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IN FASHION: Maheen Karim Saves The Day

September 06, 2008

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How one designer`s collection stood out from a plethora of others shown the same day.

Let`s face it Fashion shows have become a tool by means of which multinationals get publicity for their products. After all, who doesn`t want to be associated with the perception of glamour that comes with it, and the notion that the pursuit of beauty will make everything absolutely perfect for an individual. The message being sent is very clear — beauty really is skin deep.

Having said that, the only fashion shows that do happen in this country are those backed by corporate sponsorships. Where sponsors were once invited to facilitate a fashion show by contributing corporate funding, in a twist of fate, corporations are now inviting designers to participate in shows hosted by them to promote their product. A smart designer would immediately jump on the bandwagon; after all, they`re also benefiting by getting publicity for the collection that they`re showing. For the sponsor and the participating designer it`s a win-win situation. Unfortunately, in all this hoopla, the essence of hosting a fashion show in the first place gets lost somewhere in between.

At a fashion show held recently in Karachi, designers Hasan Shehryar Yasin (HSY), Deepak Perwani, Karma, Maria B., Karma, Umar Sayeed and Maheen Karim showed their upcoming prêt-a-porter collections on the ramp. Since our fashion industry is still in its infancy, the local market isn`t as developed and hence the turnover for the collections that designers come up with, save for a chosen few, doesn`t translate into big numbers in terms of sales. Keeping this in mind, there aren`t many local designers who focus on bringing out bi-annual collections regularly as most concentrate on catering to their clientele on a personal basis.

Having said that, the collection that was shown by HSY was almost exactly the same one he showed last year in Lahore. Perhaps from some of the newer additions to the same collection was the introduction of sheer fabric, which I thought was lovely. Globally, sheer fabric is defined as one of the predominant trends in fashion and one had wondered when it would finally catch on in this part of the world.

Deepak Perwani showed his Autumn/Winter 08 collection on the ramp. With the introduction of a deep shade of turquoise to his customary use of black, red and white, we saw something new. However, on the whole it was typical Deepak as in bold colours, sleek cuts with his signature bling added here and there. There wasn`t anything new as such.

Maria B. showcased her M-Girl line, a new collection that targets tweens (pre-teens) and young teenagers alike, complete with clothing and accessories. Her perception of what they should be wearing includes black tights, small mini skirts, some of which were embellished, chunky bangles and small, neon pink, blue and green belts over white button-down shirts.

<i>By the time the models  walked off the ramp, there  was already talk of the  dresses being Roberto  Cavalli knock-offs. How  Karma made it their own  was by adding different  coloured hues from the  skirt of the dress towards  the hemline and lining the  waist and the hemline  with bright orange ribbon.</i>

The only problem I had with the collection is that a) it didn`t look designer wear as these items can be picked up individually at any store catering to casual western clothing or Zainab Market and then put together; and b) for a collection that is targeting tweens, why was it modelled by women far  more mature than the intended market. I don`t think a 13-year-old girl looks at a model in her mid- to late-20s (at the minimum) and sees herself in the same outfit. Lastly, Maria recently wore a similar outfit herself while being interviewed in a television show black tights, longer shirt, belt around the waist and chunky metallic jewellery. Is she sending the message that all tweens should dress like her? As much as I think she`s fabulous when it comes to the commercial viability of her more mature collections, I don`t think so.

Karma actually managed to surprise me during their showing. Sure, there was the customary eastern-wear pajama-kameez replete with their signature embellished motifs, but it was Karma`s attempt at dresses that caught my attention. In a look that defined autumn — it had that airy, light feeling of summer yet with a slightly dark, dramatic look that defines winter (this collection falls somewhere in between) — we were introduced to dresses that mostly focused on an empire-waist, halter necks and animal prints that cascaded into different hues, some of the outfits had a bright orange hemline. It was a western collection with an eastern touch here and there. But then again, some might argue that fusion is so... over and done with.

By the time the models walked off the ramp, there was already talk of the dresses being Roberto Cavalli knock-offs and sure enough, a quick search for recent collections online for a confirmation revealed a similar result. Cavalli designed a similar collection, infused with animal prints, halter necks, empire waists...the works for H&M`s A/W 07 season. How Karma made it their own was by adding different coloured hues (purple, orange, red) from the skirt of the dress towards the hemline and lining the waist and the hemline with bright orange ribbon.

Umar Batool by Umar Sayeed was another disappointment in a series that night. The outfits again simply didn`t spell `designer-wear`. Black and brown were the predominant colours on the palette of the collection. As much as I like Umar Sayeed`s eastern-wear, the prêt western did n`t work for me.

In a very short period of time, Maheen Karim has established herself as a force to reckon with. She comes up with a limited but strong collection every season, without fail. That night, the collection had a signature Maheen Karim look as it carried her style of including kaftan-inspired dresses and including a V-cut colourful hemline dress stitched into a black blouse cut in a similar manner. The black and deep-turquoise dress she showed was reminiscent of the dress she introduced in last years` spring/summer `07 collection, also a dress she wore on the launch of her autumn/winter `07 collection at Labels. The jewellery for the collection was by Shehrzad Hashwani Rahimtoola.

Going from simple black, white, gold and green, the collection she showed was based on a colour palette of yellow, deep-turquoise, red, black, cream and white. Each outfit was a masterpiece, as it was quite clear from the skillful cuts and finishing of the outfits that careful attention to detail was given. Finally, here was a designer who puts her heart into her work and it shows. Needless to say, she was the saving grace for the evening that threatened, at several moments, to go from mediocre to downright bad. The show was choreographed by Imran Kureshi.