The highly anticipated PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week 2014 (PLBW) is over and in the wake of the three-day event showcasing some of the most well-known wedding wear designers in the country, we’ve been left feeling both awed and underwhelmed in equal measure.
Awed because over three days and 16 shows, one got to see the best of what Pakistani fashion has to offer – luxurious fabrics, intricate handcrafted garments, opulent embroideries and interesting silhouettes. Of course not all was good, but despite the fair amount of misses that were sent down the runaway, the overall feeling was that Pakistani wedding wear had come a long way in the last decade, with designers striking just the right balance between commercially viable traditional design and cutting-edge modernity.
Established names in couture such as Sana Safinaz, Nomi Ansari, Sania Maskatiya, Karma, Nida Azwer and HSY sent out collections that spoke of the designers’ maturity and understanding of the wedding wear market not only in Pakistan but internationally as well. Lehngas paired with interesting jackets gave a spin to an otherwise traditional outfit at Nida Azwer while fur collars and vests added oomph to separates at HSY. Karma’s Lotus Raj collection paid ode to the Pakistani wedding in its many-day glory, presenting feminine, flirty and gorgeously embellished ensembles that are sure to sell well. Designer Maheen Kardar generally paid it safe when it came to silhouettes but the many versions of the jumpsuit that she included injected a dose of fun into the overall collection.
It wasn’t just the veterans who impressed; the younger lot of designers also left a mark with their tasteful creations. Designer duo Saira-Shakira, fresh off their critically acclaimed pret debut at April’s PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week, reminded us what the fuss had been about with their strong and edgy collection featuring some stand-out pieces such as a velvet crop top and sheer jackets. Mahgul’s PLBW debut as part of the Bank Alfalah Rising Talent segment also deserves a mention – her beautifully worked ensembles turned traditional wedding wear on its head with elements such as high-waisted lehngas and belted tunics.
PLBW 2014 was a reminder that runway shows cannot just be about beautiful clothes; there has to be a dose of drama, a spark that keeps the crowd engaged and asking for more. Which is why Ali Xeeshan’s Baghawat was an engrossing show. Even at the end of a long and tiring second day, his finale managed to make everyone sit up and clap for his theatrical presentation featuring kitschy, candy-coloured pieces.
Moving on to the parts that left us underwhelmed… the Pakistan Fashion Design Council has, undoubtedly, breathed new life into the fashion industry since it began organising its two editions of fashion week a few years ago. Its fashion weeks are well executed, glitzy and more importantly, a showcase for real talent as opposed to anyone who has the money or muscle to participate in a fashion show. Yet it is is a shame that despite having years of experience, the council still makes us suffer long and infuriating delays. This year, for example, the official time for the event was 6:00pm, but at 8:00pm the organizers were still scrambling to fill the front rows. Day 2 was particularly gruelling, with the last show beginning close to midnight!
Part of the problem, of course, is that fashion, despite having evolved dramatically over the years, is still considered more ‘entertainment’ and less ‘business’. Fashion weeks are a chance for socialites and fashionistas to see and be seen and by the time they arrive at the venue having done their round of pre-parties, they’ve given the term ‘fashionably late’ a whole new meaning. It’s high time designers decided what’s more important – to wait for the frowers to show up and fill the seats or to start the show on time.
And this brings us to another issue that was glaring in its obviousness at PLBW 2014 – who exactly makes up the audience at a fashion week? We spotted about 20 to 30 names every day whose presence made sense; the remainder of the packed hall at Faletti’s consisted of a strange mix of single men of varying ages, bored housewives and people below the age of ten – the least fashionable demographics one can think of. Granted, the council has no control over who the sponsors choose to invite but surely it can limit the number of passes handed out to the sponsors and observe a degree of restraint and some sort of screening process for the guest list that it draws up.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to taking fashion seriously. It’s not just the public that’s guilty of trivializing the industry. What about senior (and extremely capable) designers who show one year to great acclaim and then choose to sit out the next year because their collections are not ready on time? Or so they say. Such a move would be career suicide anywhere else in the world but here in Pakistan, so many designers are guilty of it because they know they can get away with it. For reasons unknown (though there is enough chatter on the grapevine), two designers conspicuous through their absence were Elan and The House of Kamiar Rokni. Misconduct and non-payment of participation fees were just two of the rumoured reasons.
One must also question the logic of holding a bridal showcase this late into the year. By October, wedding season in Pakistan is in full swing and even December brides have placed their bridal jora and trousseau orders by now. To ask designers to present new collections this time of the year begs the question: is the point to generate good business or just to put up a good show?
— Photograhy by Faisal Farooqui @ Dragonfly
Instep’s pick of fashion week’s top six collections that wowed us with ideas, edge and aesthetic balance
Titled The Wedding, the collection featured Shamaeel’s signature luxe fabrics, opulent embroideries and trendy cuts in a palette that ran the gamut from soft ivory and caramel to saffron, ombre and red. This was a collection that needed no gimmicks to sell it – the ensembles were glamorous, modern and simply breathtaking because of the designer’s firm understanding of the craft. The layering of one rich garment onto another added just the right touch of opulence while the little details, such as the pashmina shawl wrapped around Cybil’s neck with a traditional red lehnga, added the wow factor. Overall, the most cohesive and mature wedding wear collection we’ve seen in recent times.
Just when you think they can’t possibly have any more brilliant ideas up their stylist sleeves, the queens of couture surprise you. With another breathtaking collection showcased at PLBW, the duo cemented their position as the most formidable fashion house in the country. Sensuous yet ethnic, the collection was a masterful play of fabric and embroidery. From two-sided silk shawls in rich jewel tones to heavily embellished saris with printed insets, signature Sana Safinaz dresses with thigh-high slits to cropped velvet jackets, from pleated shalwars to the finale piece – a shimmery bronze and gold gharara – it was sexy yet understated, festive yet elegant; perfect for the modern bride who’s no wallflower.
There were many designers who played with colour at PLBW but with Gul, Nomi proved that no one can do it as well as he does. He’s called ‘the king of colour’ for good reason – Gul was a riot of shades, a celebration of festivity that was young at heart and looking to have a good time. From lehngas and peshwazes to more quirky pieces such as printed cowled shalwars and short jackets, Nomi presented a wide range of silhouettes. Print in formal wear can go horribly wrong, especially when it’s as loud and psychedelic as the silks and chiffons featured in this particular collection but Nomi proved his maturity as a designer by striking just the right balance between loud and tasteful.
Whimsical, romantic and old-world, Misha Lakhani’s Nowruz was one of the most beautiful collections to hit the ramp at PLBW. Peshwazes in diaphanous fabrics worn over cholis, demure velvet blouses with three-quarters sleeves and flowy tunics in varying lengths channeled old school elegance with just a hint of boho-chic; a marriage of ideas that blended with perfection in the exquisitely worked kaftans that were the highlight of the collection. From floral clusters to birds and bees, the motifs were intricate and detailed and set out in a variety of techniques from threadwork to applique, adding to the charm of the ensembles.
Putlighar was another collection that took inspiration from the years gone by, but whereas Nowruz was a romanticised version of the past, Fahad’s interpretation was darker and bolder yet just as stunning. Employing hand embroidery techniques that are fast dying out, the designer paid ode to the rich tradition of handicrafts in this part of the world with a collection that was two years in the making, and the hard work paid off. Ancient embroidery techniques mingled with modern screen prints to create outfits that were rich and statement-making. Complemented with some fabulous in-house accessories such as faux fur jackets and shrugs, bejeweled belts and sashes worn at the waist and across the body and the intricate matha-pattis, the ensembles revived old-school glamour into a modern and edgy avatar.
Zara’s A Folk Tale turned out to be a winner. The collection had a strong Kashmiri undertone with its gorgeous embellished shawls, waistcoats and loose flowy kurtas paired with shalwars as well as chooridars. A much bolder collection than the designer with the penchant for pretty florals is known for, A Folk Tale was young and experimental yet retained the designer’s quintessentially feminine philosophy.