“Try to create your own style something that is unique, something that defines your personality.”
Born in Karachi to a family hailing from Punjab, Omar Farooq, the Creative Director of Republic, earned his Bachelor’s degree from New York’s Adelphi University. On his return, he decided to embark on a career in menswear industry. He went to Dubai and worked as an internee at Bespoke, a leading tailor’s outlet famous for its best dresses and the first choice of all corporate heads and high profile personalities. He learnt the minutest skills of tailoring there and also got his inspiration to set up his own business. He has deep knowledge of the tailoring skills ranging from how to cut, how to make patterns to how to get fabrics from London, Italy, etc. In 2007, he established a factory to produce suits, shirts, trousers, etc. He launched his first flagship store in Lahore in 2009 and today, he has a store in Islamabad as well with ambitious future plans to expand his network in other cities as well.
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): What inspired you to enter the menswear industry?
Omar Farooq (OF): Well, actually, I got my inspiration from Paris. I went to Paris for the first time in 1997 with my father. I visited Saint-Honoré and Champs-Élysées streets there and found a lot of amazing boutiques. They, in fact, sell art pieces, and I was astonished to see how one person can create something fabulous. I saw people queued up outside the store to buy the designed stuff. While in Pakistan, the situation is quite different. Though a lot of brands like Stoneage and Crossroads but they deal mostly in casual clothing. I felt that formal menswear must be promoted here. So, I decided to target this segment of Pakistani market.
JWT: You won Pakistan’s most prestigious fashion award i.e. Lux Star & Style Award 2012 at an early stage of your career. What’s the secret behind?
OF: It is purely due to relentless hard work and my mother’s prayers that I won this award. I worked ten times harder than my competitors. I didn’t get this award in a silver platter rather I devoted all my time and energy to it. I believe that whatever decisions I took, from cost cuts to establishing outlets and so on, went right for me. At the end of the day, hard worked paid off and got this prestigious award. I am very thankful to Lux as they have always acknowledged my work. In fact, winning an award proves that you have done something different, unique and creative and your work is being acknowledged and appreciated.
JWT: The ongoing energy crisis must also have adversely affected your business. Does it result in high cost of production?
OF: Absolutely, it does increase the cost. When I started business, US dollar was of Rs. 65 but, nowadays it is hovering at almost 108 rupees. Due to soaring dollar rate and worsening energy crisis these luxury items have gone out of the reach of people. Keeping in view this factor, we are going to launch our sub-brand i.e. Republic Heritage, soon. The Republic Heritage will offer affordable prices for trousers, suits, shirts etc with prices roughly starting from 1500 rupees for a shirt, 3000 rupees for a trouser and 14000 rupees for a suit. It will engage 60 to 70% market in Punjab because the prices are very compatible as compare to other brands.
JWT: How has been the journey of Republic so far?
OF: In first two years, I took a number of calculated and irrational risks which did attract a lot of attention to my brand. I think to run a business in Pakistan one must work cautiously. For instance, I launched a whole military collection for spring and summer seasons in second year of my business. At that time, it was highly in demand in Europe but it couldn’t earn an encouraging response. So, I realized that one has to create a balance that not only allows you to sell your product but sell your creativity as well.
JWT: What trends Republic has set in the industry?
OF: Republic has introduced a new proper range of Tuxedos for Pakistani men to wear on weddings and now it has also became a status and fashion symbol for men.
JWT: What’s so special in Republic for high profile people like diplomats, bureaucrats and corporate executives?
OF: We proudly have a huge clientele of diplomats, bureaucrats and businessmen. In fact, our custom-made entity is actually serving about 40-50% bureaucrats, diplomats and foreign officials right now. Brazilian ambassador Mr Alfredo Liouni, former US ambassador Mr Cameron Munter, Mr Jaleel Abbas Jillani, the new ambassador of Pakistan to the US, Mr Shahbaz Sharif the CM Punjab, are some of our high profile clients. They wear our custom-made suits as they are the best in Pakistan.
I think these are the benchmarks for Republic because these dignitaries wear our suits giving rise to new trends.
JWT: How do you manage to provide global quality on local prices to your customers?
OF: Obviously, it’s a huge challenge as if we import the original Italian fabric on current dollar rate and pay exorbitant customs duty, let alone other expenses at the port, then after incurring such high costs, we cannot sell on such prices where we cannot make enough profits then as will lead to shutdown of the business. I frequently visit Milan for buying stock-lots at a much cheaper price. That’s why; we are able to sell our products at affordable prices.
JWT: What are your future plans?
OF: We are going to launch Republic Heritage in Islamabad and Lahore. We also plan to establish our outlets at all leading stores in town. For franchises, talks with many parties in different cities are on.
JWT: Any tip or message for our readers?
OF: One shouldn’t be afraid of fashion. I believe not fashion but style is for man. So, try to create your own style something that is unique, something that defines your personality.