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Infashion: Some like it haute

November 15, 2009

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The Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) that was held last week wasn't without its share of controversies. It started out being dubbed as the second Karachi Fashion Week (KFW) — the first one was held in August 2008 — got delayed due to the socio-political conditions in the country, and then changed at the last minute from KFW to FPW. There were those who thought that it would never happen. But it did, and it set a new standard for how fashion shows are held in Pakistan.

With a modified 88-foot ramp (from the original 100-foot ramp), a seating of around 450 people and a plethora of international media present, FPW encompassed four days with eight designers showing their collections each day. It was well-organised, started on time and ended timely as well.

Out of the 31 designers that showed there were some collections that stood out in terms of creativity, design and presentation. FPW also introduced several debutante designers whose collections were at par with the maturity displayed by established designers. They reaffirmed that Pakistan has a lot to offer in terms of fresh upcoming talent.

Sonya Battla opened the fashion week with a collection that was symbolic of her flowing silhouettes and luxurious fabricated garments of cotton, organza, linen and velvet. With a palette that encompassed white, red, beige, purple and black, other than flowing dresses she showed pleated Patiala-inspired shalwars paired with short shirts (a style that was predominant in the early '80s) and black harem pants. The collection was styled with metal ensembles by Nyza Khan which outlined the feminine figure in bustiers, an outline of bras and even a chastity belt! In this collection Sonya Battla pulled off bold simplicity like no other.

Fahad Hussayn's collection titled Love is Worth the Fall, inspired by his personal style, was a predominantly black collection with hints of red, gold and light blue in menswear, styled most notably by large black ostrich feathers on the hats worn by some of the models.

This was the first time the designer was showing his menswear collection and though his male models showed up sporadically in the middle of the collection, they seemed to be getting more and more covered as they appeared — from a turquoise-and-red printed bustier to a waistcoat and then a full coat. The collection had embroidered skulls branding the outfits. From slinky black dresses to a veiled black bridal gown, Fahad's collection in a word would be grand. An outfit that stood out for me was an almost backless black dress worn by Nadya Hussain, in which the fabric on the (backless) back portion had been designed to show the back of a skeleton.

In the menswear collection, Kash Hussain had some interesting pieces. He showed flared, pleated pants, single-toned kilts on the men worn with pants. The predominant palette he worked on was red, black, dull gold and blue. It was a collection meant for the metrosexual man who likes to be flamboyant with a certain measure of elegance. His black suit with the coat bordered in white, paired with a black shalwar displayed sophistication, and was definitely one of the better pieces from the collection.

He's had a presence in the industry as an individual for some time now but Syed Rizwanullah managed to wow quite a few in the audience with his debutante collection. Inspired by the ancient art of henna application, his collection was all white and what at first looked like intricate embroidery was actually henna design which was applied on the fabric itself. His models walked the ramp barefoot and his outfits followed silhouettes that are the current trend nowadays large A-line shirts paired with straight to billowing pants. He also showed an outfit designed with a headscarf. Mahira Hafeez Khan and Feeha Jamshed (in saris) also walked the ramp for him. What's refreshing about Rizwanullah's collection is the painstaking work and the sheer innovativeness of thought.

Yasir Mirza of the M.i.r.z.a.y.a.n.o menswear line showed his prêt wear on the ramp. A designer who thinks anyone and everyone can wear his clothes literally did design for anyone and everyone. His collection comprising colourful printed pants, shirts, shorts and what not wasn't anything out of the ordinary and his display of it managed to shock quite a few models walked with a towel draped around their neck, scratched themselves, danced and what not. I give him full points for entertainment, his collection and his own approach towards it can be described in one word anti-fashion.

Ather Hafeez defined day two with his collection (Monk, Malang, Khusrau ke Rang) inspired by the poetry of Amir Khusrau which was written in admiration of Khawaja Nizamuddin Auliya. His collection had big, billowing Rajasthani shalwars, large full-sleeved A-line shirts, knotted backs and even an orange velvet dhoti. His collection was essentially ethnic with bright orange, yellow, purple, bottle green, turquoise, pink and black. The models were beautifully styled with traditional jewellery from jhoomars, large spherical gold earrings and necklaces, a garland of bells, gota armbands, large colourful turbans, etc. His collection, tinged with a hint of romance, brought the essence of Rajastani culture on the ramp.

Just when you thought you know what this designer is all about, Nomi Ansari managed to blow his fabulous bomb on the runway and opened the third day of the fashion week with a black western wear collection. The designer, formerly known for his brightly coloured, fully-embroidered bridal and eastern formal wear, showed a collection of short black dresses, skirts that emphasised the curves around the lower-behind, etc. The men wore shorts over stockings, black crimped coats among others. He closed his collection with fashion model Tooba sporting a short black bridal dress complete with a net veil. The collection was fun, funky and will be a hit with party goers.

Feeha Jamshed showcased her debutant collection titled Teejay's Roxy dedicated to her mother which was a celebration of women in general as well. She followed the trend of having the models sport “boyfriend shirts” (menswear shirts on women), high-waisted, straight loose pants, large pockets, etc. Iraj walked on the ramp and saluted the audiences while the patriotic number Aae Rah-i-Haq kay Shaheedon by the late Madam Noor Jehan played in the background — possibly Feeha's salute to the Armed Forces of Pakistan. She had fashion photographer Tapu Javeri open the show for her in a black shalwar kameez and also had fellow designer Syed Rizwanullah walk the ramp for her.

But the most powerful statement made on the ramp during the fashion week was by one of the most understated ones — menswear designer Ismail Farid — on day three. His collection, titled Salutes, was a tribute to the Pakistan Army, “especially those who have lost their lives during past operations and continuous terrorist attacks”.

The monochromatic collection was extremely well made and displayed different aspects of the armed forces we had the captain, the prisoner of war, the hooded assassin, the fighting soldier, to name a few. They were styled according to the role they played such as the PoW who had chains around his legs. The models walked on the ramp acting out the role they played, some saluted, some stomped, some faltered on the catwalk.

The make-up on the models showed slight bruises, symbolic of the hardships that the characters suffer. One critic commented that the theme was “very last year”, but I think it struck a chord and was very relevant to present times. Not to mention that each outfit was immaculately crafted.

Day four was a surprisingly dull end to the FPW, but despite that the collections that did make an impact overall continued to resonate even after the event had ended.

Other than creating a wave in the local media, FPW has received widespread coverage globally from the international press as well. What was interesting to note was that they preferred to stereotype the week as a “rebellion” against the Taliban — a perspective due to the tight security at the venue and general apprehension about an attack. The other response by the foreign media was on the “skin” that showed in a country that is stereotyped as having most of the female population “shrouded in veils/burqas”.

Where getting the kind of international acclaim that FPW got is an achievement in itself, however, if any of the members of the international press had made an effort to go through the numerous entertainment channels the country has, they'd know that women here enjoy a modest display of “skin” in their everyday lives.