The patchy, dimly lit road to the Rajbah Farmhouse was punctuated by small bonfires; lonely watchmen, shopkeepers and random travellers gathered around the heat and light of crackling wood to ward off a cold and foggy winter night in Lahore. In Karachi this kind of a route would translate to terror in the form of dacoits and gunpoint robberies. But this was “Mian Sahab’s territory,” the driver reassured us pompously, referring to the Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif. “It is completely safe.”
This safe road finally turned into the palatial Rajbah Farmhouse, the infamous Mansha sanctuary that only a lucky few get to visit. We drove up the driveway, already lined with luxury cars that you rarely see so many of in the same space. Cobbled steps led us up and around the farmhouse, which revealed nothing rustic or simplistic except an abundance of lush, green grass that was more golf course than garden. A delicate fog hovered over the heated outdoor pool, setting off twinkling lights that had turned into dewdrops. They lit up the path of stone steps that led us to the main show area: this is where the Manshas – Naz Mansha to be exact – were launching Swarovski jewellery in partnership with their textile enterprise, Nishat.
It seemed like an extravagance – to launch one jewellery brand in such an excessive way – but then this is the only way to introduce a high-end product to the market. The evening flaunted a luxury venue, a fashion show introducing Swarovski’s Autumn/Winter 2014-15 collection, paper lanterns lit and let-up by guests, a sparkling display of the jewellery on ground and an overwhelming starburst of fireworks in the sky. It all wrapped up in a lavish dinner and everyone went home hearty and happy. The evening gave ‘chilled out’ a new meaning.
It was an evening essentially centred on the launch of Swarovski jewellery in Pakistan. Naz Mansha, CEO Nishat Group, wore a collar set with big crystals, which if seen at another occasion may have been mistaken for diamonds. Maheen Khan, also present and representing Nishat as Creative Director, looked as dignified as ever, ‘despite’ wearing jewellery.
“You know me, I never wear jewellery” she exclaimed, as she twisted the delicate leather cuffs studded with tiny crystals on her wrist. “The good thing is these pieces are subtle and very lightweight. It’s like I’m wearing nothing!”
A surprisingly dimly lit fashion show attempted to flaunt the rest of the collection. While the Austrian representatives of Swarovski were advised against traveling to Lahore in lieu of Imran Khan’s protests scheduled for December 15, Sarmad Amin stepped into his role of Honouree Consulate General to Austria, and delivered the welcome address. A handful of Lahore’s elite turned up in search of some social sparkle. Accompanied by her sister Ayesha Tammy Haq, a radiant Aamna Taseer came after celebrating her son’s engagement. Amber Saigol could be seen in a very chic, twenty’s style hairdo, an ageless Tahira Syed swept in, and a small smattering of fashion’s usual suspects could be seen hovering around.
Ali Xeeshan imposed a towering figure in a fur coat, Sara Shahid showed off a chunky Swarovski statement ring from her personal collection, Maheen Kardar looked her very best in a cherry red coat and Mini Bindra, who recently showed at Bridal Couture Week, was still glowing in the aftermath of its success. Fahad Hussayn stayed behind the scenes as choreographer of the evening; is he the next HSY, one questioned? It wouldn’t be entirely unexpected for the designer – with his love for theatrics – to broaden his horizons and step into choreography and show/event management. With J&S in charge of ambience, the event was a cinch to look high-end and elegant.
Back to show, despite Nabila’s steady hand in styling and a bevy of Pakistan’s top models cast for the catwalk, the dimly lit show area did no justice to the sparkling gems. The clothes were designed by Nishat’s in house team and reflected traces of Maheen Khan’s influence on the brand. They were all quite aesthetic, if only one could forget the silver mid-calf tights that Rubya Chaudhry was made to wear. But in entirety the collection with its solid jumpsuits, asymmetrical satin tunics and single to monochrome palette was an ideal canvas to boast the gems. Unfortunately the lack of adequate lighting somewhat subdued the shimmer.
Luckily there was an outdoor display of the collection, which will be available at five Nishat stores in Karachi and Lahore. The new mall that the Manshas are hoping to inaugurate next year will house a Swarovski standalone store but until then, wasn’t the wavelength of Nishat fabric and Swarovski crystals very different?
“I know that the price bracket is very different,” Naz Mansha agreed while speaking to Instep at the event, “but I have to confess I am not a risk taker. I wanted to test the waters first. Fortunately the response to Swarovski within Nishat stores has been fabulous and that gave me the confidence to take it further. We’re building a mall in Lahore, which should open next year, and there we’ll open the standalone store.”
Given Pakistan’s volatile climate were the Austrians not concerned about investing in Pakistan?
“I guess they had faith in the Nishat Group,” Mansha replied candidly. “They came to Pakistan and did their research. They must have liked something about us. And the other reason is that even these people need markets. Pakistan is a huge market.”
Priced between PKR 8000 and PKR 30,000, Swarovski jewllery does have the potential to tap into a considerably large market of consumers that are readily appreciating the value of semi-precious jewellery. When it comes with a brand name carrying a 150 year legacy like Swarovski, the attraction becomes deeper. At the end of the day it is up to us, the consumers, to ensure that investment coming into Pakistan stays around. If women buy brands available in Pakistan ‘in Pakistan’ instead of preferring to pick them up on travels abroad, then they are making a small but essential commitment to investing into the economy.
— Photography by Faisal Farooqui @ Dragonfly
Publicity: Lotus PR