AMBER ARSHAD: What is the concept behind ‘Soully East’?
HAIDER KHAN: Soully East is our brand’s tagline; it is reflected in our ad campaigns and defines our identity. The tagline was coined in 2014, when we sat with Adcom, our creative agency back then, and decided that that as J. is the only brand focusing exclusively on Eastern inspired fashion, this fact should be reflected in our tagline. Although J. has always been into ‘object-based’ marketing, whereby instead of using models, we use boats, kites, flowers and so on, after we coined Soully East, we incorporated Nastaliq characters and draped our fabrics around them. The concept was to highlight our Eastern roots. This tagline extends to our work ethos and we follow it across the board. We also strive to be a Shari’ah compliant brand.
AA: What do you mean by a ‘Shari’ah compliant’ brand? And how is the implementation of Shari’ah ensured?
HK: We observe Shari’ah in our advertising, designs and cuts. We do not use female models in our campaigns and we do not plan to show the faces of male models in the forthcoming campaign for our men’s line. Even in the print catalogues, we drape the clothes on mannequins and never use models. In our designs (for our stitched range), we don’t use see through fabric or make sleeveless tops, short trousers or pants. We have a very basic ideology, as in we only stock those items which our mothers and sisters can wear. We have a Shari’ah board which monitors this.
"Before releasing anything, we require approval from our Shari’ah board, which includes people such as Mufti Najeeb, who collaborate with the J. brand to approve the designs. Sometimes the design team wants to explore further, but because of our emphasis on Shari’ah, they have to customise their design accordingly."
AA: How do you work around not using human models in your campaigns?
HK: We believe that creative and aesthetically pleasing campaigns, even for a clothing brand, can be executed without using human models. Over the years, we have used hot air balloons, yachts and flowers wrapped in our lawn prints. The creative execution not only cleverly showcased our prints, the campaigns also stood out from the clutter of typical lawn campaigns by other brands. In 2015, in line with our ‘object based’ marketing strategy, we used vintage cars as the backdrop.
AA: Why did you choose vintage cars in 2015?
HK: We started planning for our 2015 summer campaign in September 2014, with our creative agency, The Brand Partnership. It was a huge challenge as we had to top our previous campaigns which had received an outstanding response. After about 25 rounds of exploring different directions, we hit upon vintage cars. When you see vintage cars, you inevitably say ‘wow!’ The concept was to depict class with class. Many people questioned what was eastern about a car, and that too a ‘western’ vintage car. But the only western object we showed was a foreign car and there is nothing non-Shari’ah about an American car.
AA: Which media did you use for the campaign?
HK: It ran across all platforms. However, this time we have put a lot of weight behind OOH, including mall activations and in-store activities. When we launched the collection at Dolmen Mall in Karachi, we installed a real vintage car and draped our lawn prints over it.
AA: To what extent has your ad spend increased over the years?
HK: It has increased considerably in the last few years. Compared to last year we are marketing even more aggressively – last year we were focusing on expanding our retail outlets. This year, the spend is about 30 to 40% more.
AA: What is the price range of the new collection, and what factors are kept in mind in determining prices?
HK: The starting price is Rs 1,985 for women and goes up, depending on the embellishments and add-ons. For men, the starting price is Rs 2,385. For women our production ratio of stitched to unstitched is 50:50 and for men it is 90% for stitched. When deciding on prices, we look at what our competitors are offering as well as consider the market we are tapping into. Our primary market is SEC A and B, and so our prices are decided accordingly.
AA: What is your retail model?
HK: We are the only brand that is not stocked at other retail outlets and you will find our products solely at our own home stores. We have almost 70 such stores – in fact we have the largest number of our own stores and you will find them in the metros as well as smaller cities like Mirpur, and even small towns like Mandi Bahauddin. We are also available in the US, UK, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia and very soon in Canada as well. Most of the big players in the lawn market, including Alkaram, Gul Ahmed, Khaadi and Nishat are also changing their retail strategy and are focusing on developing their own home stores.
AA: In this competitive market, what do you do to retain customers?
HK: We have an extensive customer loyalty programme, whereby if you have our silver card, you will get a 7.5% discount on every purchase. If you have a gold card – which you can only acquire eligibility for after reaching Rs 100,000 worth of accumulated shopping – you get 12.5% off. Our loyalty programme recently celebrated one million customers. Furthermore, every outlet has customer acquisition and sales targets. If they fail to achieve them, they don’t get incentives.
AA: What are the purchase trends you see at your outlets?
HK: Lawn and cotton fabrics are usually top priority all year around; they sell more than silk and chiffon because they can be worn as daily wear and combined with silk or chiffon they can be worn as party wear. Peak purchase seasons are summers and festive occasions when customers of all age groups want to have the latest clothes.
AA: What does Junaid Jamshed stand for as a brand and what is your competitive advantage?
HK: We are classy. We are modest, but not conservative. We are hip and fun. We consider ourselves a family brand that caters for every occasion. We are always the first to launch a new collection; we launch at least a week before the other main lawn manufacturers. We also bring out collections throughout the year; we have about five collections, with the biggest one bringing in over 200 designs. We also bring out a collection for every major celebration such as Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha.
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