March Issue 2010
Blow Haute, Blow Cold
Energy. Vibrancy. Glamour. Anticipation. Excitement. All that and more warmed the nippy evenings of Lahore at the Royal Palm — the venue of the Pakistan Fashion Design Council’s (PFDC) first fashion week. White marquee, efficient ushers in black, a huge show area and a media pit upon entering the venue… barring a tasteless display of home appliances on the red carpet, one felt as if one was at any other international fashion week.
The PFDC promised to send the collections of more than 32 designers, worn by 50 models. It also promised to bring buyers from Pakistan, India, the Gulf and the UK along with a battery of international media. And it lived up to its claims. The second fashion week in Pakistan — the first, Fashion Pakistan, was held in Karachi last November — furthered Pakistan’s foray into the global fashion week arena.
The best thing to emerge from this fashion week was that the so-called divide between Karachi and Lahore fashion circuits, despite the two fashion councils, seemed to be bridged. Leading designers, models, buyers and media professionals, in short, fashion’s movers and shakers from the city by the sea landed in Lahore to support the PFDC Fashion Week. Zahir Rahimtoolah, Zeba and Shehernaz Hussain, Asad Tareen, Ronak Lakhani, Sairah Irshad Khan and Deepak Perwani were conspicuous in a crowded marquee during the week.
“Fashion weeks are needed at this point in time to create a sense of awareness about Pakistani fashion, which is getting hot in the Gulf and Indian markets,” remarked Zahir Rahimtoolah, owner and buyer of the multi-brand store Labels. “The first one (in Karachi) was all about the hype of Pakistani fashion; given our socio-political situation, for instance the Taliban insurgency, it attracted international media attention. But the Lahore one actually managed to attract buyers. This is progress,” Rahimtoolah elaborated. “Despite the initial glitches and organisational hiccups, it went well. There will be the good and the bad, which will eventually filter with time. The important thing is to keep having these weeks,” he concluded.
Rahimtoolah’s opinion was shared by Asad Tareen, owner and buyer of Designers, another leading multi-brand fashion store in Pakistan. “In fact, the Lahore fashion week helped him add to his list of designers for the store. “After sitting through all the collections, said Tareen, “we have thought of taking some designers, who had no presence in our outlet, on board. Also, we may order some pieces from certain designers.”
So the business of fashion appeared happening. The PFDC signed a deal with Hang Ten to have its presence in Hang Ten stores all over Pakistan. This means fashion retail business will witness a huge expansion as the label boasts 42 outlets all over Pakistan. However, all PFDC designer garments sold at Hang Ten will have to follow a price ceiling — ranging from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 7,000. Sehyr Saigol, buyer for the Delhi fashion store Karma, bought 100 pieces on the first day of the week. Another leading Indian fashion store Ogaan was represented. One strongly wishes that the trade barriers with India are lifted as the Indian market is the closest and offers a huge potential clientele to Pakistani designers.
From Dubai, PFDC Week managed to attract Sara Belhasa from Studio 8, Razia and Nader Sharif of Designer Lounge and Mariya Kassam of Soiree. “It was a fabulous effort to showcase the glorious spectrum of Pakistani fashion,” remarked Mariya Kassam. She was mainly there to support the brands she is stocking. “I was so pleased to see Mehdi, Nida Azwer, Sara Shahid (Sublime) and Khadija Shah (Elan) sending their lovely collections on the ramp,” said Kassam. Additionally, she “got a great chance to scout out Pakistan’s new talent.” Sara Belhasa is entering into a deal with Zahir Rahimtoolah of Labels to have Labels in Studio 8.
PFDC worked ceaselessly to make sure that the show met with international standards. Sehyr Saigol, of the Libas label and the backbone of the PFDC, was spotted giving directions and supervising, and at times micro-managing the affairs. As producer, Frieha Altaf of Catwalk Productions took charge of the backstage and the show areas; and Selina Rashid of Lotus PR looked after the media and PR side superbly, without losing her smile even once. Saba Ansari and her team at SAB’s salon must be given a big Pat as they were responsible for the make-up of more than 50 models for eight shows a night — and that was no mean achievement. In fact, the international celebrity stylist Jamal Hammadi freaked out when he found out that he had to style more than 20 models for the Karma show. He only did Humaima’s styling — he took two hours over it — and refused to do the rest, who were eventually styled by Saba and her team.
About to the shows themselves, the designer line-ups also left a lot to be desired. Some designers were excellent — they understood the spirit of a fashion week. Others showed up only to woo their local clientele — their traditional bridals and formals dominated the ramp. And some were downright hideous — they did not deserve to be on the ramp, let alone in a fashion week (See the slide show below).
Styling emerged as the strongest element of the PFDC week. So strong at times that it drowned the collections. The purpose of styling a collection is to enhance the look of a collection by complementing it with accessories. In PFDC week, the overemphasis not only killed the impact of a collection but also made it look like a styling week instead of a fashion week. Ali Xeeshan’s collection is a glaring example of this malfunction. Honestly reviewed, garish rags, rugs and razais (yes, one model walked the ramp clad in a razai/lihaaf) adorned with a trucker’s treasure trove is all one can say about his collection. Xeeshan went so overboard in styling that even teapots were spotted hanging from various parts of his outfits. Fine, you are bursting with creativity, Xeeshan, now it’s time you showed clothes.
Another major irritant of most collections was the lack of editing. Good editing makes a collection look crispier, and a designer more professional. Here, an odd sari followed a set of cocktail and long dresses on the ramp. Or a heavy formal eastern embroidered outfit paved the way for a jumpsuit. This lack of thought rendered a collection choppy and, at times, meaningless. (Read Mohsin Sayeed’s take on the trends that emerged in Lahore in “Trend Spotting.”)
But one hopes that as more fashion weeks take place, these irritants will sort themselves out and designers plus organisers will wisen up to the importance of a tight, well put together collection.
If the Pakistan fashion industry is desirous of making a stronger impact, and conducting meaningful and serious business, the two fashion councils, Fashion Pakistan and the PFDC, will have to join hands under the cornucopia of Pakistan Fashion Week. The two councils can have their days of showing. And two fashion weeks a year can alternately be held in Karachi and Lahore. “While designers definitely need a platform to showcase their creativity and enhance their business, soon they will be forced to say they cannot do so many fashion weeks. People will also get bored,” says Tareen. Rahimtoolah also resonates the same: “It is detrimental for designers as they cannot show new collections four times a year. Both will have to come together for the sake of the business of fashion.”
If the two councils agree to collaborate, there will be strict standardisation and sharp editing of designers. Both councils will be competing with each other and will be forced to show only the best designers. Consequently, fashion will get a boost and truly deserving designers will be able to showcase their work. Buyers will have a focal point and will not be running helter-skelter in search of quality fashion from Pakistan.