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An open letter to fashion designers

The fashion industry has come a long, long way but there are miles to go before you can rest.

An open letter to fashion designers
Zara Shahjahan was one of the few designers at PSFW who got the whole look right; it was cohesively relaxed and summery, from the easy silhouettes, the brass bangles, the leather sling bags (and when will they be available, we’d like to know?) and the footwear which was consistently leather khussas or kohlapuris.


Deepak Perwani made a much needed comment on the recent streak of social activism in Karachi, where the words FIX IT were stenciled across town, addressing government authorities to ‘fix it’. Fashion needs more political commentary.

Deepak Perwani made a much needed comment on the recent streak of social activism in Karachi, where the words FIX IT were stenciled across town, addressing government authorities to ‘fix it’. Fashion needs more political commentary.

It’s April 3.

Today is a couple of weeks after the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW) concluded in Lahore and about four days before Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) is scheduled to kick off in Karachi. Together, both these fashion weeks stand for the two credible, fashion forward platforms in the country. Other fashion weeks have emerged all over but they – and I don’t say this enough – do not serve fashion.

Between the PSFW and the FPW, over 30 credible and mostly talented designers will cement their space in the industry; they will remain relevant in the designs they suggest, the innovations they ideate and the trends they set. They will make the essential trip from runway to retail (most of them have standalone stores not just retail presence) and conclusively, they will help build the fashion industry into a veritable trade platform that provides jobs and income to hundreds if not thousands of people.

While all is hunky dory, there are a few issues that designers can and should try looking into and fixing before it’s too late.


Dear Designers,

1 No one is perfect except for God, least of all designers. Then why, oh why, can you not accept that your collections can be anything short of stunning, spectacular and perfect? Kindly start taking constructive criticism constructively. A little dignity and good will won’t hurt. You have all become so used to self-promotion and collective gushes on social media (most of which you have paid for yourself) that you are unable to digest the slightest word of criticism, no matter how helpful it may be. You need to change that because it’s very distasteful to hear of your rants against ‘so and so journalist’ whose credibility depends on whether or not he/she liked your collection. Believe me when I say that the word always gets around.

2 Don’t plagiarize; it doesn’t do much for your credibility. Rest assure that Instagrammers and bloggers will hunt you down and take pride in managing to find the source of every inspired/copied/plagiarized print or design out there. If your outfit looks like anything anyone in the world has innovated then there’s a good chance someone will post it and pull the rug from under your feet. Why take the risk, especially since there are apps to scan an image and identify the source?

3 Try putting fashion in context. This is a serious request because not many of you will even understand what it means. Fashion is supposed to be a garment beyond its utilitarian use. Pretty clothes will always sell but how many of you actually think of identity when you design? Fashion is supposed to be political, anthropological. It is supposed to be a sartorial reflection of the times we live in. So then why are none of you designing with our current state of identity crisis, global warming, deforestation or political chaos in mind? Why does fashion just translate to sellable clothes to most of you? Where are the statements, the signatures and the social commentary that makes fashion relevant in the larger scheme of things? Everyone wants to make money (and most of you are doing a great job at that) but a superior designer is one who will not compromise his personal aesthetic and ethos for the one line: “this is what sells.” It is your job to design and influence women to buy into your vision, not vice versa.

4 Pay attention to details, and I direct this at designers who will be showcasing at the upcoming Fashion Pakistan Week; it is something I (and the entire front row) noticed at PSFW. It’s time designers started taking notice of the entire look they are suggesting and not just the clothes. Jewellery collaborations are an instrumental part of most fashion week collections these days and many designers are also creating accessories to complement their clothes but shoes are undeniably the most neglected aspect. We notice when a designer makes the extra effort of acquiring the right footwear. And we notice when we see a variety of ugly platforms, block heels, wedge heels, flats etc on the catwalk. There must be synergy in looks. There was a time when designers couldn’t grasp the meaning of a ‘collection’ but now that that cohesion has been established, it’s time to walk the extra mile and get the whole look right.

The author is Editor, Instep. She blogs at www.somethinghaute.com and can be followed on Twitter @aamnaisani


One comment

  • What in the world has happened to dress designers for moderately-priced consumers? I have spent the morning searching for summer cotton dresses without success. Too many dresses have no side seam pockets; the drip down side & back design is just plain ugly! Dresses that have the “just-under-the-knee” length are far more desirable that dresses that must be tugged at constantly while sitting. I wonder who the designer has in mind when fashioning these horrors. I have old summer dresses in good order that I wear – summer-after-summer because I am unable to find dresses that are suitable for my feminine taste.

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