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IN FASHION: The Sari Effect

October 25, 2008


Recent times have seen the entertainment industry host more fashion shows than music concerts. This comes as a sharp contrast to how the industry was in the `90s when music played a dominant role when it came to hosting events. This may come somewhat as a paradox since fashion caters to only a very exclusive section of the society whereas music targets the masses. Logically speaking, it makes sense for the latter to have a larger share in events but that hasn`t been the case.

Perhaps the isolated nature in which fashion functions in Pakistan plays a major role. The audience for fashion shows is very specific — there are the fashion journalists, the individuals working within the industry and the regular clientele that designers cater to — hence arranging for security and crowd-control is not a problem.

During the past year we`ve seen Ensemble reinvent how fashion is retailed in the country. By hosting collections by a plethora of Indian designers as well as by notable names in the local fashion industry, and by introducing a calendar of events through which they introduce collections by these designers via regular fashion shows held within the vicinity, they`ve added a new pizzazz to fashion — at least in Karachi.

Taking the cue, Rehana Saigol, who shares her space with Ensemble in the same vicinity, hosted a fashion show where she introduced sari collections by Indian design label Satya Paul and socialite/author-turned-fashion-designer Shobhaa De. Local designer Deepak Perwani showed the collection he`s made for the Malaysian Fashion Week and Rehana Saigol showcased her own sari and bridal collection as well as hubby Shakeel Saigol`s (Chand) sari collection. At the end of the show she mentioned how one of the best things about marrying your best friend was that when she decided to go into fashion design, he went in with her.

The hair and make-up was by Tariq Amin and the music by Tapu Javeri. Deepak Perwani also seemed to be in charge of coordinating activities since he could be seen rushing around with a pen and paper, presumably keeping track of everything. Rehana Saigol`s nervousness was apparent by the way she watched the show from the corner of the stage.

Opening the show was the collection by Satya Paul that was predominantly composed of prints red, black and white sari prints. The collection was also composed of printed saris in various shades of green. From chic formal, the mood of the collection transitioned more towards a light summery feel, a little odd for this time of the year. Shobhaa De introduced her `cocktail sari` collection. The collection was predominantly composed of black, creme and off-white with intricate gold embroidery while Nadya Hussain closed the collection clad in a deep red number. I have to agree that the overall mood for her collection did seem tailored to a socialite`s night life. The refreshing difference noted in the work of the Indian designers was that they managed to create formal saris without overdosing on the kaam and embellishments, thereby not writing them off as garments exclusively meant to be worn at shaadis.

Some of the outfits that stood out from Deepak Perwani`s collection were the empire-waist dress worn by Fouzia and the full-length black (almost wacky) dress shown by Nadya Hussian. Deepak also showed a sheer black shirt worn by a male model also sporting a thick belt. The only hint of colour other than black and grey was a blue, fully embellished shirt worn by Fayezah and a singular purple sari, both of which seemed a little off when compared to the rest of the collection. One missed seeing this designer play with his signature colour that is red.

Chand`s collection at the show was radically different from what one saw when the Rehana Saigol shop first opened. Back then, his saris were predominantly composed of oriental motifs lining the border and were very colourful, ranging from hues of blue, orange and purple (there was one that was composed entirely of tiger print). In the collection that he showed, one still saw beautiful large motifs lining the border — some of them were of a local design while others had oriental dragons embroidered on them — but they were also heavily embellished. The colour palette that he played with was light turquoise, blue, pink and brown amongst others, and also showed embroidered peshwazes in his collection.

Rehana Saigol`s in-house collection and also her bridal collection, which was accompanied by Deepak`s bridal collection for men, tended at times to overdose on embroidery and embellishments, but in a lot of places she managed to make it work for her. On the flip side, I fail to understand why local designers insist on having the bride — to quote from Surekha Kadapa-Bose`s article on Bridal Week Asia (Dressing up the bride) featured last week in Images — “...resemble a moving Sheesh Mahal? Bling is definitely in but why walk around clad in attire which has the tendency to reflect everything back at the viewer?” She also introduced the embroidered peshwazes in different colours. Some winners in her collection were definitely the sari-dresses which were tastefully embroidered where they flared out at the hemline, and the blue, red and gold mermaid-skirted ensemble accompanied by a deep red dupatta.

Conventional fashion wisdom dictates that you may acquire the most beautiful outfit created by man, but if you don`t know how to carry it then that outfit is wasted on you. One cannot stress the importance of the contribution a good fashion show choreographer gives to the event. Unfortunately, the models at this show seemed to lack confidence and timing, and appeared unsure of how to carry a sari to begin with. It put a damper on the evening and took away the inherent glamour that models communicate via their confidence on the runway.