“Try organising a fashion week with news bulletins of impending war upon your head,” designer Deepak Perwani says to me with resigned amusement. I promptly tell him that I’d rather not. Nevertheless, the upcoming edition of Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW), scheduled to take place from March 12-14, will be kicking off this year’s spate of spring/summer fashion shows.
The days leading to the event are always busy ones and, as Chairman of the Fashion Pakistan Council (FPC), Deepak has his hands full with fine-tuning the details — from finalising the model pool to the venue, the designer line-up and myriad other nitty-gritties that need to be oiled and fitted in so that the fashion week machinery moves forward smoothly. Adding to his anxiety is the ongoing conflict with India. Should tensions escalate, FPW won’t be able to proceed as planned. There’s a lot of investment at risk right now.
This isn’t a new predicament for the FPC. Organising a bi-annual fashion week in Karachi’s clustered, perpetually mercurial climate has never been an easy task, but the FPC has resiliently been weathering it for 13 years now. In fact, back in 2009, the very first FPW had taken place in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks in Islamabad, and had had to be postponed by three weeks due to security concerns. “Life goes on,” Deepak, one of the council’s mainstream members even back then, had said.
It continues to go on. Should peace prevail, FPW is going to proceed as planned. However, what may be starkly different between that fateful catwalk 10 years ago, to the one today, is the fashion itself. Any veteran designer, having witnessed the ebb and flow of local design, will tell you that fashion isn’t what it used to be. The market is bigger and the profits are higher, but these commercial concerns have cast a perpetual shadow of disenchantment over local catwalks. The clothes may be beautiful but they are very rarely innovative, artisanal creativity has more or less been relinquished and fashion weeks simply aren’t the enthralling events that they used to be. All a fashion council can do to help things along is try.
Even under clouds of war, life goes on … and so does Fashion Pakistan Week
Feri Rawanian, CEO of FPC, observes, “Yes, fashion isn’t what it used to be. But I feel that this fashion week will initiate certain changes. The designer line-up is very inclusive. The board has taken a backseat and we’ve tried to incorporate newcomers while maintaining quality control.”
This basically means that designers Deepak Perwani and Maheen Khan, who have hitherto almost always been FPW highlights, will not be showcasing their collections this time. Instead, the designer line-up is a mix of established veteran names as well as some of fashion’s young — or perhaps, I could divide them into some who are associated with stellar fashion statements, others who are very promising and an unfortunate motley crew that has been generic in the past but who I hope will be better this time round.
Kicking off fashion week will be a solo show by Sana Safinaz titled ‘Message From The East’. The second day will spotlight high street and luxury-wear, while the third day will be themed along ‘summer bridals’.
“We didn’t want to create a hotchpotch of designs on the catwalk and so we decided to dedicate different days to different genres of design,” explains Deepak.
The ateliers being featured in FPW include Sania Maskatiya, Tena Durrani, Zainab Chottani, Amir Adnan, Huma Adnan, Saira Shakira, Boheme by Kanwal, Yasmeen Zaman, Nauman Arfeen, Obaid Sheikh, The Pink Tree Company and Nomi Ansari, as well as high-street brands Gul Ahmed, Al-Karam and Generation. Sania Maskatiya, slotted for the finale on the second day, will be showcasing the collection that she recently took to New York Fashion Week as part of the Council of Aspiring American Fashion Designers showcase. Nomi Ansari will be launching the third day while Tena Durrani’s collection will be the final act.
We didn’t want to create a hotchpotch of designs on the catwalk and so we decided to dedicate different days to different genres of design,” explains Deepak.
While Al-Karam has frequently dabbled with the catwalk in the past, their show this time may turn out to be in a different league because it will highlight the brand’s work with its creative director Ather Hafeez. Fashion aficionados know Ather to be quite a creative spark, having hitherto proven his mettle as one of the leading team members of Sana Safinaz’s high-street label. Nubain Ali will be directing the show.
The designer line-up is interesting but one knows from experience that this may not lead up to consistently interesting design. As is the sad case with every fashion event in the country, it is likely that FPW will deliver some hits and some misses but, looking at the schedule, there’s a good chance that there may be more of the former and less of the latter.
What else is going to be new at FPW? The council has opted for an open-air venue which is likely to spruce things up a bit. Also, quite surprisingly, Samiya Ansari of Sabs Salon has been enlisted as FPW’s official stylist, and hair and make-up partner. The Sabs team, with years of experience to its credit, can’t possibly be regarded as ‘new’ but, for a long time now, Nabila’s N-Pro entourage has been omnipresent at every major entertainment and lifestyle-related event in the country. Sabs coming into the spotlight is definitely a change. Nabila’s finesse is undeniable but a new team of stylists would certainly add diversity and innovation, as long as it rises well to the challenge.
“With every fashion week, we innovate and try to provide a credible, business-centric platform for local fashion,” says Deepak. “And while we are lucky to have some extremely supportive sponsors, FPW has never been entirely dependent on the financial assistance of a single sponsor. It is a completely home-grown, self-made fashion week; for the designers, by the designers.”
Perhaps therein lies FPW’s strength: its ability to surge on when political tensions are high or sponsorships are low or the fashion is dismal. Years down the line, I know it to be a resilient mainstay on Pakistan’s fashion landscape. Or whatever there is left of Pakistan’s fashion landscape, in any case.
Some of the country’s pioneering designers helmed FPW all those many years ago, with the intention of harnessing Pakistani fashion’s vibrancy on a single catwalk and showcasing it to the world. The FPC continues to hold fast to this agenda. After all, the show must go on — let’s just hope that it’s a great show!
Published in Dawn, ICON, March 10th, 2019