Zahra Raza Exclusive Interview with Fashion Central

Today, entrepreneur Zahra Raza talks exclusively to Fashion Central. At the young age of 25, Zahra Raza has already successfully launched 2 businesses in the fashion industry. In 2010, with partners Sarah, Sadaf and Ahsan Raza, Zahra launched Islamabad’s premier multi label boutique, ‘L’atelier’, which in a very short span of time has come to stock over 40 designers from across the country and beyond. Let’s hear what the young personality has to share with Fashion Central.

1. You graduated in visual communication Beaconhouse National University in Lahore and also hold a diploma in Art and Design from the prestigious Central St. Martin’s in London, why did you decide to go in to retail instead of design?

Fashion has been my passion from the beginning, but esthetics has been a gift given to me by my mother, as she is a renowned artist Naheeda Raza. I have been an art student in school and when choosing a school I knew Saint Martin’s was the best choice. I honed my design esthetics in my foundation year and then developed an interest for visual communication.  I was very lucky to be the first batch to graduate from BNU as I still believe it is the best university for liberal arts in Pakistan. I remember in my thesis presentation the jury told me that I should have my own label of clothing or my own accessory store. As I have always been very fashion oriented and all my projects were related to fashion. Considering I have worked in the fashion industry as a model throughout my college years I developed a personal liking for retail. After four years I can proudly say that I am the CEO of the largest multi-label store in Islamabad L’atelier. Lets say when you want something bad enough it always works out. It wouldn’t have been possible if my brother, sister and sister in law were not a part of this project.

2. How did the inception of L’atelier come about?

We were visiting Ahsan and Sadaf in Paris while they were working and studying there for two years. After witnessing the fashion capital and looking at the beautiful grandeur of the city we decided there should be a place in Islamabad where women can feel pampered and get a feel of shopping in a beautiful ambiance. As Sarah, my sister and partner already had fashion label she had a huge clientele in Islamabad and has been stocking in various multi-label boutiques in Pakistan we thought retail would be a good market to tap into. The prêt industry in Pakistan has grown in the last 5 years, we thought this was the right time to provide Isloo’ites a multi-label store with all the top designers under one roof.

3. L’atelier has four partners, how easy is it work within a partnership in this business?

Yes we are four partners. Ahsan, Sadaf, Sarah and myself. As we are siblings and Sadaf is our sister in law. Starting of 2010 was when we started working on our idea we had decided from the beginning Ahsan is going to manage the finance side of the business, Sadaf handle the marketing, Sarah shares her clientele by stocking at L’atelier and handle the after sales services and I handle the daily operations and getting new designers on-board, keeping a check on the sales and the clients.

4. The concept store has more than 40 designers stocked at the moment, what do you look for when considering new labels to stock at L’atelier?

Firstly I have studied the Islamabad market really well. Having lived and worked in Islamabad my entire life, I understand the Islamabad retail. Being an Isloo’ite, I meet all sorts of people at social gatherings and events, through conversations I gain knowledge of what people want and need. From there I conduct first hand market research, this helps me in deciding what designers I need on board. The major factors those influence our decision are customer demand, variation in price points and design diversification.

5. L’atelier is planning to launch a café within the premises; can you tell us a little bit more it and why are launching it?

What do women like more than shopping and socializing? The whole idea is to let our customers have a great shopping experience and not leave the premises to catch a cup of coffee. Having a café will enable our customers to shop and take time off from their busy daily schedule under one roof. Also, the café would be a great addition to the business as people in Islamabad are fast catching up to the trend of eating out.

6. You also started “AlterEgo” a platform for budding fashion designers & also work as a model with OCULAR, have you seen any change in the fashion industry in the recent years?

To look into this question we must go back about seven years from now when the economy of the country was booming and the buying power of each individual had increased drastically.  This enabled the designers to make lavish and exquisite collections, influenced by the western culture as well because of the fact that the media in Pakistan had developed and given more exposure to the audience. Therefore the fashion trends have change enormously over the past few years, people have become open minded and liberal about fashion and this gives the designer the room to play with his or her creation.

7. Where do you see L’atelier five years from now?

We are very ambitious, God willing in about five years time we want to be recognized at the biggest multi-brand boutique across Pakistan, to achieve that we are planning to open stores in Lahore and Karachi and internationally in the near future. By biggest I don’t only mean in size, I also mean that our Boutique should be recognized as a place that is known for best customer service, value for money and more importantly be known to the designers as a great business opportunity.

8. Any parting for words for the readers of Fashion Central?

As Ghandi said, “whatever you do in life will be insignificant. But it’s very important that you do it”, hence to all the readers, it is very important to have ambitions and dreams and to then work on them. So readers aim for the moon and you will end up amongst the stars!

Today, entrepreneur Zahra Raza talks exclusively to Fashion Central. At the young age of 25, Zahra Raza has already successfully launched 2 businesses in the fashion industry.

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