Meet the 18 year old Karachiite who started his online streetwear business with a 10,000 rupee loan from his grandmother
In a country increasingly in need of youth innovation, many young entrepreneurs have taken steps to bring about a change in various industries. But few have had a journey as exciting as the Karachi-based Mashriq Apparel, a clothing brand founded and led by 18-year-old Rayyan Ullah Siddiqui, who made his first venture into entrepreneurship when he was 12-years-old. Team ProperGaanda reached out to Mashriq Apparel to interview them and gain better insight into their brand.
How did you get started, how did Mashriq Apparel come about?
Mashriq had been in the works for quite a while. My journey in entrepreneurship started when I was a young fat kid who wanted more money from the canteen to spend on rolls, funnily enough. I have always been a crazy football fan and I knew what people would like, so in 7th grade I started picking up football shirts from Zainab Market and selling them in school. By 9th grade, I had found my own supplier and was printing customised shirts for my school team.
Eventually this would lead me into the world of customised clothing and, when i entered the stand-up comedy circuit around the end of 9th grade, I started printing my jokes on shirts and wearing them to open mics. Gradually, this would go on to become a trend in the younger section of the community with several other comics approaching me to do the same thing for them. As I did this, I got my hands on better quality materials as well as better means of printing and once I had a set supply I decided to work in a sports shop to understand how businesses actually function.
After 6 months of a mentorship at Wembley Sports, I felt like I was ready and launched Mashriq in the summer of 2019.
What was the idea behind Mashriq?
I wanted to make something I would enjoy wearing myself. I noticed that the minimalist clothing I desired wasn’t easily available in the Pakistani market and I wanted people to have access to it. The minimalist aesthetic is honestly in a league of its own, and with its sheer versatility I feel like it can have a huge impact on the world of fashion.
Streetwear has also always been one of my passions, closely linked to the subcultures of hip hop and football, both of which I strongly associate with. I felt like there was a lack of affordable streetwear in Pakistan and I wanted to make what I hope will one day be Pakistan’s top streetwear brand.
Why the name Mashriq Apparel?
Mashriq directly translates to “the East” and perfectly illustrates what we want to do with our brand. I wanted to make a streetwear brand that is reminiscent of Pakistani street culture and a means of showing the world the beauty of the city I adore. Our designs have a homely Karachi-centric vibe to them and we want to show our pride in our city by letting our clothing illustrate the “Mashriqi” culture we are all so proud of. Streetwear has historically been a western dominated field and we wanted to represent the east through our designs, all while maintaining its effortless styling and contemporary look.
What would you say about your success so far?
We are blessed with an amazing grassroots level following, particularly in the academic subcultures of Karachi. Its humbling how my friends supported me when this venture started, and how I have gone from watching my friends representing Mashriq just for my sake to actually watching people around the city wearing our designs.
Our sales across our year of operation have honestly exceeded expectations and after switching to Pakistan wide delivery during quarantine we have seen sales from all over Pakistan. The response I have got to my passion project honestly has me in tears at times. I would just like to thank our customers for all their support and for taking this company to where it is now.
Why do you think your organization took off as well as it did?
I think this response to Mashriq is surely due to the amazing team I have. Our entire team is just made of friends,and the effort that each of us puts in results in us having exceptional quality clothing and extremely creative designs to present to the public. I think that the affordable streetwear market in our country was largely untapped before we stepped in and we just make clothing that people are proud to wear. Mashriq’s values and aims as a company are also,I feel, integral to our company. We try to represent our country the best way that we can, and our upcoming empowerment collection will also address issues faced by our society at large.
How does your brand give back to society?
As a company, Mashriq’s aims circulate around its value system. We feel that this company is meant to represent the community and represent Karachi which is what we try to do with our clothing. We also have a strict no pollution policy in the entire production process which is why we use rubber instead of plastic in our printing and paper bags for packaging. Our communal service is just getting started though because as our reputation as a brand builds we will make sure we make statements with our clothing and help out those in the community, to be seen shortly through the release of the empowerment collection.
Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
I wholeheartedly believe that the individuality of our brand and our unique design philosophy are bound to take us to incredible heights. I believe that Mashriq can be at the forefront of all Pakistani streetwear brands because we will never stop improving the quality of or increasing the variety of our product portfolio.
Most importantly, we will also continue to innovate and create designs that will resonate with Pakistanis across the world. We hope that our brand can be a conversation-starter for many important topics such as being proud of where you are from and creating unity amongst all Pakistanis, echoing our progressive values and inclusive rhetoric.
If you could give advice to young entrepreneurs, be they in their 20s and 30s or in their teenage years, what would it be?
I would just say that one should not be afraid of failure. Everyone has ideas that work and those that do not, and the key in all cases is to believe in your idea even when no one does. If you fail, take that as a lesson, it will help you do better next time. Do not to think of your ideas as ‘business plans’ but as solutions which can help your customers in any way, make sure you are doing a service to the community because prioritizing the community is the only way of making a successful business.
But the most important thing is to have the very best team working with you, I always say that my success is only due to those around me.
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