From making successful forays in the international market to expanding its retail presence in the country, the fashion industry has given Pakistan a lot to be proud of in the year 2014.
For starters, this is the year that the two fashion councils in the country, the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) and Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW), came into their own and established a stable routine of holding their bi-annual showcases. Timing issues and lack of buyers aside, both councils organized two fashion weeks each that brought the best of Pakistani pret and couture to the runway. Designers such as Sana Safinaz, Shamaeel Ansari, Misha Lakhani, Mohsin Ali, Shehla Chatoor and Sanam Chaudhri, to name a few, took out collections that proved how fashion-forward and contemporary local designers could be.
Perhaps by virtue of this very quality, four designers made their debut at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai this August. Rizwan Beyg, Faiza Samee, Sania Maskatiya and Zara Shahjehan were invited to show their collections at the prestigious platform – a feat worth celebrating because while LFW is one of India’s two most prominent fashion weeks, it has historically shied away from showcasing Pakistani talent. The designers received a warm response and a few weeks later, Sonam Kapoor was shot for the cover of an Indian glossy wearing a piece from Sania’s LFW collection. That’s some endorsement, wouldn’t you say?
Sania Maskatiya, the young designer, who’s gone from strength to strength lately, added another achievement to her list this year – she was shortlisted for the International Woolmark Prize for 2014/2015 from this region, along with Khaadi and Republic by Omar Farooq. As one of international fashion’s most coveted accolades (Karl Lagerfield and Yves Saint Laurent were the winners of the very first award in 1954), the Woolmark Prize has a rigorous selection criteria for nominees and the fact that three Pakistani designers made the cut is a triumph for the local fashion industry.
From Amal Alamuddin’s Inaaya durri necklace to British Vogue featuring FnkAsia earrings on its blog, there were numerous other instances throughout the year where local fashion was feted globally. Khaadi cemented its position as the most recognizable Pakistani brand abroad by opening another shop in the UK after the two it set up in London last year. The Khaadi outlet in Birmingham is the first step in Shamoon Sultan’s ambitious plan to conquer the UK market in the next few years with as many as 20 new stores. With Khaadi stores in the Middle East and Malaysia and its Pakistani outlets getting bigger and better, the brand has proven itself to be a powerhouse of success and innovation.
Speaking of innovation, this is the year that local textile mills embraced designer intervention like never before. With Khadija Shah of Elan joining Sapphire as Creative Director and launching its ready-to-wear line, it seems like the textile industry finally decided to move away from its temporary associations with big names and formalize the integration. That’s great news for the mass market, which can now hope to get its hands on quality fashion at an affordable cost. Al-Karam has brought on board Sania Maskatiya till 2016 and if such collaborations continue, they have the potential to change the face of retail in the country.