Imagine the narrow aisles of a fabric market in Peshawar, Pakistan. With a variety larger than one can imagine: fabrics of all kinds. They’re overflowing across the counters or piled up so high, you’re afraid to ask the shopkeeper to pull out the piece which is attracting you, lest the entire stock comes tumbling down on you. But somehow, these shopkeepers effortlessly pull out the entire bulk of the neatly folded print without disrupting the towering length of the cloth beneath or above it.
Amongst such shopkeepers was Almas Khan AKA ‘Shadeed Nayab’; handsome, young and popular with all the female customers, for the charming way he would sell fabric whilst maintaining a respectful tone. Shadeed meaning ‘extremely’ and Nayab which means ‘unique’ were his pet words to describe the best fabric to sell. The charming way he would say it to his customers would garner smiles and eventually convince them to buy the lot. I believe he truly was ‘Shadeed Nayab’ as his untimely death due to sudden brain hemorrhage left behind young children, a wife and a legacy someone had to continue.
His nephew Hassan Khan was studying with little or no intention to join the family business. Hassan’s father used to travel to Singapore and Dubai to purchase fabric which, for decades, they bought and sold in Shaffi Market, Peshawar. After Almas’s demise, he felt he couldn’t handle the business alone and Hassan had to take over the sales since his cousins were too young.
However, more than often, he was agitated by the female customers who would buy fabric from him after bargaining and haggling unreasonably and then returning to exchange that piece for something else.
He did not particularly enjoy working there but this was the family’s bread and butter and as tiresome as it may have been, he carried on.
In 2002 Hassan ventured out of Pakistan for the very first time to purchase fabric, like his father used to, with little money in his pocket and a different mindset – a mindset to transform the business for the better. He started exploring markets other than where his father used to buy fabric and made a few trips back and forth to Hong Kong. He also visited Japan and made trips to Singapore and Dubai, just like his father. Slowly, Hassan began mixing and matching fabrics to give his shop an edge. He started to design and digitally print fabric, incorporating borders from print and motifs to create his own collection, using a computer to create his own designs. He learnt through trial and error and was completely self-taught.
“Once you decide to work hard and put your heart and mind to it, there is nothing in the world that you can’t accomplish!”
Hassan began to have his collections modelled and invested in advertising through print media. After his first photoshoot in Islamabad, the elders of the family were not too pleased, hence he had to pull back a bit. One year and a few more collections later, Hassan was convinced of the direction he had chosen and decided to have another photoshoot, this time in China.
“I had been staying in China for about 8 years, so I was well acquainted with the system. I had also picked up the language so I could communicate my ideas well. The workshop I was designing for, started receiving orders from some of the well-renowned Pakistani brands after seeing the quality of my work”
Hassan’s designing and dedication has taken the business to the next level. He now has a couple of shops in an upmarket mall in the affluent University Town of Peshawar but the family stayed close to their roots by maintaining and running the original little shops as well. His cousins, Kamran and Imran, are now all grown up. They sell the fabrics and run the shops with the same humility and integrity.
He also has a catalogue printed with all the designs of the season to help customers visualize what the print could look like as a finished product. Also, through his Facebook page he keeps his customers up-to-date.
A father to 5 boys, Hassan is encouraging his sons to follow their dreams. His eldest one being an ardent cricket fan, is training at a Cricket Academy, while the rest are studying.
Meanwhile, Hassan is still busy learning, exploring and expanding the business, full steam ahead. And believe it or not, this progressive and talented businessman is only 38! He may have come a long way but one thing that hasn’t changed when you visit one of the family shops, is the warm welcome you receive along with the aromatic Peshawari Qahwa (green tea), and the smile on your face when you leave the shop with a lot more than you intended to purchase.
To know more about Hassan’s business, please visit his Shadeed Nayab Cloth Shop’s Facebook page at: facebook.com/shadeednayaab