Maria B- Fashion Industry s Time Tested Entrepreneur
We went to meet Maria B. after a long time. She is among the very few time tested friends of Brides & You. She supported us in our initial issues and we continue to enjoy her support now, that we have almost a decade of experience behind us.
Maria, clad in her new black and white lawn sensation, wearing exquisite pieces of jewellery from her own Mgirl collection had the aura of a woman who has tasted success after discovering her calling in life. This got us more interested in her as a person, than as designer because an artist’s personality is what defines their work. Maria’s calm demeanor is reflected in her summer designs that speak of elegance, charm and confidence that can only be achieved if one is at peace with oneself.
So what does it take to have that confidence and level of success that Maria enjoys? Is it the launching and running of five brands namely Maria B Bridals, Maria B Evening Wear, Mafia (cotton wear), Mgirl (western clothes and accessories) and Maria B Lawn; or being the single mother of the most beautiful little creature on earth called Mariam; or starting a movement in Pakistan to wake up the youth and make them realize what the country can offer only if they own it up and start taking pride in it?
What motivates a busy designer, who is also a mother, to take time and money out for a social cause? Maria traces it back to her own childhood. She is the daughter of an Army officer who inculcated in her an undying love of the country and her spiritualism which forces her to look at the universe in totality. If she is blessed with a good life, she has to acknowledge the land that made it possible and give something back to it. According to her she owes it to Pakistan as it is this country that has given her the honour, the space and the identity that makes her who she is today.
The movement started with a single event in Lahore. She gathered the youth from universities in Lahore and got Mr Zaid Hamid to deliver a lecture on how and why we should have a positive attitude towards completing the mission that started with Allama Iqbal’s dream. The event named “Wake-up Lahore” was so successful that it turned into a nation-wide movement. Today around 20 universities from all over Pakistan are part of this movement and Maria with the support of her friends including Ali Azmat, Shehzad Roy, Fariha Jamshaid and Faiza Ansari is most enthusiastically leading it. Ary television also got involved as media partners and runs a show by the name Wake-up Pakistan every Friday at 11 pm.
There are many perks of being a successful entrepreneur and one of them is control over one’s time. In a world where most single mothers are bogged down with the guilt of being unable to spend time with their children, Maria despite her endless activities and commitments makes time for her only child. She enjoys being a mother and has no regrets about ending relations with her father. When asked to comment on why is it that most successful women are unable to maintain successful relationships she said, “Men in our country lack confidence in themselves and can’t deal with women who know their worth and are unwilling to compromise on their rights as individuals”. She also blamed women, unfortunately a large majority, who sell themselves short because they dare not violate customs and traditions, no matter how humiliating it may become.
However, unlike most who go through relationship breakups Maria is not pessimistic and is keeping her options open in case she finds a man who is confident enough to celebrate a woman’s successes because according to her, only that person will be worthy of her companionship.
That leaves us with the five business ventures. But before we go into that let us tell you how it all started. Maria started her business almost a decade ago with the seed money of two million and within six months the business started giving profit. The secret according to Maria of a good business is very simple, make a good product and price it well – success follows automatically. Hard work is the only tool for success.
Maria even today, when she has achieved what most cannot even dream of, gets up early in the morning and by eight am, she is at her factory which is at least an hour’s drive from her home. She is always properly dressed as she believes that the right clothing and right food are essential to maintain a positive outlook towards life. A woman’s mind and body should always be in harmony. All those who think fashion is frivolous need to rethink as it is very importance in building self confidence of a person. A well dressed person is always more positive.
On the way to Maria’s factory as I was going through some notes picked from the net and since we got lost and had plenty of time to reflect on them, I came across her claim that the label Maria B is all about affordability. Aha, I thought to myself, who remembers this kind of a claim made a decade ago, so I am going to definitely question her about it. But during the interview before I could remember to ask my favourite question Maria said, “As you know I don’t believe in designing for the elite only, my success is if I can increase my out reach and see more and more women of Pakistan wearing my label. Affordability has always been a big concern of mine and remains an obsession.” Well, it is so nice to know that there is someone out there who is not catering to the select few but thinking of the women in general and trying to reach out to maximum number by keeping the prices in check.
The obvious query after this is don’t you lose money by not catering only to the class who possess all the money to throw away on dresses. As we hear that there are families who will spend hundreds of thousands for a label only and Maria easily qualifies to be their first choice. Does this make any business sense? To my surprise her answer was yes, it makes good business sense as I make a lot of money selling my lawn prints and the fashion line called Mafia.
Mafia? Now what kind of a name is that for a fashion label. Maria very candidly told me that it is only an F away from Maria and at the time when she came up with the name there were too many fashion mafias struggling for power so she decided to come up with her own Mafia, she added with broad smile on her face. Mafia is her most profitable venture so far.
Mafia offers cotton, staple 3 piece casual outfits, using indigenous khaddar, cottons and linens. Every season new screen prints are designed, with western cuts and silhouettes, a fusion of international trends and Pakistani styles is created.
Maria-B Brides is the haute couture, or made to measure line at Maria B. Maria admitted that this has been somewhat neglected due to her other more demanding activities but she plans to revive it this season. Bridal wear she said is not the most profitable, as many people believe. She finds it a bit boring also because usually our girls don’t want to experiment with their bridal dress. They want to stick to the traditional colours and but once in a while a bold bride comes along, who allows Maria to design for her differently, and that is where the fun lies for Maria.
Maria’s evening wear collection is dominated by chiffons, silks and georgettes, embellished exquisitely with usual and unusual materials. These are trendy and designed to make a woman feel good for a special evening.
Mgirl is the fun and fearless western wear brand. This has everything from tops, pants, dressers, shoes, bags, bracelets earrings, corsages, belts, gloves, caps, scarves and socks. Maria gets her accessories made from China and visits the country at least twice a year to ensure high quality and perfect designing. Mgirl was launched last year and so far its sales have already gone up to 50 million.
Four years ago Maria ventured into the lawn making business and today she claims to be amongst the top two designers for lawns in Pakistan. She is most proud of her 30,000 collection of lawn suits that is available at all her retail shops. Maria has 11 shops in Pakistan which is her main target market but she is also popular in the west and caters to the ever increasing demand through an on-line shop where her products are available.
This Pakistan School of Fashion Design genius has won many awards and plans to win many more. Her ambition has no limits. She is indeed the pride of the women of Pakistan.