With its latest season Coke Studio is reclaiming some of the magic that enthralled millions for the first few seasons but somehow got lost along the way. While it may be getting its music right this time around, the five episodes that have aired to date have left us wondering if the same can be said about the styling of the show, especially that of its female musicians.
To judge a show such as Coke Studio, which comes with the lofty aim of creating music across boundaries of genres, regions and ages, may seem superficial – even churlish to some – but let’s just be honest for a moment and come out with it: when a female celebrity is in the limelight, she will be scrutinized for the fashion choices she makes. Whether it’s Madonna, Beyonce, Lady Gaga or our very own Nazia Hassan, there’s no denying that a woman with a unique personal style has the power to influence pop culture.
In Pakistan, female singers are few and far in between and even more rare are those with a personal sense of unique style, with one exception – Meesha Shafi. Four years ago, when the model/musician took over the floor at Coke Studio to belt out the powerful and hypnotic ‘Jugni’ with Arif Lohar, she created a sensation not just with her strong vocals but also her unique fashion sense.
Arif Lohar may have had his flamboyant chimta to make a statement but Meesha’s black leather bomber jacket, fitted red top and gold accessories were props that were just as striking. Strong, bold and edgy, she dressed the rock chick part to perfection and made a memorable impression that will be remembered long after the final season of Coke Studio has been done and dusted.
Her appearance in Episode 3 of the current season showed a different, more mature, side of the singer; yet one that remained worthy of being commented on and copied. Dressed in a voluminous pleated skirt by Fahad Hussayn, paired with a plain crop top that provides the perfect backdrop for the gorgeous Inaaya necklace she is seen wearing, Meesha looks older and wiser than her ‘Jugni’ avatar, yet just as stunning.
According to Ehtesham Ansari, the Dubai-based stylist who is overseeing the styling for this season, the idea was to present her in a modern yet conservative mode that would be acceptable on national television, yet retain the edginess that makes Meesha who she is. Full marks to the designer, stylist and singer for achieving just the right balance between individualistic and awami.
Ansari, who has styled everyone from the Manchester United team to the Kolkata Knight Riders, Aditya Roy Kapoor to Adnan Siddiqui, says it took weeks of careful planning and deliberation with the producers as well as the singer in question to decide the look. The criteria was simple: it had to be something the singer was comfortable in, since the concert-style setting of the show required easy movement, and it should not overpower the music.
If you’ve doubted for even a second that a musician’s attire has the ability to make or break a performance, you need to look no further than Komal Rizvi in Episode 2 to prove how wrong you are. Here’s a lovely upbeat traditional Balochi number being sung by a surprisingly in-tune Komal and all we can think of is: why did she come to the studio wearing her pajamas and that distracting jangle of baubles around her neck? On closer look, it transpired that those were not pajamas but tailored printed pants by Sania Maskatiya that are actually quite gorgeous and definitely not meant to be worn the way they are by Komal – with an ill-fitting black top and a jacket that is two sizes too small.
On being questioned, both the designer and the stylist were quick to distance themselves from Komal’s less-than-stylish look. “She came with a suitcase full of her own clothes and was adamant that she would select her own outfit and accessories,” revealed Ansari. Maskatiya, quite aghast at the final look, said she had no control over how the singer’s wardrobe was put together. “Anyone can walk into a store and pick out what they like from our pret line which is made up of separates. That doesn’t mean they have to wear it all together,” she clarified.
While there are those like Rizvi, who don’t believe in utilizing the services of a professional, Ansari says that it was the old hands such as Humera Channa who made his job a pleasure. The singer’s style evolution since her PTV days with the bad 80s hair and lurid make-up has been something of a miracle and her staid, elegant new persona goes well with her iconic status.
Dressed in a simple white chikankari kurta with embellished buttons that add a hint of glamour and a lovely Kashmiri shawl draped on one shoulder, Humera cut a respectable ustad-like figure. Ansari calls her a thorough professional, who was well aware of the fact that while singing may be her forte, fashion was not and hence she was happy to leave the decisions up to someone who knew what they were doing.
One singer we were particularly interested in seeing was Rahma Ali. When you’re the younger sister of the one of the best-known models in the country (Imaan Ali), certain sartorial expectations are attached to you automatically. But those of you who were expecting a fashion plate must have been a tad disappointed when they saw the sweet and simple Rahma in her debut performance.
The high-waisted palazzos might have been bang on trend but it was almost as if the singer had made a conscious effort stay understated as to a) distance herself from fashion and b) ensure the focus remained on her performance. We think it was a good decision.
Style needs to be unique to the person, which is what we appreciate most. The super talented Zeb and Haniya like to keep it simple whereas Meesha Shafi prefers making an edgy style statement on stage. Abida Parveen sticks to her voluminous silk kurtas and ajrak whereas Humera Channa opted for restrained elegance. One can appreciate all forms of personal style – the simple, strange and savvy – except for the times when it becomes contrived and, dare we say, ‘wannabe’ as in the case of Komal Rizvi.