fashion design,” she recalls. Hina launched TEENA in 2010 with a one tailor facility and a modest one-rack preview that received instant approval from clients and jumpstarted her career: “The necessary boost motivated me to up my game There’s been no looking back since.”

“Fashion is all about creativity, skill, an awareness of latest trends and a sharp business mind,” says Hina, stressing on the business angle. “I have a stringent business model with  checks and balances and a separate bank account so the figures don’t get messed up if, say I’m ordering something for a family member. To keep the cash flow going I have delegated accounts and monthly auditing.”

Customer feedback is of immense importance for Hina.  “We get orders through the racks; as soon as an article is sold out it is  restocked at once,” she says. You have to be on the ball or opportunity is lost.

Hina vehemently opposes keeping prices higher at multi-brand stores, which is what many designers end up doing. “The prices have to be sugarcoated so that the customer gets value for money. You have to hit at the right spot,” she discloses. Hina exercises a simple process to do this. She displays a sample at her workshop, gauges clients’  feedback and makes it a point to do her costing that includes overheads, in-house dyeing, stitching, fabric cost and ‘adda’ work before a final price is calculated which is neither too high nor out of reach for any walk-in customer at the multi-brand stores where she stocks.

Hina Butt’s label TEENA is currently available at most major fashion stores and online shopping portals in Pakistan – FP Lounge, PFDC (Lahore and Karachi), Lateliar (Islamabad and Lahore), Labels and Ellement Pret in Karachi, Bossini in California and Chambeli, a store in Leeds.

Why has she not opened her own flagship studio? It’s what all big designers are doing right now.

“My clothes sell well off the racks of multi-brand stores so why should I overspend by getting into the costly upkeep of an extravagant shop?” she counter questions logically. Conceptualised initially as a ready-to wear brand that evolved into her now very in-demand line of semi-formals and formals, brand TEENA’s arrival on the scene can be heard loud and clear.

Her collection ‘The Splendour’ at Bridal Couture Week held in Lahore in December 2013 got noticed for its intricate finish, fresh colors, exaggerated volumes and diverse cuts. Earlier in April at her trousseau collection showing in Karachi, the digital prints were well-received.

“Though we started from Lahore, my clothes sell just as well in Karachi, especially the understated pieces,” she says. Interestingly enough,   Hina didn’t hesitate at all about stocking in the ‘other’ city, unlike many designers.

“One must participate in shows – the brand gets a boost with all the hype. The first bridal show that I did under the aegis of PFDC titled ‘The revival of the Brocade Period’ was my career’s turning point. I was recognized as a fashion professional after that and not just an everyday newbie. The label gets registered in people’s mind when the show goes on air but one should always keep the customers in mind,” she says.

“I have a capable team of young designers from PIFD who translate my design aesthetics into practicality. No design gets through before I approve of it because I am well acquainted with the preferences of my clients.” Hina Butt’s label acts as a training platform for aspiring designers and fashion students, offering comprehensive internships to hone their understanding of both design and retail.

Born into a family with strong business roots, Hina worked with her father for some time in sales and marketing before moving on to start a company of her own. Her father Pervaiz Butt is part owner of Cool Industries Ltd, which make Waves air conditioners and refrigerators along with other home appliances. Working in a full-fledged industrial set-up up is a big part of Hina’s thought process. She believes there’s always a niche in the market for people who are passionate enough. “One must take the first step – get motivated by people who have gained tremendously with very little initial investment.”

So what’s her take on   fashion trends in Pakistan?

“There’s been a tremendous fashion change over the last decade or so.  Women are obsessed with stealing the limelight on major events; they leave no stone unturned to get that unique look,”’ observes Hina dispassionately. She plays it to the hilt when she hits the town opting for dresses, kurtas with cropped hemlines and churidars, jumpsuits and gowns for evening wear and carries them all with a pizzazz all her own. When designing she prefers looking at cultural history to get inspired and get references to concoct sheer, delicately worked fish scales and opulent flowers using the antique work of dabka, korra, zardozi and gota… and yes, she throws in those all important Swarovski crystals too.

Fashion’s Manchurian candidate? Hina Butt with her industrialist father Pervaiz and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“We have heavily embroidered farshi lehngas, gowns and saris in our bridal lineup,” she says making it clear that her bridals are aimed at making any bride look uber glam on her big day.  Hina’s studio has glittering rows of bridal and semi-formal garments with heavy dashes of embroidery teamed up with a variety of pants, a funky fusion of peplum tops, batwing sleeves, flashy gowns and bias-cut cholis that look alluring with both saris and palazzos.

“I mostly use pure chiffon, crepe, lace, net and jamavar but I also work around the client’s budget,” she says stressing her need to be accessible to not only the upper but the middle class too.

Let’s face it, the new consumer driven age of fashion is more about how many are wearing your clothes than the who’s who wearing it. That’s a race Hina Butt understands only too well.

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