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Lucky Number 7

Fashion Pakistan Council's seventh fashion week finally reveals a winning hand. But how long will this lucky streak last, is what everyone's asking?

Lucky Number 7
The grandest of all finales: (L-R) Fayeza Ansari, Atiya Khan, Frieha Altaf, Iraj and Fauzia Aman for Maheen Khan (centre in black)

Fashion Week is no gamble but the seventh edition of Fashion Pakistan Week – that played out last week as FPW Autumn/Winter 2014 – proved to be the lucky number for Karachi’s struggling Fashion Pakistan council. Several winning streaks determined the success of the three-day event. First and most significantly, the content was solid. With the exception of two collections (Afzal Ishtiaq Khan and Emran Rajput), there wasn’t a single name that didn’t deal a stable hand in design. Not every designer blew the show out of the water as neatly as Ather Hafeez for Sana Safinaz, Shehla Chatoor, Adnan Pardesy or Maheen Khan but the chips fell and they fell impressively.

Fashion week was compact and sexy. The red carpet hosted the steadily kicking heels of fashionistas and while the celebrity quotient may not have been monumentally high, it allowed style to take the front seat. What Karachi offers is an image of diversity and that came in with cosmopolitan confidence. You saw the skirts and the saris; you had women in leather and men in silk. Fashion week delivered gender benders, edgy fashion and quirk.

It’s this diversity that has become the USP of FPW. Several people raised objections to collections that appeared more luxury pret and customized than ready to wear and pret. But the stance FP has always taken is this: show what you design. If Adnan Pardesy and Maheen Karim have a market for luxury pret and couture, then that is what they show. Levi’s and Gul Ahmed stay loyal to their populist clientele and FnkAsia to theirs.

Deepak Perwani decided to revert to his basics with a strong menswear collection titled Everything But the Girl. He would’ve gotten away with just sending Sikander Rizvi and Adnan Malik down the catwalk. Monochrome was the one dominant palette at fashion week with Sadaf Malaterre lending it some serious Parisian chic, Aamna Aqeel bringing it home with fusion and young designers Deepak and Fahad playing with some serious experimentation. One could appreciate the efforts made by Nida Azwer, Faraz Manan, Nauman Arfeen and Mohsin Ali for Sana Safinaz.

Bottom line: At FPW designers need not colour within the lines and conform to a format; they are allowed creative and commercial expression. And if individuality isn’t the backbone of style then what is?

When it came to show-time, that massive split-screen backdrop was drop-dead gorgeous, if ever there was a time to use the expression for an inanimate object. The hair and makeup, handled all three days by Nabila and her team of professional experts at N-Pro and N-Gents, was executed to perfection. Designers do give their briefs on what they want their models to look like but if the task isn’t carried out properly it loses impact. And so the collections streamed out in full glory, at least most of them did. Stripped of unnecessary drama or high, theatrical runways, FPW gave the impression of fashion as serious business. But was any business conducted at the ‘trade’ event? This brings one to Fashion Pakistan Week’s most glaring shortfall: there were no buyers.

Council heads and designers can argue that there were ample ‘personal’ buyers and clients in the front rows; ladies and gentlemen who regularly buy fashion and will be ordering from what they have seen. But that hardly merits the coordination and effort (and money) that goes into putting up a fashion week. What validates a successful fashion week is the presence of media (check) and buyers (cross). Two local stockists – Zahir Rahimtoola from Labels and Shehrnaz Hussain from Ensemble – were present every day but it certainly wasn’t enough considering there are several more fashion boutiques in Karachi alone. Lahore, Islamabad and the burgeoning markets for Pakistani fashion in India and the Middle East should have been kept in the loop.

It’s obvious that the event wasn’t timed well enough to invite interested buyers. In fact, it wasn’t timed well at all. Previously scheduled for a date in September, delays saw it pushed back to November’s end, which resulted in several designers not managing to show. Even those showing subtly complained that fashion week landing bang in the midst of the wedding season hadn’t been easy to handle.

So yes, the new council led by Sanam Chaudhri (Chairperson) and Wardha Saleem (CEO) has been successful in holding two events a year – their biggest success being the initiation of the Millennial Show – but they lack the experience and clout to see this baby home. What Fashion Pakistan needs is a Sehyr Saigol, the powerhouse Chairperson of Lahore’s Pakistan Fashion Design Council. And from where one sees things, there is one person who fits that bill: Rabiya Javeri.

The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan has been very involved in Fashion Pakistan’s activities and promotion and Secretary TDAP, Rabiya Javeri has been a fairy godmother to the council.  Not only was TDAP the official hospitality partner for FPW, TDAP helped designers spread their wings in India earlier this year and plans to duplicate the success of Aalishan Pakistan and Lifestyle Pakistan in Dubai next year. These events are not exclusive to Fashion Pakistan designers – it is open to all as trade development should be – but a very strong allegiance is developing between the council and TDAP. Can Ms Javeri bring in the clout and discipline that the council badly needs?

Until something concrete materializes, Fashion Pakistan appears to have acquired some traction when it comes to fashion week. The trade show still needs to pick up consistency and discipline but it appears to be on the right track, at least. Why Lahore’s designers still refrain from showing (despite many from Karachi participating in the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week) is anyone’s guess but for those who have a market in Karachi, it’s a lost opportunity. As for Fashion Pakistan designers who are still sporadic in appearance, a ‘no show’ is unacceptable. Hardly any reputed fashion house in the world misses fashion week and ‘bridal orders’ is hardly a pardonable excuse.

Now that Fashion Pakistan has announced dates for Fashion Pakistan Week S/S 2015: March 31 to April 3, 2015, there is enough time to plan well in advance. One hopes that the best of what Fashion Pakistan has to offer, along with the best of what designers from Lahore wish to offer Karachi, will be visible at FPW in March.

One hopes that the council’s good luck is not limited to its lucky 7th event. After years of playing roulette, it seems FPW is finally back in the game. Time to let the stakes get higher!

– Photography by Tapu Javeri

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