March Issue 2015
Cutting Edge Tradition
Even without the use of flashy PR campaigns and sprawling billboard advertisements, Bunto Kazmi remains one of the most iconic designers in the country. With a label that is synonymous with intricate craftsmanship, painstakingly detailed embroidery, and luxury and tradition above all else, Kazmi is comfortably ensconced in her position as the reigning queen of bridal couture.
In recent years, one of her protÃ©gÃ©s began gaining the attention of fashion critics and consumers alike. Misha Lakhani, who interned with Kazmi for five months in 2009, marked her grand debut in 2012 with the launch of her store on the business-lucrative E-Street in Clifton.
Digital print silk shirts, gold embroidered capes, delicate thread-work, pearls and floral motifs on net, tulles and rich velvet, Lakhani’s designs are marked by their attention to detail, a diverse colour palette and the effortless merge of contrasts in a way that seems natural. Cutting-edge, but never steering too far away from convention as to be unwearable. So it’s no surprise to see her meteoric rise to fame in such a short span of time.
Lakhani’s interest in fashion began early. “It was more my destiny than anything else. As a child, I spent a lot of time painting, creating things and experimenting with my parent’s clothes. Even when I dabbled in other fields, fashion was always my main focus,” says the Journalism major. “Becoming a designer was a fantasy of mine, but I never had the guts to pursue it. However, I’m not the kind of person who can sit still and not do anything. One should do what they are passionate about and constantly grow. After my internship, I went to London and took classes at Central Saint Martins to learn how to get my ideas across and master technique. This included courses in tailoring, stitching, how to make a corset, for example. I feel it’s important to have the practical know-how, so you’re not limited.”
Of her mentor, Lakhani says, “I’ve always been in awe of Bunto. People talk about her contribution to the revival of local craftsmanship, but, in fact, she takes it to a whole new level. She’s an artist in the true sense of the word, and I respect her for that. Thanks to my internship, I was able to better appreciate how everything comes together from the inception stages to the final execution. Over conversations with her, I learnt about the importance of having integrity in one’s designs and being focused.”
But where Kazmi is all about tradition, Lakhani’s aesthetic is an “eclectic mix of old-world charm, modern ideas and a grown-up bohemian vibe,” which she says is a reflection of her own personal style. “My collections are very ‘now’ in terms of tailoring and styling, but they could also be worn in a traditional way. It all depends on the context and how it is carried, and I think my work has a certain versatility to it. I see it as breathing new life into old things; to tweak, alter, make something my own.”
Her latest collection, Nowruz, is a reflection of this. Eye-catching without being ostentatious, it showcases the coming together of different eras in its various fabrics, textures and colours. “I enjoy experimenting and mixing fabrics. I tend to use a lot of velvet, butterfly net, banarsi, jamawar, karandi. I feel anyone can carry off a colour; it just depends on the shade.”
The collection was first showcased at the Lahore Bridal Couture Week 2014. Incidentally, Lakhani made her entry into the fashion world from the same platform in 2012. “Fashion weeks force designers to push boundaries and keep reinventing themselves, since one does want to want to repeat what they showed earlier.”
She is now in the midst of opening her second outlet in Lahore. “They say you’re only as good as your next collection. We’re growing and are looking to expand our market in the new year.”
“My craft is always evolving, but I try to retain a certain consistency in terms of my aesthetic,” she adds. “I’m constantly inspired by the histories and street cultures across the world, characters out of novels, period films, TV shows and music. It really depends on my mood.”
Asked what style means to her, Lakhani quotes Jean Cocteau: “Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.” And while fashion is both art and business, it’s “mostly a fun form of expression.” When it comes to her own choices, Lakhani is extremely particular about what she wears. “Even if it’s a plain white T-shirt, it has to be perfect on so many levels.”
“It’s a little annoying when there’s too much of the same thing. Someone introduces it, and everyone else just follows. For example, right now we’re seeing this craze for lehenga cholis. But one has to keep reinventing oneself. It’s nice to be a little different.”
This article was originally published in Newsline’s March 2015 issue.
The writer is a journalist and former assistant editor at Newsline.