"Hip Traditionalism” is how Salma and Aneeka Cheema describe their label, Baani D. The name is an unusual coinage of the Urdu word baani (founder) and D for design.
The banker and academic/textile graduate/biochemist sisters Salma and Aneeka began the label earlier this year to address their own wardrobe issues. “We wanted something that was trendy, fuss free and modern yet modest.” Aneeka lives in the US and wanted something she would “wear to Gujranwala as well as in New York”.
There is a vast difference between the two cities she cites but that is precisely what this label is doing. “We want to be local yet cosmopolitan, like ourselves really. Our roots are in Gujranwala but I live in the US and travel extensively. It is not totally western because nobody can do the west best, like the west themselves, but we are trying to cross borders while retaining our tradition,” says Aneeka.
In keeping with their design ethos, the Fashion Pakistan Lounge (FPL) where they debuted this week, was decorated with umbrellas coated with traditional fabric and tiny cloth birds hanging from the ceilings. Maestros from the subcontinent like Abida Parveen played in the background and guests were served Lahore’s winter specialities, naankhatais and Kashmiri chai.
Most of Baani D’s collection consists of separates that can be paired together for an eclectic Pakistan meets the international runway look. Most of the tops concentrate on ‘baandani’ or chunri; amongst an array of pants that include a piece that is a cross between a harem pant, a churidaar and jodhpurs. “We don’t sell ‘joras’ and don’t really follow international trends since high fashion takes time to trickle down to Pakistan. More importantly, there is nothing really new in the trends since fashion repeats itself. What we offer is a different way of interpreting the prevalent designs,” says Aneeka.
A garment that has literally flown off the racks is a simple flowing structured cape that can be worn in eight different ways. The sisters are willing to demonstrate how that cape can be transformed into a modern kurta, a glamorous top in three different styles, and even a dress. Instead of doing the run of the mill fashion show, the duo took advice from the FPL executives and did live photo shoots that not only exhibited their garments but also showed how they can be paired in various ways.
Salma and Aneeka design primarily for the American desi market and unlike any of the designers, including those that stock at FPL, they have international sizes marked on their clothes since most of their business is conducted online via e-commerce.
One can see the academic and banker in the design duo kick in: very few designers realise the scope of e-commerce particularly in markets abroad where a great demand for Pakistani products exists but multi-label stores are a dime a dozen and those that have been set up are not in proximity to many consumers.
Baani D may be new in the market but with its competitive pricing, versatile designs, keen business sense and its understanding of the target market, it is set to go a long way both within and outside Pakistan.
The Express Tribune