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PFW 7 in London: Not fashion week as we know it

Updated January 19, 2015

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What expat Pakistanis in general want in terms of Pakistani wear is quite different from what fashionistas in Pakistan look for.
What expat Pakistanis in general want in terms of Pakistani wear is quite different from what fashionistas in Pakistan look for.

London saw a taste of Pakistani fashion earlier this month at the Russell Hotel in Bloomsbury, which hosted Pakistan Fashion Week 7. Although not affiliated with any of Pakistan’s fashion councils, PFW has been quietly making a name for itself in London.

Only a handful of prominent designers showcased their collections such as Honey Waqar and Sonya Battla.
Only a handful of prominent designers showcased their collections such as Honey Waqar and Sonya Battla.

The event featured over 40 designers and consisted of both a catwalk presentation and an exhibition. Pakistan’s High Commissioner Syed Ibne Abbas and Rabiya Javeri Agha, Secretary Trade Developer Authority of Pakistan, both attended the event, which was aimed at a mix of buyers and media. About 25 of the participating designers took part in the catwalk presentation and they showed everything from casual wear to jewellery and bridals.

Hamna Amir jewellery.
Hamna Amir jewellery.

Fouzia Aman was the only prominent Pakistani model seen on the ramp but other renowned Asian models included Eshal Fayyaz, Sadaf Khan & Paula Souza (Miss Brazil). The event was hosted by BBC anchor Atika and produced by Riwayat, who first introduced PFW in 2011.

Pakistan Fashion Week London is very different from the top fashion weeks here in Pakistan. For a start, only a handful of big-name designers such as Sonya Battla took part in the event. None of Pakistan’s headline designers such as HSY or Sanya Maskatiya took part in the event, even though many of them have a huge clientele in England and further afield.

Fauzia Aman closes the show for Sonya Battla.
Fauzia Aman closes the show for Sonya Battla.

This isn’t to say that there wasn’t plenty of experience in the lineup. Designers such as Honey Waqar and Lajwanti may not be fashion’s darlings but they have a huge clientele and have unobtrusively been designing for years and years. Newer talent also chose to show at PFW 7 – labels like Pink Chiffon that first showed at PFW 2013 here in Karachi and Fauzia Hammad at Goal who recently showed at Bridal Couture Week in Lahore.

Goal by Fauzia Hammad also recently showed at Bridal Couture Week in Lahore.
Goal by Fauzia Hammad also recently showed at Bridal Couture Week in Lahore.

These aren’t household names by any stretch of the imagination but upcoming labels have realized that there is a significant expat market. What makes PFW London stand out is that the focus is firmly on sales and the content is chosen specifically with expat Pakistanis in mind.

What expat Pakistanis in general want in terms of Pakistani wear is quite different from what fashionistas in Pakistan look for. For expats, the focus is firmly on eastern wear, particularly occasion wear. When they wear ethnic clothing, it’s for Eid or a wedding and accordingly they want elaborate ensembles.

A variety of occasion wear was spotted on the runway.
A variety of occasion wear was spotted on the runway.

PFW 7 consisted of a mix of bridal wear, formals and jewellery along with some casual wear from the likes of Shariq textiles. Wedding wear ranged from Lajwanti’s traditional style bridals to Honey Waqar’s elaborate gown-like ensembles.

Bridal designers showed ghararas, choli lenghas, sheer jackets, long kurtas and Dhaka pyjamas. Others showed trendy formals including short kurtas and jumpsuits. Sonya Battla’s polished western collection was typical of her high fashion, minimalist aesthetic. Casual wear generally included longer hemlines than we are wearing here in Pakistan, but it general takes time for customers abroad to accept local trends.

Sonya Battla showcased her simple, high fashion Western collection staying true to her brand.
Sonya Battla showcased her simple, high fashion Western collection staying true to her brand.

With so many lesser-known designers on the ramp, there was inevitably some poor fashion on the catwalk. Collections tended not to have the strong concepts and cohesiveness that we have come to expect at fashion week here in Pakistan. There were many collections that were not up to the mark in terms of cut, design or quality.

Despite this, there were also some fabulous outfits on the ramp and, unexpectedly, some unfamiliar designers displayed both skill and creativity. Designers like Rabia Zahur, Moazzam Abbasi and Pink Chiffon both showed pretty, attractive outfits.

Rabia Zahur's collection for PFW 7
Rabia Zahur's collection for PFW 7

Sonya Battla and Honey Waqar were perhaps the only two designers whose collections would have passed for serious Pakistani fashion. However, many others will have done well at the exhibition with their elegant, wearable formals.

Honey Waqar's experience was evident in her collection.
Honey Waqar's experience was evident in her collection.

This was not fashion week as we know it in Pakistan but it works well as a platform for Pakistani designers to display, publicize and sell their designs in London. The fact that the exercise has been repeated 7 times since 2011 indicates the expense of showing in London must be justifiable to designers in terms of sales and PR. In terms of showing what Pakistani fashion is all about, PFW can only succeed if it can attract more of Pakistan’s top designers.


Photo credits: Shahid Malik

Salima Feerasta is a freelance journalist and the creative force behind style blog karachista.com. Follow her on Twitter @karachista10