The brain behind Daaman Designs shares why she decided to shut down her clothing brand, what has the designer been up to since then and much more.
t was back in December 2020 that Maleeha Chaudhry, creative director of Daaman Designs, the brand specializing in casual and trendy outfits, announced on social media that the stores would be shutting down. “Covid-19 has ravaged countries, families and businesses alike and unfortunately, Daaman is no exception,” she wrote with a heavy heart.
However, Maleeha also said, “I hope to see you in some form and at some point in the future,” giving us some hope to see them bounce back in the coming days.
It is no secret that the global pandemic literally took over our lives; numerous people lost their lives, economies crashed and many were laid off from work. Moreover, businesses were also negatively impacted and unfortunately, Daaman had to close its doors to its loyal clientele.
Maleeha Chaudhry started her ready to wear clothing line in September 2009 and, according to the designer, her inspiration behind Daaman was fairly self serving. “I have always had a particular taste when it came to clothes and I found that nothing locally catered to my taste,” Maleeha tells Instep in an exclusive conversation.
“I was not into the whole dolled-up to the heavens kind of look and preferred streamlined, smart casual looks but there was nothing available. We didn’t even have the few Western brands that we have today. To be honest, it was a real struggle and the tailors would just not get it, so I decided that this was something I was going to do. And that’s how it all started,” she adds.
However, after more than a decade of creating stunning designs, Maleeha decided to shut down Daaman. We asked her what led her to make this decision to which she responds, “Daaman shutting down was definitely a difficult time in my life. We had been struggling with a few things in the year leading up to COVID. Also, things got exponentially expensive after PTI’s government came into power with GST going from 15% to 17%.”
She further went on to say that the brand’s outlet located in a pricey real estate - Dolmen Mall, Clifton - just gave the viewer a niche product. “I hated that pressure of having to cater to a more awami sensibility in order to make our ends meet. That was completely contrary to why I had started Daaman in the first place. I was feeling the pinch and I wasn’t too thrilled with things as they stood even before COVID. The whole world was turned on its head due to the pandemic and we were no different. But we sort of managed to pull ourselves along for a few months.”
According to Maleeha, the mall had sort of subsidized rent for a month or two but beyond that it was all hogwash and things kind of got out of hands. “By the end of the first year, it got to a point where I would have had to take a huge loan with no end in sight as far as COVID was concerned. I just didn’t want to be caught in this trap and move away from my own creative ethos. It was then that I decided it was time to call it a day.”
Of course it was definitely not a forever decision; however, she made no promises to herself or anyone. The designer just wanted to see how things go and was in fact ready for a break. Maleeha was offered exactly a year post lockdown and, in retrospect, it was a wonderful decision. “Of course, there was so much uncertainty and anxiety all around but at least in terms of my personal life and work, I was happy to get some time off to reevaluate and reassess why I was doing what I was doing. So it gave me a pause, giving me time to think where I wanted to go in the future,” she elaborates.
Nonetheless, last December the designer made up her mind to get back in the saddle and restart but on a much smaller scale. “Well, Daaman is now officially back but as an online store exclusively. The clarity I got from my year off was that I had very little interest in starting a brick and mortar store again. I just wanted to go back to the basics in terms of just what I used to love when I started Daaman.”
She continues, “I wanted to keep the management side simple and focus more on the design and liaising with customers and like minded people. In January, I got a little basic workshop up and running, and followed that up with a pop up in Karachi. After that I launched my e-store www.daamandesigns.com and that seems to be the way forward now that the website is up and running. As for the response, it has been great and our online store is doing really well.”
Talking about her design philosophy, Maleeha Chaudhry shares that she has been very straightforward since day one. She believes that less is always more and that is precisely what her designs are all about. “When I see something simple and eye catching, it appeals to me and my heart sings. So you can say it’s a real love connection I have with simple and effective designs. I’ve tried to maintain that throughout.
As for my design inspiration, it comes from everywhere. But, it all predominantly starts with the fabric and if I see something that makes my heart flutter I get really excited.”
On a concluding note we asked Maleeha if she has plans of opening an outlet anytime soon. She responds, “Although I’m already getting some pressure to expand, I’m going to take my sweet time and smell the roses with each passing day. But for now, I have no plans of bringing a physical store back, but I might bite my words. Let’s see how things go.”