The success of a fashion week doesn’t lie in the entertainment value it generates. Celebrity ‘show-stoppers’, musical performances, innovative choreography and similar attention seekers are all headline grabbing gimmicks that compliment a good collection but cannot ensure one. And the success of any fashion week in the world falls upon two elements: the level of content it showcases and the amount of business it manages to generate for designers who have the strength of good content.

Amongst all the names that showed at Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) A/W 2012 this week, designers that impressed with creative ideas — which will inevitably infiltrate and influence the fashion market — were it’s strongest suit.

“Fashion week definitely boosts sales,” endorsed Wardha Saleem who showcased one of the most well-conceived collections at FPW2012. Her theme, Folk Play, zoomed into her love for folklore and colour. It played out in a variety of youthful silhouettes that would inspire even the most mature fashion lover to stop and play. “We know that fashion week will be held twice a year and so start preparing for it well in advance. We plan the year accordingly because of the awareness it creates for our brand.”

Wardha is regularly retailing at The Designers and Ensemble One in Karachi and Dubai. A young designer with a strong penchant for textile design as well as a head for business, her focus makes her relevant to fashion week.

When it comes to established names, the strongest at FPW was Sonya Battla, one of the most exclusive brands in Pakistan. Sonya Battla retails from her flagship store in Karachi and the collection she showcased was a teaser to ready-to-wear that will be available over the next few months.

A three-tier theme — constructed over an ethos of the twenties, Kashmiri motifs and vivid solids — was a risky path to undertake (as the three tiers were difficult to connect) but one that was executed gracefully. Moreover, the retail possibilities of this collection were abundant without comprising the aesthetic element.

Sanam Chaudhri, another young and talented designer, brought her skills to the runway via a Shibori-based collection called Kage. It was an edgy manifestation of the designer’s personal style that will undoubtedly find its way to Labels in Karachi, Lahore and online, where she stocks.

While Sanam’s was a fresh and eclectic vision for fashion, Maheen Karim — who showed on the last day — pledged her love for luxury pret. Her collection for Autumn Winter 2012 was black and gold with flashes of embellishment that hinted at power dressing in the way it was constructed. Hers was red carpet glamour boasting streamlined jackets with velvet trimmings, strong shoulders with heavy jeweled embellishment. It had a glamorous feel that came with the malleability of gold.

Maheen Karim, who also launched her label at Labels several years ago, may have strolled into casuals on popular demand but this is what she does best. This was her fashion week debut and while speaking to Images on Sunday before the show, she shared that her collection was already on its way to multi-label boutique Soiree in Dubai.

That is the true power of fashion week: it gives a boost to names that are already out there. It gives sales a spike while simultaneously pulling designers into a creative realm where they have to design to impress rather than just sell. And as a united platform that culls in the media, it allows newcomers with potential to get noticed. Fashion week is all about who strikes the balance best.

Previously unknown names like Baani D began stocking at The Designers in Karachi after catching the media eye at their FPW debut this April. This season’s collection — an ode to Chitrali craft — cemented their pure and unpretentious love for their origins and it went down even better than last time.

Fashion week promotes new talent and it also helps established high street brands like FnkAsia regenerate awareness for themselves. FnkAsia retails across nine standalone stores in Pakistan and five internationally.

“We manufacture almost 100 pieces for every style we show and design,” designer Huma Adnan shared before her show. “An 18-piece collection means that 1,800 pieces will be made and dispatched to all our outlets and stockists over the next few months.”

Not all designers have managed to build this successful an allegiance between creativity and commerce. Adnan Pardesy’s Axiomatic was a splendid display of craftsmanship but one hopes it will not get lost in the transition from runway to retail. His earlier collections never really did make it to the racks as prolifically as a fashion week collection should. What his acclaim did earn him, however, is a contract with Working Woman (a subsidiary of Bareeze). That collection will be in stores all over Pakistan this November.

Designers must show at fashion weeks to keep the creative-commercial connection alive. They must show to present a collaborative vision of fashion for an upcoming season. And it was disheartening that some of Karachi’s biggest names — that wrapped up fashion week in a collective showing — were not prepared with a complete collection each.

One must then give credit to the young guns, like Misha Lakhani perhaps, who stepped in with the focus of a flagship store in Karachi, a bridal show (at the PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week in Lahore earlier this month) and a prêt a porter debut (at FPW) in the same breath.

(This story went into print before the final day at FPW. Day three’s collections could not be reviewed in detail, however they were previewed at the Pond’s Lounge and brands that are successfully retailing were included in the story)


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