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Fashion week: What’s the story, morning glory?

April 21, 2013

A model wearing a Deepak Perwani collection. -Photo by AFP

The thrill of fashion week runways being rolled out is palpable. Spotlights go up and shine on high-heeled fashionistas on the red carpet before cameras turn to the catwalk, where models walk out in collections that aim to determine fashion trends for the next six months. Fashion week is a buzzing bubble of sorts, a space that isolates the fashion industry from everything except for the business of fashion and of course, critical acclaim. Designers aim to conceptualise powerful ideas that in turn translate to saleable merchandise. For every successful designer, fashion week equals glory.

Fashion Pakistan Week Spring/Summer 2013, held last week in Karachi, lost a little bit of glory when it simmered from a four to a two-day event while congesting over a dozen designers per day.

Even two days would have been permissible — given the fragile and unpredictable landscape of pre-election Karachi — but only if the content had been crisp and impressive in return. Unfortunately it wasn’t, leaving us with too many ‘seamlessly’ unsightly collections that did not belong on a platform that is supposed to equate to balance between creative and commercial excellence.

As expected, it was the old guard of established names that pulled in the raison d’etre of why this event should have happened at all. With a delicate collection titled Flight, Maheen Khan opened the event and soared in on a cloud of white. The ‘feathered’ scarves and collars, constructed with yards and yards of tinted chiffon, were magnificent. One could see the expertise of a veteran designer fuelled by the surge of energy brought in by her young protégé Sarah Anees. Aarij Hashimi, who also took a bow with Maheen Khan, had designed the interesting headgear.

To see established designers walk out and share applause with their design teams was a refreshing change. Shamaeel Ansari, who opened the second day with an ode to the Orient, also took her walk of fame with her team. Her collection, however, was quintessentially Shamaeel, a label that has been synonymous with three-dimensional design. A little bit of print, trussed up with embroidery and multi-layering on pale palettes spoke volumes for her love for detail.

“Those of you who refuse to step out need not come to work tomorrow,” an adamant Safinaz ordered her young and very shy design team. This show — the first glimpse into Sana Safinaz high street stores — was the most anticipated of both days. What the trailblazers showed was unlike any previous Sana Safinaz collection, which always revolves around expensive luxury pret. This one was another league of desirable, flaunting tunics, dresses, jewellery and bags that will all be available and affordable at the upcoming stores. The aesthetic was intrinsically Sana Safinaz but as they said, the scale and diversity would not have been possible without Ather Hafeez and his “super star” team.

And then there were younger designers who made their way up to the spotlight with the veterans. Sania Maskatiya, now the poster child for a successful fashion brand in Pakistan, came up with yet another array of fabulously devised prints. She was also experimental and brave in introducing new silhouettes, bringing in high-waist trousers and streamlined tunics that barely skimmed the knees. With this collection one can safely say that the trend of ‘long and flowing’ is finally passé.

Wedged between all these names was debutant Aamna Aqeel, who made an impressive first impression. Her collection connected with her love for black, white and gold luxury and while talking to Images on Sunday, the designer shared that she had been sourcing the studs, spikes and hardware that went onto it for quite some time. It’s rare that a newcomer make such a strong debut but goes to prove that when you have it, you have it!

Showing in the grand finale, Deepak Perwani got his groove back as he reincarnated the style of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo with a collection that was just as eclectic as her self-portraits. His strength always being colour and kitsch, Deepak referred to his own roots for a mood board that played with ethnic elements in a westernised Bohemian way. His show was an energetic and vivid end to FPW5.

They say ‘all is well that ends well’ but all was not well with FPW Spring/Summer 2013. It would be unfair to condemn many of remaining collections as complete failures; there were elements in Aamir Baig’s stripes, Emraan Rajput’s denim and Ishtiaq Afzal’s ethnic embroideries that were workable but those elements were too spaced out and did not add up.

As for the textile brands Orient, Kayseria, Gul Ahmed and leather label Jafferjees, these are names that merit respect and recognition for being the industry leaders that they are. Jafferjees put up an exceptionally impressive showing by collaborating with Wardha Saleem and Nubain Ali who designed clothes to compliment the leather-ware. Kayseria, similarly, held its own with a precursor to the ready to wear they are about to launch. But the bottom line is that fabric is not fashion and belongs in a textile fair not a fashion week.

Glory is what fashion week is all about but what do you do when only six out of 27 names merit that kind of recognition? Should one assume that the standard of fashion is circling the drain or that most of the country’s biggest names (including Sana Safinaz and Sania Maskatiya) are showing at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week scheduled for April 26-29 in Lahore? It seems the council Fashion Pakistan is grasping at odds to keep FPW afloat but what they also need to be doing is devising a road map taking it back to its original glory. One very practical idea is to limit FPW to a September/October event and encourage Pakistan Fashion Design Council designers to show in Karachi just as enthusiastically as Shehla Chatoor, Adnan Pardesy, Maheen Karim, Sanam Chaudhri, FnkAsia, Wardha Saleem, Sana Safinaz, Sania Maskatiya, Rizwan Beyg, Faiza Samee, Misha Lakhani, Tapu Javeri and Sadaf Malatere will be showing in Lahore next week. It is the only way forward.

Brave on the borderline

There was a segment of designers that showed sparks of originality, albeit they were sporadic. Falling short of spectacular, they could be billed as budding or upcoming talent. These were names that showed potential, names that could be nurtured into creating solid identities for themselves.

Menswear designer Arsalan Iqbal put forth some very striking jackets displaying good tailoring, intricate Kashimir embroideries and fascinating prints. His would have been a stronger show had it (his third at FPW) showed signs of a concrete signature. Nauman Arfeen, on the other hand, displayed a more mature ethos. The ethnicity of his collection was fluid, made stronger by the finesse of his finishing. Also a name banking on ethnicity as an ethos, Baani D disappointed by stepping into a westernised character and one missed the proud reflection of roots that is usually seen in their work. That said, there were elements reminiscent of what they are capable of. Hopefully they will revert back to where they started and were appreciated for.

Zari Faisal played it safe by putting together an over-coordinated collection. There were too many predictable silhouettes and very little innovation but there certainly was potential. Similarly, Ayesha Hassan’s would have been a very decent collection had it not been so blatantly inspired by Sania Maskatiya. The low-belted tunics, the asymmetrical gathers and the Dilkash print was too much recall to ignore. One would like to see this young designer build on her originality.

A special mention goes out to fashion’s ‘enfant terrible’, the talented fashion creature known as Rizwanullah who nails every collection but then leaves it to bite the dust as he disappears before setting it into production. If fashion week was for visual appreciation alone then one would give him five stars for excellence. But fashion week collections must have the ability to nudge outstanding ideas into production. With only one half of the equation right, the designer left one high and dry.