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One step forward…

Fashion Pakistan Week Summer 2014 may have taken the platform one step forward in terms of better content but the question is: will it grow hereon or (once again) fall two steps back?

One step forward…

Google maps of Lyari on silk trousers. Monochrome patchwork on smart, rilli-crafted tunics, travelling the sartorial mile from rural Sindh to urban Karachi. Metallics that create gold and silver, mercurial illusions. And Parveen Shakir prints on postman satchels: imagine that! You actually needn’t bother with imagining because designers at Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) brought all these ideas, and more, to trend-setting Spring/Summer collections that’ll be widely available in retail stores soon. The content at fashion week: check.

FPW’S Top Collections

Amongst the top five pret a porter collections at FPW S/S 2014, I would say, was Gulabo by Maheen Khan. Not only does this label have the markings of innovation and style, it has nationwide as well as online retail presence. The Gulabo e-Store, recently launched alongside fashion week, has ensured that the symbolic red rose be accessible to Gulabo lovers all over the world. Another impressive label, Shamaeel, introduced her Tughra brand of ready to wear at fashion week. Reflecting the designer’s plush, vintage ethos, the tunics are already available at multi-retail store Labels by this time. They will also be available in Lahore, Islamabad, Dubai and India. Nida Azwer stayed true to her signature with Arabesque, a collection of pure whites lifted by gold and silver accents. With flagship stores in Lahore and Karachi, Nida’s contemporary take on the shalwar and cutwork tunics will have an influence on the long summer up ahead.

I would easily add Kayseria to the top five ready to wear collections at fashion week, simply because of the label’s style strength combined with its influence on market trends. Kayseria revealed how easy it would be to transform lightweight lawn into cotton saris for summer. It also innovated new styles in wearing lawn: relaxed shirts, loosely belted at the waist will ensure style as well as smartness. Last and unconventionally on a list of garments would be accessory label, Mahin Hussain. Having a knack for colour and an effortless style confidence, Hussain’s collection of bags was supported by equally quirky Parveen Shakir prints, which will be available in the form of scarves, much to the delight of the late poet’s fans and followers.Deepak-and-HSY-for-Nauman-A

Several heavier lines punctuated the line up at fashion week, out of which Nomi Ansari’s Gravity was undoubtedly the most superior. It was good to see the designer allow himself the freedom of having fun with technique, which he is a master of. Albeit theatrical more than practical, this collection was allowed glimpses of the diffusion it would experience when translated to wedding or trousseau wear.

It has to be said, as a post script on couture showings, that the council should consider a separate day for heavy clothing (if at all), as they not only cause interminable delays in the schedule (prep time is much longer) but they also break the tempo of fast-paced pret shows. Having to sit through slow-moving couture shows absolutely kills the momentum.

Back to the best, I would nominate Nauman Arfeen as the best menswear designer at fashion week. Executed to perfection and revealing the slightest of innovative twists in the flare of a jodhpur or a pouf on a sleeve, this designer has proven his mettle in traditional menswear and he should be given due credit for it.

FPW Builds Bridges…

FPW bridged the gap between pioneering veterans and youthful boomers. It brought Lahore to Karachi, with names like HSY, Ali Xeeshan, Fahad Hussayn, Mohsin Ali and Kamiar Rokni amongst others. It elevated small high street brands like Daaman and Sheep while also allowing mass-market giants like Kayseria and Jafferjees a (successful) hand at the fashion roulette. The biggest connection that the Fashion Pakistan Council may have made at this edition of fashion week could be its affiliation with the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan.img1

“Fashion Week is like the tip of a pyramid,” said Roberto Bre, director and partner at PrivateCollection&Co, an American company (with offices in Paris) that prepares brands for global expansion. A guest of the TDAP, Bre looks forward to mentor Pakistani fashion brands evolve beyond the fashion week hoopla. “Fashion week is the start of a process, not the end of one,” he expressed before the shows on the last day, “and Pakistani designers need to think of spreading their wings now. They feel that catering to a local market is enough but it is not.”

It makes one wonder: was fashion week in Karachi realistically anything but a brand-building, marketing exercise? Was it enough? While marketing does play an integral role in the fashion week dynamic, the net result of the activity needs to be business generation. Business, for fashion in Pakistan, needs to grow beyond the ‘one rack in a multi-retail store’ existence. Unfortunately there was no means of designer-buyer interaction. There were no stalls or displays where the buyers could see collections up close. But then, were there any buyers at all? Buyer facilitation at fashion week: cross.Kayseria-1

…Capsules And Corporate Connections

While FPW served us quite a few complete and cohesive collections, there were just as many capsules, which made one wonder how much time these designers needed to put a complete collection together, considering FPW last took place exactly one year ago. There were way too many guest appearances, which one refuses to critique on a matter of principle. It would be unfair to designers who have put in the time and effort to design full collections. Watching these capsules was like walking in to a cinema for a feature film and walking out having seen 15 trailers. Not quite as satisfying, you’d agree.

The Toni & Guy Hair Meet Wardrobe shows featured five glamorous outfits each from Shehla Chatoor, Maheen Karim and Sadaf Malaterre. Maybelline also put up an impressive show with Sanam Chaudhri, Sara Shahid and Sania Maskatiya. But these shows elevated hair and makeup styles and designers were mere accessories. To establish ‘looks’ is just as integral to fashion week as setting fashion trends and kudos to hair and makeup brands for allowing these synergies. But no credit goes to designers who should have showcased full collections instead of settling for capsules. Can you even imagine Chanel, Christian Dior or Armani settling for five outfits for a sponsored show at New York Fashion Week? Unfathomable.img2

Sponsored shows serve brands and not fashion designers. Sponsors look good hosting hospitality lounges, and the Toni & Guy lounge was quite gorgeous. They look good on red carpets (L’Oreal’s Black Carpet is always glamorous) and green rooms/backstage. Sponsors need to be affiliates of fashion in order to promote it but they must never influence the creative process. Hair Meet Wardrobe is essentially a hair show so works in style building but when a telecommunication brand hands out mobile sets for models to carry on the catwalk (as seen previously at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week) that branding becomes distasteful. When it comes to corporate co-branding the line separating the permitted and prohibited is very thin. A strong council must set the rules.

Fortunately, Bank Alfalah sponsored a Graduate Show and gave one example of collaboration done constructively. To sponsor a show for several talented design students and then (through voting) award one of them a 500,000 rupee cash prize was indeed a great idea. The only flaw is that instead of announcing the winner at fashion week, he or she will be announced a week later, during some morning show, that probably no one fashionable will even watch. A moment of fashion week glory would’ve been much more desirable.

In a nutshell, FPW S/S 2014 was a mixed bag. The lineup was a vast improvement on the B-grade lineups that FPW has been showcasing in recent years but then the media/ buyer/designer PR and interaction was substandard at best. The red carpet and overall look of the event was snappy but then the lack of headline-grabbing elements like celebrity front-rowers, star appearances on the red carpet (that helps create a buzz) was amiss. While credit must be given to the new board for a breath of fresh air it brings in, it needs to be remembered that the board may be new but the council is not. One can discount the short-falls of this fashion week as long as the council continues taking steps forward without two steps back.

Photography by Tapu Javeri, Kashif Rashid (Tapulicious) and Nadir Toosy (backstage)

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