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Warp – when fashion and technology come together

This is the story of Pakistan’s first tech-fashion accessories brand, from incubation in Plan9 to the sale of their first bag.

Warp – when fashion and technology come together
Hira Ali sporting a Warp Hexella mini bag.

They say that the bag a woman carries says a lot about her but could that be held true in a place with few statement bags of local origin? One could say that there are a handful of local brands making bags but there are those that are borne in the comfort of having leather tanneries in the family and bag stores on the side, those who are more inclined towards exporting their bags or those that are part of brands known for other products like shoes etc. There are longtime bag manufacturers like Jafferjees, who are known for their classic quality but they are hardly innovative. Designers like Wardha Saleem have collaborated with them to inject a dose of trendy into their designs but that’s only a one-off occurrence. Mahin Hussain has created line after line of handbags but they are more of the quirky statement rather than the classic handbag you’d carry around all the time. Are there any local bag designers that have the potential to be an investment akin to Birkins or Chanel bags? We’d say that new market entrant Warp has the potential to achieve that milestone!

Chances are that Warp’s bags are unlike any of the ones you’ve seen before because in a first, they aim to combine fashion and technology. The extent of possibilities that technology can offer and the bar in terms of functional design is noteworthy.  Tech-fashion is quite a nascent market in Pakistan, as experienced by the startup company in its initial stages, but the unique crux of the business ie. combining technology with local traditional leather craftsmanship, helped the brand build their name.

“When we first set the basis of Warp, one thing was decided that design will be at its core. Design not just in terms of aesthetics, but also in terms of the use and how it stimulates the senses of anyone who sees it. Good design is always something that is evocative. Hence, the idea was to play with form,” says Hirra Babar, CEO and Creative Director Warp.  The team has borrowed concepts from geometry and architecture to build forms and refined them in a subtle way. Currently they have three shapes in different colours: the tote, minibag, midi tote and the wallet on chain.

Interestingly, the collection today is not what they had planned when they started in January 2015. They started off working on a Smart Bag with built-in technology through which women on the go could charge their mobile phones and stay alert at all times. The idea was first of its kind at that time so they got themselves incubated in Plan9 as a startup. (Plan9 is regarded as Pakistan’s largest technology incubator.) They built their team there, gained industry knowledge and were able to make their first working prototype. However, due to the challenges of being in a non-existent fashion-tech industry in Pakistan they had to take some strategic calls and restrict themselves to introducing the product without the built-in tech.

Bag-1208Hira shared that working with local workshops who specialized in leather craftsmanship was another challenge.

“They had amazing grip on their craft but lacked the understanding of world-class production which came from finesse, quality control and operations optimization. We thought this was a bigger challenge and if we had to contribute towards the local manufacturing, this is the area that demanded the most attention.”

They moved out of Plan9 last year and set up a small place in Model Town, Lahore. That’s when they started selling their first product, the Hexella Minibag, in the market. Two years since inception, the team has been able to work out their supply chain setup end-to-end for designing with a collection in place and customers all over the world.

On who they consider competition Babar adds, “I am really glad to see a lot of people taking the initiative in the local fashion accessories space in Pakistan, especially the ones working with leather are doing great work. I believe, each brand has a very unique aesthetic and its own place in the market.”

They hope to be introducing new collections each year and diversifying their portfolio by tapping into footwear and new innovative accessories, which would include introducing a line of ‘smart bags’, when the market is mature. When and whether that happens remains to be seen but one thing Warp will always be, is the first tech-fashion accessories brand of Pakistan.

 

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