So what do you do if you graduate from PIFD with a gold medal? Furthermore, if you hold the highest CGPA and are awarded a scholarship on behalf of LSA?
Well if you are just anyone, you will probably think of setting up a bridal design studio and churn out design after design and take a bow on the Bridal week ramp. That is, if you are anyone. For there are few who take the road less travelled, and Saira Fatima Sadozai is one such innovator.
After a small stint in some textile companies, Saira realized her heart was in creating things that made her happy. And so in order to let her creativity come into play she ventured into retail consultancy and visual merchandising at a time when such concepts were almost non existent.
She explains what she does in simple words, ‘Billboard brings a client to the door of the store, the window takes him inside the store and product merchandise (the way it’s been draped, hanged and displayed) helps in selling the product.’
Having worked on may beautiful window displays, store layouts and training the staff, Saira adds to why she did not venture into the more obvious world of fashion designing, ‘‘My core strength is product and Retail is my focal point. I was always interested in tapping visual merchandising and retail consultancy by working for offices and banks. I wanted to do be distinctive and looked for a clutter free environment. Every Tom, dick and harry has started to design and the sector has reached its saturation level.’
Saira’s work is imaginative, and very technical. She interweaves modern visual graphics and techno 3D for striking, dream-like windows. Hailing from a conservative yet qualified Pathan background and is the first woman in the family who is working in the industrial and fashion sector. The will to learn something out of the box lead her to explore an unchartered territory of visual merchandising which is about creation of displays, in store exhibits, décor and Marketing campaigns.
‘I pick the theme board from the client about the idea of the season but I don’t accept any international window copy or a promise that I will create a replica. The race of copying international brands is actually getting negative mileage. In the long run, whoever will create original ideas will succeed. I have just done windows for Nishat at Centaraus mall in Islamambad, at Gulberg Galeria and Nishat hotel which have been applauded for their painstakingly researched work and nifty detailing. In the past I have done the windows of working woman, Kayseria and leisure Club.’
But its not at all easy, she adds, ‘Little details and a big idea are very important to create a display that is unique and distinct, something that would strike a consumer’s fancy while he is exposed to a clutter of windows in a retail environment. We have to prepare the props and sometimes it takes a month or more before they are ready as everything has to be customized. The setting and display on location takes from 24-48 hours with few hours of break in between. It’s tedious work but very fulfilling when you see the final result. We aim at giving people an experience, these displays also helps in defining a brand’s vision.’
Currently, her company also offers art direction of shoots and introducing retail and product audit. ‘Art direction involves putting up various sets for fashion shoots by creating a cohesive theme. I did several shoots from hanging mannequins; custom made postures, glowing boxes and walls, floral displays. My work also evaluates the product and tells what could be done to improve it in order to increase the sale graph. We also identify other factors to uplift the concept and image of the store which includes the most effective product display concept that people generally disregard.’
Sounds like an awful lot this young talented woman has taken on herself, and she does it with ease and grace. While spearheading her own company by the name of Radical Retail Solutions, Sadozai hopes to do a lot more original work in order to provide a better and more rewarding retail experience for the consumers and her clients.
‘You have to continue to evolve, and improve on what your greatest asset is. Originality of ideas and things that you do with your heart always take you a long way. One must follow with a passion.’
We wish her all the luck.