Pakistani designers are waking up to the potential of e-commerce. Ayesha Farook Hashwani (AFH) has become one of first premium Pakistani designers to launch her own e-store: www.afhashwani.com/shop.
“We have a huge clientele abroad and in parts of Pakistan too such as Faisalabad and Multan, where we don’t currently stock,” says Hashwani. “We wanted to make our products easily available to all our customers no matter where they are.”
Ayesha Farook Hashwani also stocks at the Labels e-store and is very happy with the service. “I will certainly continue to stock at Labels e-store which is Pakistan’s premium multi-label e-store and a wonderful showcase for the Pakistan fashion industry.”
Nevertheless, she felt it’s important for the brand to have its own online retail space – one that showcases only the AFH brand and allows the brand to have a distinct online identity.
The site shows how each outfit looks from the front and back as well as incorporating the facility to zoom in on details. And this very net-a-porter approach gives the site a very international feel.
One of the main barriers to e-commerce in Pakistan is the lack of an online clearing system or any trusted system for online payments such as PayPal. Like Labels e-store, the AFH site has worked around this. It accepts credit cards, and, for deliveries within Pakistan, cash on delivery. The site is currently working on accepting PayPal and Western Union.
However, unlike international sites, the refunds and returns policy is quite stringent. Forget generous Western policies that pay the shipping when you return goods you don’t like; AFH, like most Pakistani and Indian sites such as Pernia’s Pop-up Shop, has a no refunds-no exchanges policy unless the goods are faulty.
According to Hashwani, “Huge operations like Net-a-Porter have the resources to cope with customers who will wear clothes without removing the tag and then return them. It’s not something we have the means to deal with and so we have to keep a stringent returns policy.”
Retail experience has helped AFH develop standard sizes and stringent quality control, which leaves Hashwani confident of a good response from customers. A lot of outfits are also free size, which takes the problem of fitting out of the picture. The refund policy may put off some potential buyers, but all the top e-stores in the subcontinent have a similar policy and it seems to have done them little harm in terms of sales.
It’s great to see Pakistani designers venturing into e-commerce and taking their online presence beyond Facebook and sites that are mere showcases of their work. E-commerce offers brands an ideal opportunity for sales growth and bright young designers like Hashwani are tech-savvy enough to seize the moment.