LAMAN; FASHION OF THE AFGHANS, FOR THE AFGHANS, BY THE AFGHANS6 / August 2016 | 0 Comment
I found Khaled Wardak in a corner of Kabul, at a restaurant where surprisingly, he was signing Pashto and Persian songs. His uniqueness was in his guitar and in his voice. He might be one of the best guitarists in this city. His decent appearance and attractive voice makes it appear as if he might be a professional signer.
But when I got to know him more, his story was different; a story that one might never imagine unless one gets to know him.
During the years 2012 and 2013 the exit of foreign forces from Afghanistan turned into a serious public debate. And then, 2014 turned out to be a nightmare with the Afghan economy beginning to slow down and stagnate, which not only caused foreign investments and capital inflows to cease, but also resulted in the flight of capital from Afghanistan. The 2014 presidential electoral crisis added to this fragile situation heightening the sense of fear. Soon after the end of the electoral crisis in late 2015, a young Afghan professional returned home from the UK and while everyone else was averse to investing the country, considering the risk, he started a small business in a corner of Kabul. He drew up a business plan that seemed different from the outset and had the potential to transform the future, at least, of the fashion and garment industry in Afghanistan.
Laman- the beginning
Products designed by Khaled and his colleagues keeping Afghan sensibilities in mind. The brand Laman- in Persian ‘laman’ means skirt- is the first locally produced and marketed fashion label in the country. While Khaled is a UK educated Afghan and runs his business professionally, he has chosen a name that is respectful to every Afghan citizen. In Afghan culture, skirt or Laman is a symbol of honor and munificence. For an Afghan woman skirt is like her honor. These items are produced by Afghan professionals and sold in local markets. This is the first that a brand produced inside Afghanistan is making its presence felt in the market, targeted at the middle and higher classes in the country.
For the first time, last year, Laman, which began operations in December 2015, sponsored the clothing of a famous signer whose TV show is watched by millions of Afghans.
Laman’s marketing strategy seems wise, as it is making do with minimal marketing spends, while still managing to appear in major events that are watched by its customers who mostly hail from the upper middle classes of the Afghan society, comprising politicians, the social elite and sportspersons. That is how its branding strategy has been quick and successful.
Quaint fashion house
Without establishing a professional structure, Khaled would have been unable to build a brand in Afghanistan. Although he had devised a marketing strategy, human resources and other infrastructure like organized production lines, were tough to put together in Afghanistan. Laman runs out of a small house in a corner of Kabul. The fashion house is tastefully decorated in a manner that makes it unique. The rug used to cover its floor and the traditional style lights designed for the ceiling are all typically Afghan. Its furniture, lighting and the curtains virtually transport you into a traditional Afghan household. These attributes also showcase the owner’s expertise. To top it all, Khaled’s old but stylish Russian-made Jeep parked in the entry of the building makes the place even more attractive to a new visitor.
On a mission
Armed with a degree in design and garment fashion, Khaled returned to Afghanistan and started Laman with two employees; he now employs a staff of 25. Afghanistan typically imports garments from Turkey, India, Pakistan, China and Iran. With only foreign products around, one can easily imagine why an Afghan product would be a hit.
Khaled knew he had to survive in the most stagnant phase of the Afghan economy. That is perhaps why, from the outset he followed a two pronged strategy. Rather than relying merely on production of garments he also got into fashion consultancy.
Khaled says that he consults various television programs like Afghan Star and during events. The Afghan singer and TV personality, Aryana Saeed, is one of his clients. Khaled is ambitious and is looking far ahead into the future. He has been in talks with other brands as well. Khaled might turn out to be a success story among the small number of businesses that have recently come up in Afghanistan.
Alisher Shahir and Nasir Faizy contributed to this report.