When Junaid Jamshed passed away on December 7, he left behind an extensive legacy: a wealth of music, an exhaustive and controversial history as an evangelist and a divided set of fans.
Some have been reminiscing about his music, others recalling his sermons and amidst all these conflicting eulogies, there are the aficionados who frequent his J. stores.
By no length of the imagination can the J. – Junaid Jamshed – entourage of outlets be considered the savviest contenders in the local high-street. Although the brand has a hold over good quality fabric it has lately showed a predilection for a mish-mash of multi-colors that isn’t always aesthetically pleasing.
And yet, there’s no denying J.’s growing strength. The brand, at present, has a whopping 100 stores, stocking unstitched women’s fabric, prêt for men, women and children, perfumes and a recently launched makeup range. According to the official website, 57 of these stores are scattered about the country while the rest are international standpoints, dotted about the U.S.A., the Middle East and even ‘down under’ in Melbourne, Australia.
In the clustered PR wars that perpetually rage through the high street, one often takes note of a Khaadi or a Sapphire spreading its wings, but in the meantime, J. has been expanding quietly and much more impressively than its competitors.
“Most other brands have franchises abroad,” points out J.’s CEO Sohail Hamid, “while we own all our stores.” That’s quite an achievement – one lauds local retailers for expanding but most of them merely strike deal with international franchisees. The fact that the brand owns all its stores is indicative of its retail strength.
It’s also indicative of how a lot of people love multi-colours.
There’s also no denying that a considerable segment of the label’s fan following are enamored by the late Mr Jamshed’s persona. He may have had switched focus from a musical career to a religious one but Junaid Jamshed continued to remain in the spotlight.
“The mike has stayed with me,” he was known to say. “Earlier, it would be used to sing songs and now, to relay religious messages.”
Amongst the usual milieu that frequents the high-street, one especially observes a strong religious contingent at the J. stores: women with veils and hijabs, bearded men, the avid audience of Junaid’s sermons who extend their love by buying from the man’s eponymously named store.
The brand itself has often made allusions towards religion. While all and sundry chose top models for their lawn shoots, J. billboards have been known to feature brilliantly coloured kites in lawn prints and more recently, the unfathomable images of cars festooned with lawn designs. This was also the brand that initiated the use of beheaded models on their billboards – since images of faces are ‘unreligious’ – eliciting wisecracks but also starting off a trend that was later followed by other brands like Tarzz.
But what will become of the burgeoning J. empire now that the brand’s representative and shareholder Junaid Jamshed has passed away?
“Over the past few years, Junaid Bhai wasn’t very involved in the day to day running of the business,” tells Hamid, who was Junaid’s partner in the business. “He was busy with his religious work that would involve a great deal of traveling. Nevertheless, he was a director and a shareholder and we were using his name for which he would be given a royalty."
"I do believe that our business has thrived because of his personality and the sacrifices he made in his life. People truly loved him and will continue to do so and it is obvious that he is one of the main reasons why customers have been drawn to our brand. They keep coming, though, because they like our product lines.”
“Now that he is no more, we will continue to use his name to represent our label and hope to grow from strength to strength.”
Following Junaid Jamshed’s death, the brand observed a three-day mourning period during which the stores remained closed. They are now up and running again. “We will persist with staying true to the values that have always defined our brand,” promised Hamid.
Overshadowed by Junaid Jamshed’s persona, the J. stores are a retail success story that have often been overlooked. Or perhaps it’s just the blinding effusion of multi-colours that they tend to use. Without Junaid Jamshed’s celebrity status to propel it forward, perhaps J. should now endeavor to hold on to its considerable market by focusing on better fashion; stronger aesthetics and more coherent colour schemes.
In our fluctuating economy, we can only boast a few bona fide success stories. J.’s story is inspirational and reflective of Pakistan’s growing predilection for the high-street – one would want to see it continue to grow and become more aesthetically sound.