Khadija Rahman Creative Head
Passionate, dynamic, and the Creative Head at popular retail brand Generation, Khadija Rahman is our Boss of the Month! Read on her exclusive Interview for Social Diary Magazine…
Who is Khadija Rahman? Tell us about yourself; your background, education, lifestyle etc.
After completing my BA in Fashion Design from London College of Fashion, I worked at Generation for about six years. I realised there as much more I needed to learn, especially the business side of fashion, so I went onto pursue my Masters in Business Administration from Boston University. Ive always loved design, and as Don Norman aptly puts it, attractive things work better. Coupling my design degree with a business one allowed me to enhance both sides of the brain.
GENERATION was founded by my parents in 1983. As siblings, we grew up in the factory playing with threads, buttons and fabric sandwiches. Begum Aftab, the Stitching Head, taught me the Koran and Gul Mohammad, the chowkidaar was my soul mate. Now it carries on as my four year old son, Kabir, comes to work with me and we share the same office space. I decided to join Generation because of the importance of design and family.
GENERATION is quite close to all of us who have grown up with the brand. What is the story of GENERATION? When and how did it begin, what was its mission statement and how did it gradually evolve into a national fashion chain?
What type of fashion trends was GENERATION catering to back when it started? How has the design philosophy and the brand’s values modified till date?
My parents who founded the company were super brave when they founded the company in 1983. Imagine giving birth to a concept like ready to wear fashion when there was zero concept of it in the country. It’s like that story where that one salesperson visits a country in Africa where he sees no one wearing shoes, and comes back very excited telling his boss there’s so much market potential out there for shoes there because no one wears them! You’ve got to have vision to think like that.
The brand opened its doors at a time when ready-to-wear casual outfits were almost unheard of. Polyester clothing was the norm, so when GENERATION introduced cotton apparel it was considered quite a revolutionary concept. Furthermore, this was the first time when sizing was introduced in womenswear in the country. Generation was also one of the first brands to showcase their season’s collections through choreographed shows. The brand expanded to several sizable retail stores in the country.
The store became popular with women across various age brackets and is now considered generational in its appeal. One of our unique selling points is how vast our product portfolio is where we cater to different kinds of women through our multiple product lines. For example, we have the flo line which caters to teenagers and twenty somethings, whereas our Classic line is suited to more mature dignified tastes.
Furthermore, we have been in business for almost 35 years, and the kind of relationships we have with our customers really differentiates us from everyone else. We have learnt so much from them and have been fortunate to have such a loyal customer base. Our customers push us forward everyday with their open mindedness, their sense of fun and adventure and ofcourse with their deep connection to all things Pakistani.
When did you become involved with the business? Was it something you had always wanted to pursue or did you have a different career path in mind?
I never wanted to join the family business. I thought fashion was so pretentious. Though, I had always thrived on design. It was very close to the heart. When I went to London I realized fashion could be sensitive and democratic and rise from the streets as opposed to flowing top down. From then onwards I started seeing it all differently. It hit me that I could explore design, and use the medium of fabric-which is utterly gorgeous and very emotional-and help my parents in their work.
It is truly commendable that collections from recent years have been delivering powerful statements. As a socially responsible brand, how effective do you think are such campaigns for creating awareness and change?
Thank you! J I think its quite interesting how change does work in this field. Even if we are not necessarily modifying peoples attitudes and ideas, we see other fashion brands taking the baton from us and take inspiration from our concepts, and push them to the next level which allows the idea to attain maturity and makes it much more powerful and impactful. The idea is infact for the concept to get copied, so a supposed change in perceptions can become indeed become more imaginable!
Is Pakistani fashion staying true to its cultural roots or would you say there are too much Western influences? How does GENERATION differ or create a balance in this regard?
Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world not focused on western wear and to have its own national clothing, the shalwar kameez. I think that is admirable. In India for example, desi wear is limited to wedding wear and most women in urban centres don jeans and t shirts. I think its fun and rewarding to be part of this at this period in time in Pakistan. Cannot say how long it will stay like this.
We are curious to know why GENERATION doesn’t focus on menswear?
Because we feel we have so much left to do in womenswear!
How do you balance your work and personal life?
Family businesses have lot of soul in them because you’re in it for your own ambition and for the sake of your loved ones. I remember not only growing up in the Generation HQ but also being a part of the decision making, an enriching experience that my son Kabir also enjoys. The concept of work-life balance becomes obsolete because work and life essentially become the same.
How is a regular day working at GENERATION like?
These days … meetings meetings meetings. I recently got awarded a badge for Always Being in a Meeting. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
What has been your favorite campaign by the brand and why?
Your favourite should ideally always be the last one. The last creation should be your best and most memorable one. That is a sign of growth and improvement.
What is the one thing you wish consumers knew?
That the brand name is Generation not Generations.
So what’s next for you? Any new projects or ventures you are working on? It’s a secret project. You’ll find out in October.