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Infashion: Frills, trill and thrill

November 22, 2009


The fashion industry in Pakistan, it seems, never puts its feet up for a rest. Barely a week after the Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) which featured 31 designers in all, a group show was held in Karachi — the Autumn/Winter collections of select designers supported by a cosmetics brand which is beginning to do such shows on a bi-annual basis.

The show featured the likes of veterans Faiza Samee and Sonya Battla (both designers showed at FPW), Ayesha Farooq Hashwani and Zara Shahjehan (both of whom showed their debutante collections) and HSY and Saadia Mirza who had flown their collections in from Lahore.

Faiza Samee opened the show with a collection that was inspired by gypsies of the Cholistan region. She followed the current predominant trends of having large shirts over straight short and long pants with extremely loose sleeves. She chose to pair a few of her ensembles with velvet and some of the clothes were bordered with gota and paired with zebra-printed shalwars.

Verdict The collection was similar to, but not exactly the same, as her collection shown at FPW. Ayesha Tammy Haq, the CEO of FPW seated among the guests, was also wearing a similar Faiza Samee creation so we'd already had a preview of sorts into the collection the designer was going to show. The collection was essentially very colourful, ethnic and traditional. It was a step away from the fully-embroidered shirts that one can spot here and there. Although well-constructed, the concept of the collection in itself wasn't anything particularly new.

Zara Shahjehan has been stocking at a multi-designer outlet in Karachi for some time now and showed her debutante collection. Focused on the notion that it did not allow a woman to “let go of her heritage and yet not let it hold her back”, the designer stuck to the same trends that are well, everywhere long, traditional A-line shirts and straight pajamas all shown to the beat of George Michael and Michael Jackson songs.

Verdict The collection had its very small moments here and there but collectively failed to impress. It didn't have her signature or a mark that would differentiate her from other designers, perhaps because she is still very young and has a long way to go. Zara Shahjehan played with sheer fabric on the sleeves as well as the shirts that was interesting to see — sheer being one of the current trends making the rounds on a global level. However it must be mentioned here that one piece by the designer, the long pink coat (dubbed “the matrix coat” in local fashion circles) that reached down to the ankles and paired with a gharara was something Hasan Shehryar Yasin (HSY) has already been doing for the past two to three years.

Saadia Mirza, another big name in fashion, showed her collection which was divided into the following sub-sections vanity, voyage, visage, vintage and vision. This segment might be remembered more for its theatrics perhaps rather than the collection. After the opening model showed the layered, beige/pink mermaid skirt outfit — perhaps the only interesting piece of the collection — who jumped on stage but Faisal Kapadia belting out a popular Strings number.


He was joined by Bilal Maqsood and together throughout the show they sang several hits, including Munn Ka Qarar, Dhaani and Koi Aanay Wala Hai. Was it an attempt to make it look like a Victoria's Secret fashion show which, in the past, has featured artistes such as Usher and Justin Timberlake? A similar thing had also been done at the first The Musik Awards in 2006 in which Ali Azmat's performance was accompanied by the showing of a white fashion collection.

Verdict On a personal note, one has always liked this designer's creations but I was disappointed by what she showed her attempt at a Turkish shalwar (a trend that is catching on fast among the fashion community in Pakistan) failed and the finishing on the outfits was such that there was an outfit from which one could clearly see numerous threads dangling loose.

Sonya Battla, as fabulous as she was in FPW less than a week before she showed at this show, still managed to wow all and sundry with her collection. Worked on with traditional pleating and draping, her collection was her attempt at showing an Indo-Pak kimono in which she experimented with architecture and especially the staircase was used as a definite inspiration. From a burst of colour at FPW she moved on to a mostly grey, eventually red, black and then a pale brown, double-shaded dress shown as the finale.

The collection was very geometric in places. There were intricate pleats on the hemlines, collars, throws, and the designer also made use of velvet and sheer fabric. It was a step away from the large flowing garments Sonya has been showing for the past couple of years, and it was interesting to see this more construction-based side of her.

Verdict Although the pleats — an inspiration from Japanese fans that were a feature of some of the outfits — had already been done by Adnan Pardesy in 2008, Sonya took that trend and presented it entirely in her own fashion perspective.

One designer whose debut had been eagerly awaited by many in the fashion lot was that of Ayesha Farooq Hashwani (AFH). This designer has been maintaining a somewhat low profile for the past year or two while doing a minimum of shoots and not really putting herself out there. That didn't prevent her from being spotted by local fashion aficionados though and her debutante collection, based on “confident, subtle, graceful and for the independent woman” did not disappoint in the least.

One of the predominant features of this designer is her tendency towards draping and pleating. Her dresses flowed on each model as she brought together the handkerchief skirt (Maheen Karim has to be credited for starting the trend in the local industry back in 2007), flowing kaftan, a '70s-style black cat-suit with straight-cut pants and double layered dresses with a different coloured tube top inside the actual outfit, giving a somewhat teasing, peek-a-boo effect with the encrusted diamantes on the side. The jewellery for AFH's segment was designed by Shehrzad Hashwani.

Verdict There was no over-the-top embroidery or embellishments, no clichéd attempt at 'connecting with your roots' and being 'traditional' here. The only bling the outfits sported were the silver encrusted diamantees that every single piece seemed to sport. AFH had a very strong '70s sensibility to her collection and presented it in a refreshingly modern light.

Hasan Shehryar Yasin (HSY) showed his Rogue Royale collection which was “an ode to strength, to independent women” among other things. The Rogue Royale woman wears red which “is a sign of desire, love, passion, knows no boundaries” etc. After the elaborate adjectives describing his collection were recited on the microphone, HSY showed his ensemble of clothes which were essentially, in a nutshell, his heavy bridals — which explains the red.

Verdict The triple layered skirts, the fully-embroidered fabric, the models as blushing ('strong', 'independent' women, eh?) brides who arched their backs almost 90 degrees backwards when they came to the end of the ramp... has all been done and seen before (yawn). Perhaps it was an opportune time for Sheru to show his bridal collection, since the wedding season is around the corner, but didn't add to the show or the larger cause of fashion itself. The bridals were beautiful, but nothing that he hasn't been doing before. Simply put, the segment was stereotypical.

I hate to make comparisons, but perhaps in this case it's inevitable. FPW, other than being one of the biggest things to happen to local fashion, was an exhausting event not only for the designers, models and organisers but also for its attendees. It was a platform on which quite a few new designers raised the fashion bar and to hold an event so close to it raised expectations about what was to be shown on the ramp.

Sonya Battla never ceases to amaze with her sheer innovativeness of thought. Ayesha Farooq Hashwani is a much-needed breath of fresh air, and she brings a western sensibility and her flavour of elegant chic to the local industry. Having said that, the whole long A-line shirt with short/long straight fitted pajamas has already been done to death, and having yet another designer show the same old silhouettes instead of something new and innovative is only going to result in an overdose.