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You’ve come a long way, baby!

Instep outlines an overview of how far the fashion industry has come since its inception way back in the ’80s

You’ve come a long way, baby!
Faisal Farooqui @ Dragonfly takes an aerial shot of the glitz and glamour of PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week

Instep outlines an overview of how far the fashion industry has come since its inception way back in the ’80s

These are racy times we live in; if you can’t keep up with the pace then there’s a good chance you’ll get left behind and possibly forgotten. Fashion industries all over the world keep abreast with the speed as designers churn out not one, not two but multiple collections a year, open flagships in new, mushrooming markets, add innovative products to their lines and play the complicated game of staying in the news.

Pakistan’s fashion industry is no different. It’s finally stepped out of the infantile, nascent position that it had taken for eons. While it still isn’t as evolved as the international arena, one has to appreciate the pace and strength with which it has grown, against all odds.

Things have changed to the extent that it would be difficult to recognize the elitist, expensive and very niche ‘fashion club’ of the nineties.  This club has evolved and grown into a full-fledge industry. One wouldn’t even call it cottage anymore. With stores opening round the year, fashion weeks providing united platforms to designers and with studio operations being overshadowed by e-commerce it has changed to unrecognizable proportions. This is the 4G era and designers who aren’t with it are considered obsolete. Fortunately, most of them are!

NOW: Fashion Weeks

NOWHERE: Fashion Shows

“Designers have stopped having their own shows,” an experienced model recently said, complaining about the frequency with which fashion shows were now held. She couldn’t have been more off the mark. The dynamic has changed but it has conglomerated instead of diminishing. The two credible fashion weeks – PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week and Fashion Pakistan Week – as well as fashion weeks catering to wedding wear put out over 100 collections annually. And that’s quite an achievement if compared to the dozen odd solo shows that were once held a year. Fashion Weeks have united the platform and have made designers who don’t qualify for fashion week quite uninteresting and redundant. You’re not relevant unless you’re showing at fashion week!

EVERYWHERE: Branded Lawn

HERE AND THERE: Fabric

The gaping space between fashion-loving classes and masses has been bridged by Pakistan’s favourite fabric – lawn. A decade ago not many women could afford a six-digit customized outfit by Sana Safinaz or Faiza Samee, but now almost every lawn-buyer can invest in a designer summer wardrobe thanks to the lawn invasion.

Waleed Zaman has taken Bareeze’s brand, Kayseria, onto the next level, showcasing regularly at fashion weeks.

Waleed Zaman has taken Bareeze’s brand, Kayseria, onto the next level, showcasing regularly at fashion weeks.

The new equation works the other way around too. While designers have stepped into the lawn business, lawn mega brands like Bareeze and Gul Ahmed have edged their way into the style arena. They make fashion week appearances to appeal to all those eyeballs looking for trends. Gone are the times when it worked to buy prints from lawn retailers; women like to buy brands now. Fashion weeks create the It List and if you’re not on it, you’re probably nowhere on the scene.

UP-TO-DATE: Ready to wear

OUTDATED: Darzi-wear

Designers who are not accessible don’t impress anymore. Unless you’re a Bunto Kazmi and work months in advance on dreamy wedding wear, you’d better be available from one outlet or another. And if you’re not manufacturing what you’re showing (at fashion weeks) then you may as well not show at all.

Now is a time when almost all desirable brands, from Sana Safinaz, Sania Maskatiya, Deepak Perwani, Nida Azwer, Karma, Sublime, Elan, Shamaeel, Maheen Khan, Sonya Battla, Misha Lakhani, Body Focus Museum and Maheen Karim amongst many, many others put out an ocean of designs to buy off the rack. It’s quick, easy access and instant joy compared to the frustrations of dealing with darzis.

NOW: Budding models

PASSE: Ageing models

There’s only so far that a session of Botox, a little liposuction, thermage, a very good cosmetologist or even a naturally well-maintained figure will take a model. There’s no substitute for youth and young models are what fashion is all about now. Gone is the time when a few models, often handpicked and endorsed by photographers, reigned supreme. Monopolies have been broken. Fashion plays the field and the pool is much bigger because of the industry demand. The last fashion week featured over forty models, a few experienced, but mostly new girls eager to step into the game. Lawn campaigns, and there are approximately a hundred of those every year, all need models and they all want unique faces. Because of this expansion, there’s no doubt that every year will continue to introduce new faces.

Sana Safinaz continue to ace the retail game as they open their sixth retail outlet in Sargodha

Sana Safinaz continue to ace the retail game as they open their sixth retail outlet in Sargodha

Only a few of the new models will make to the cover of the magazines. Even fewer will rise to supermodel status and become every designer’s favourite muse but then the new age isn’t about a selected elite. It’s about playing the field and working on the body of work.

NOW: E-stores

THEN: Boutiques and studios

Step one was to step out of the drawing room exhibitions, private (appointment only) studios and into stores, which is where the multi-label store came in. The success of the multi-label boutique gradually encouraged designers to open their flagships. It can be said without a second’s hesitation that today, designers without even a single flagship to their name are backbenchers. But those who have managed standalone stores plus online retail are the one’s who are acing the business.

With Pakistan’s scrawny middle-class, ever-dwindling buying power and constant state of crisis (resulting in shut downs), it has become integral to be available online and e-commerce is the only way forward. Besides solving the lock-down situations, online stores also make fashion accessible to the millions of Pakistanis living all over the world.

STILL BIG: Social network

EVEN BIGGER: Social media

If anything has changed over the decade, it’s the structure of fashion media. While coverage was once limited to periodicals, the media frenzy has now become a 24/7 whirlpool. From a couple of glossies every other month, we now have monthlies, fortnightlies, weekenders, daily coverage, websites, blogs and the hyperactive Twitter that’s on high alert around the clock.

There was a time when knowing the right people was enough to get the word out. But now, coverage has become an insatiable beast that feeds on fashion with a voracious appetite. Change is the order of the day but the only thing that hasn’t changed, we guess, is designers’ intolerance to deal with criticism.

– Instep Desk

One comment

  • Monopolies do exist, but they have shrunk considerably. yes, it is a a great time for fashion to grow, and here’s hoping it keeps growing.

    Although, I wouldn’t count on the online stores, for the ones that work are mostly are outdated and most of the brands/labels don’t even have e-stores!

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