STYLE: RETHINKING FASHION WEEK

17 Sep 2017

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Outfit: Shamaeel Ansari -Photos: Faisal Farooqui
Outfit: Shamaeel Ansari -Photos: Faisal Farooqui

A Pakistani fashion week scheduled for the latter half of the year is bound to come doused in a profusion of bling. The desi wedding is a money-minting behemoth for designers and they latch on to it with great gusto. The catwalk inevitably gets splattered with sequins, glitter and labyrinthine embroideries designed to woo the potential wedding-bound, deep-pocketed clientele. This eye for commerce may mean great business for fashion but it doesn’t always mean great fashion itself. This is a problem currently bringing down the local fashion industry and it reared its head far too often during Fashion Pakistan Week ’17 Winter/Festive in Karachi.

One could see that the Fashion Pakistan Council (FPC) had made an effort to restructure the staid fashion week format. A larger venue had been chosen for the event, with large screens forming a very stylish backdrop to the catwalk. A partnership with an international airline made it possible for six models from Dubai to be flown in, adding much-needed diversity to the ramp. The girls were taller and walked with a grace that was in stark contrast to their fumbling, appallingly short desi counterparts. Nabila’s N-Pro team adeptly improvised with looks for consecutive shows with messy braids running into updos and ’60s vintage waves curled about the forehead.

What also worked for FPW this time was the timings of the event. Given that wedding-wear is usually hand-crafted, a fashion week dominated by these designs needs to be at a time when prospective clients can place orders with designers and the clothes can be ready by the time the December wedding season kicks in.

Fashion weeks seem to be losing their vivacity, much like fashion itself

And yet, how could fashion week hold strong with the fashion itself faltering? Due to time constraints, this story had to be written midway during FPW, after having witnessed only the solo first show by Shamaeel Ansari and the first spate of multi-designer shows. By this time, it was evident that while FPW may have its fashion highs, it was being brought down by far too many lows.

Outfit: Misha Lakhani -Photos: Faisal Farooqui
Outfit: Misha Lakhani -Photos: Faisal Farooqui

The line-up featured some very exciting names: apart from Shamaeel, it included Misha Lakhani, Sadaf Malaterre, Sanam Chaudhri, Wardha Saleem, Deepak Perwani, Tena Durrani, Nauman Arfeen, Saira Shakira, Adnan Pardesy, Maheen Khan and Sana Safinaz. At the same time, quite a few collections allowed on to the catwalk should have had been edited out altogether. It is quite all right for an established fashion council to give a chance to up-and-coming ateliers but this should not be done at the risk of bringing down the calibre of a show.

To give credit where it is due, FPW did make a brilliant start thanks to Shamaeel Ansari. Celebrating 30 years of her designing career, Shamaeel chose to host a solo show a day before the three-day long multi-designer event commenced.

Shamaeel chose to host a solo show a day before the three-day long multi-designer event commenced. Her 35-piece The Blue Tulip collection spoke of her enduring romance with Turkey, traversing the cobalt blues of Iznik pottery, the crimson of catma fabrics, the rustic weaves of Suzani tapestries and layered with gold Ottoman threadwork.

Outfit: Obaid Sheikh -Photos: Faisal Farooqui
Outfit: Obaid Sheikh -Photos: Faisal Farooqui

Her 35-piece The Blue Tulip collection spoke of her enduring romance with Turkey, traversing the cobalt blues of Iznik pottery, the crimson of catma fabrics, the rustic weaves of Suzani tapestries and layered with gold Ottoman threadwork. The rooms of Shamaeel’s residence were transformed into a veritable design museum, where mannequins stood resplendent in designer wear. This space led off to a mini catwalk where six designs were showcased in a small presentation.

“I have especially curated this collection and it is very intricately constructed,” explained Shamaeel. “These details cannot be appreciated while they quickly flit by on the catwalk. This is why I opted for a museum-like display, where visitors could see and touch the designs and understand the ethos behind them.”

Outfit: Suffuse -Photos: Faisal Farooqui
Outfit: Suffuse -Photos: Faisal Farooqui

The designer said, “Fashion these days has become all about creating whatever is trending. Far too many designers are merely thinking of commerce and if a certain style is in demand, they will just churn it out constantly. Instead of digging into themselves in order to create something outstanding, they simply dig into the internet and put forward heavily ‘inspired’ collections. This isn’t how designers worked back when Pakistani fashion first took off; this isn’t how I create even now.”

Unfortunately, Shamaeel’s words rang true only a day later when generic design took over the FPW catwalk. Having decided that peplums and its likely successor, kiran borders, are quite the ‘in’ thing, one too many collections featured these design elements. The day was possibly saved by Misha Lakhani who stuck to her signature old-school glamour. Suffuse by Sana Yasir showed potential with craft and could soar high should it choose to develop a more defined aesthetic.

Shamaeel Ansari’s fashion installation
Shamaeel Ansari’s fashion installation

Also opting to show far from the madding crowd of multi-designers were Sana Safinaz who closed FPW with a whopping 65-piece collection that sought to define avant-garde clothes for the modern-day bride and also marked the label’s debut into menswear.

Interestingly, both solo shows boasted separate guest lists and arguably, drew in a more glamorous crowd compared to the audience sitting through the main shows. Where once the red carpet used to be abuzz with excitement, it became almost mundane at FPW, thronged by a handful of celebrities and the media.

Fashion weeks seem to be losing their vivacity, much like fashion itself. An established platform like FPW, helmed by fashion veterans who can be credited for having built the industry, needs to acknowledge this and make some much-needed changes. Anything and everything should not be allowed at a fashion week that is supposed to be setting trends. We’d rather see a shorter, savvier event rather than witness design that yo-yos from spectacular to the utterly desultory.

Published in Dawn, ICON, September 17th, 2017