Nina Naheed launched her Bradford boutique three years ago after struggling to find the fashions she wanted. She talks to Stephanie Smith about coping without big weddings – but with great style – during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nina Naheed outside the fabulous shop window designed by Petra Storrs and based on the Shalimar Gardens.
Nina Naheed outside the fabulous shop window designed by Petra Storrs and based on the Shalimar Gardens.

November is the busiest month, usually, for Nina Naheed. Her fashion boutique in Bradford sells original Pakistani occasion wear. Right now, it ought to be packed with shoppers seeking bright and beautifully embellished outfits for the weddings they are, or were, looking forward to attending.

But this is not a normal November or a normal year. “December is called the wedding season for us, and people start buying their formal dresses from now until December, but right now we have absolutely no demand for a formal collection,” says Nina.

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“The scale of the impact is unbelievable. In our culture, we usually have very big weddings. It’s normal for us to have 1,000 guests. Most of the Asian people are cancelling the weddings because we have big families and we can’t really go ahead with 15 people. It’s not only affecting our business, it’s the wedding halls, the make-up artists, the florists, the caterers… all of them are out of business.”

Velvet ready to wear embroidered collection set by Gul Warun 11, £55 at iluvdesigner.com.

Fortunately, casual wear has been saving the day for I Luv Designer, Nina’s shop on Carlisle Road in Manningham. This is what she has been selling in recent months. “Comfortable dresses, the winter wear,” she says. “That’s how we are surviving.”

Nina lives in Bradford with her husband, Saqib Mahmood, and their daughters aged 10 and four. She opened I Luv Designer three years ago.

“It took some time to gain recognition that what we sell is a bit different,” she says, adding that when she moved to the UK from Pakistan 15 years ago, she found she struggled to find the fashion she wanted.

“I used to ask my mother to buy me clothes and send them over because I was having a really tough time buying decent clothes to wear, like we used to wear in Pakistan.

Semi-formal ready to wear handwork three-piece dress by Sakeena Hasan, with standard length trouser, £38, at iluvdesigner.com.

“It was two years behind, for some odd reason, either due to the way traditional business was operating here, or maybe people were not very fashion aware.

“That’s when I thought there is a big gap – it could be a good market. Bring the latest fashion. As it gets released in Pakistan, it should be on the plane to be here the next week.

“My husband encouraged me a lot,” Nina adds. “He said, ‘why not try it? Maybe there are more people like yourself who are looking for these clothes or maybe asking their parents to send them from Pakistan’. And we were right. There are people looking for modern clothes.”

There is a retail website, ILuvDesigner.com, showcasing the many brands – Sakeena London, Afrozeh, Afsaneh, Baroque, Munira, Aleezay, Gul Warun, Arwah, Zaiwa, Sana Safinaz, Limelight, Mona’s, Maria B, Maryum and Maria, Garnet Clothing, Tabeer, Salitex, Cross Stitch, Mushq, Sapphire, Motifz, Simrans, Anaya, Khaadi – and the hundreds of designs that Nina offers. She and her team also arrange the fashion shoots featured on the website and these take place both in Pakistan and in Yorkshire.

Jade Luxury Velvet Dress by Gul Warun, £69, embroidered and with jamawar pant.

I Luv Designer has a large social media following on Instagram and Facebook and last month was one of three independent businesses in the UK selected for a rather fabulous shop window makeover. This was a “shopper-stopper” collaboration between Facebook and celebrated international window dresser Petra Storrs, an initiative to support female-owned small companies by encouraging shoppers to take a closer look at their local high street.

To create the window for I Luv Designer, Storrs took inspiration from Pakistan’s Shalimar Gardens, using brightly coloured fabrics and dresses from the store’s new collections.

“It came to us as a total surprise,” says Nina. “It’s the only good news we have had for the business since the pandemic. They contacted us and explained how they could transform our front window into a more creative, more high-end window, and we jumped at the opportunity. I have never seen anything so elegant, or imaginative and it completely shows our culture and heritage.

“It took about two-and-a-half days. It was unbelievable. Before it was a very ordinary Asian shop display, nothing amazing or extraordinary about it. Now we can even see the passing traffic slowing down for the window, and people taking selfies as well.”

Arwa Luxury Pret by Gul Warun, £69 for ready to wear dress, wiith top, bottom and dopatta.

When the shop was closed during the initial lockdown, Nina and her team used Instagram Live and Facebook Live to showcase their collections virtually, then found that customers asked if they could collect what they wanted from outside the shop. “That’s how we survived those months,” she says. “I am aware of quite a few clothing businesses – especially Pakistani clothing businesses, because obviously you are targeting a very specific, small audience, so quite a few people that I know personally – who have gone out of business.”

The window makeover has provided a much-needed boost, says Nina. “It has given us a bit of hope that something good is going to come up, so just stick to it.

“You need food, but clothes are more of a luxury. In a situation like this, where you are very uncertain of the financial circumstances, obviously people are reluctant to spend.”

And seeing the effect the new shop window has on shoppers has transformed Nina’s thinking about display. She says: “It’s the face of the store. I think 2020 has been lucky for us.”

* November is the busiest month, usually, for Nina Naheed. Her fashion boutique in Bradford sells original Pakistani occasion wear. Right now, it ought to be packed with shoppers seeking bright and beautifully embellished outfits for the weddings they are, or were, looking forward to attending.

But this is not a normal November or a normal year. “December is called the wedding season for us, and people start buying their formal dresses from now until December, but right now we have absolutely no demand for a formal collection,” says Nina.

“The scale of the impact is unbelievable. In our culture, we usually have very big weddings. It’s normal for us to have 1,000 guests. Most of the Asian people are cancelling the weddings because we have big families and we can’t really go ahead with 15 people. It’s not only affecting our business, it’s the wedding halls, the make-up artists, the florists, the caterers… all of them are out of business.”

Fortunately, casual wear has been saving the day for I Luv Designer, Nina’s shop on Carlisle Road in Manningham. This is what she has been selling in recent months. “Comfortable dresses, the winter wear,” she says. “That’s how we are surviving.”

Nina lives in Bradford with her husband, Saqib Mahmood, and their daughters aged 10 and four. She opened I Luv Designer three years ago.

“It took some time to gain recognition that what we sell is a bit different,” she says, adding that when she moved to the UK from Pakistan 15 years ago, she found she struggled to find the fashion she wanted.

“I used to ask my mother to buy me clothes and send them over because I was having a really tough time buying decent clothes to wear, like we used to wear in Pakistan.

“It was two years behind, for some odd reason, either due to the way traditional business was operating here, or maybe people were not very fashion aware.

“That’s when I thought there is a big gap – it could be a good market. Bring the latest fashion. As it gets released in Pakistan, it should be on the plane to be here the next week.

“My husband encouraged me a lot,” Nina adds. “He said, ‘why not try it? Maybe there are more people like yourself who are looking for these clothes or maybe asking their parents to send them from Pakistan’. And we were right. There are people looking for modern clothes.”

There is a retail website, ILuvDesigner.com, showcasing the many brands – Sakeena London, Afrozeh, Afsaneh, Baroque, Munira, Aleezay, Gul Warun, Arwah, Zaiwa, Sana Safinaz, Limelight, Mona’s, Maria B, Maryum and Maria, Garnet Clothing, Tabeer, Salitex, Cross Stitch, Mushq, Sapphire, Motifz, Simrans, Anaya, Khaadi – and the hundreds of designs that Nina offers. She and her team also arrange the fashion shoots featured on the website and these take place both in Pakistan and in Yorkshire.

I Luv Designer has a large social media following on Instagram and Facebook and last month was one of three independent businesses in the UK selected for a rather fabulous shop window makeover. This was a “shopper-stopper” collaboration between Facebook and celebrated international window dresser Petra Storrs, an initiative to support female-owned small companies by encouraging shoppers to take a closer look at their local high street.

To create the window for I Luv Designer, Storrs took inspiration from Pakistan’s Shalimar Gardens, using brightly coloured fabrics and dresses from the store’s new collections.

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“It came to us as a total surprise,” says Nina. “It’s the only good news we have had for the business since the pandemic. They contacted us and explained how they could transform our front window into a more creative, more high-end window, and we jumped at the opportunity. I have never seen anything so elegant, or imaginative and it completely shows our culture and heritage.

“It took about two-and-a-half days. It was unbelievable. Before it was a very ordinary Asian shop display, nothing amazing or extraordinary about it. Now we can even see the passing traffic slowing down for the window, and people taking selfies as well.”

When the shop was closed during the initial lockdown, Nina and her team used Instagram Live and Facebook Live to showcase their collections virtually, then found that customers asked if they could collect what they wanted from outside the shop. “That’s how we survived those months,” she says. “I am aware of quite a few clothing businesses – especially Pakistani clothing businesses, because obviously you are targeting a very specific, small audience, so quite a few people that I know personally – who have gone out of business.”

The window makeover has provided a much-needed boost, says Nina. “It has given us a bit of hope that something good is going to come up, so just stick to it.

“You need food, but clothes are more of a luxury. In a situation like this, where you are very uncertain of the financial circumstances, obviously people are reluctant to spend.”

And seeing the effect the new shop window has on shoppers has transformed Nina’s thinking about display. She says: “It’s the face of the store. I think 2020 has been lucky for us.”

*Visit iluvdesigner.com to see the full collections.



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