By Sonya Rehman
Known for its unconventional, brightly-colored digital prints, the Pakistani fashion label, Sundip, was the go-to boutique for women who wanted ready-to-wear apparel which was not only fun, but which also made a statement.
For Nafiz Khokhar, jobs left him feeling uninspired and unfulfilled. Therefore in 1973, the young designer was inspired to launch a line of western wear for women.
“Pakistan was not as conservative as it is today,” he says, “People were quite liberal and I thought it would be a good idea to establish my own garments business which would focus on jeans, tank tops and leather jackets for women.”
However, while doing the groundwork for his label, Khokhar visited a printing factory.
“I was amazed to see the way fabric was printed manually, and at that very moment, something just clicked and I knew exactly what kind of clothes I wanted to design.”
At a time when Pakistani fashion was still developing as an industry, Sundip’s ensembles – showcased at its boutique in Liberty Market, Lahore, came as a breath of fresh air. The patterns were bold, quirky, and resonated with women in the 80s and the 90s.
“Sundip created a huge stir in local fashion in the early 80s,” states Nur Fatima, a restaurateur in Lahore, “I remember when I discovered the boutique in 1983 while shopping at Liberty Market. I had never seen clothes like that before. In fact, one of the outfits that I had bought from Sundip in that very year, I distinctly recall being stopped by three people (on the same day) who wanted to know where I had gotten it from! To say that Sundip’s clothes were showstoppers would be an understatement.”
Stating that while other fashion houses were focusing on intricate floral designs at the time, Khokhar reveals that he wanted to produce clothing which made his abstract prints stand out.
Currently, Khokhar’s son, Ramiz Ahmed Khokhar and his wife, Eiman Khokhar, are in the process of re-launching the iconic label this year, in October, seventeen long years since its closure.
“I have been in the Sundip studio since I was born,” Ramiz proudly states, “My father was always on the go, creating new designs and really just pushing the envelope. I think he has always had a great aesthetic sense that helped Sundip grow as a clothing brand.”
While the re-birth of Sundip will start off with an e-shop for the time being, Ramiz and Eiman hope to establish a boutique at some point.
But first, the duo will need to gauge the market. Much has changed since Sundip’s golden years, primarily the cut-throat competition in local pret.
“Sundip was very distinctive and ahead of its time,” states Kamiar Rokni, a well-known fashion designer, “While I’m glad they’re coming back into the market, I’m also quite curious about how they’re going to re-apply their aesthetic to a market which is already saturated. Nowadays everything looks more or less the same, therefore distinction and originality at the end of the day is what brings the client in.”