Now in its seventh year, PLBW has morphed into a gargantuan event that defines wedding trends for the season that starts almost right after. Here’s what we felt this about this year’s bridal extravaganza.
The seventh edition of PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week 2017 (PLBW) is over and if you have Instagram, chances are you already know the showcases that spanned over three starry nights in Lahore. Some of the most well-known wedding wear designers in the country showed their collections along with some newer entrants and in the wake of the past few days, we’ve had a couple of thoughts.
A short overview of the event would deem it successful. The shows started and ended reasonably on time, the guest list was streamlined, the crowd better controlled and it took place at a brand new, swanky location. It’s true, PFDC has worked hard for the business of fashion to prosper in Pakistan and is on a mission to constantly improve and innovate. This year they took their resolve a step further by changing the runway and the seating for the show. The elevated, dramatic catwalk of yore is no more and tiered white benches have replaced the generic, functional chairs that were used last year.
Now for the details. While the benches were not the most comfortable to sit on, they were more aesthetically pleasant and matched international show standards. The models walked out from two parallel rows which meant craning the neck on occasion but gave more people the chance to see the bridal ensembles up close – like they’re meant to be viewed. Had the camera work been better, this may have been an easier transition to make as one would be able to see the models on the screens. However, it takes time to adjust and maybe next time around they will not hopefully focus/zoom in (almost uncomfortably) on model’s faces instead of the clothes.
So much goes into creating a fashion show – lights, sound, audience, press, styling – and everything must serve the one purpose of making collections stand out. In that respect the lighting of the runway needs to be done in such a way that the clothes are the focal point instead of the audience. This was lacking at the show wherein the light fell on the models exactly as it was on audience members and consequently both were equally visible in the pictures/videos as well. Additionally, we’ve managed to achieve global standards with the ground level catwalk but it still needs improvement. The floor was left as it was, which meant that Nishat Banquet’s printed tiles were apparent which again, took away from the clothes on display. Fashion should be showed against a plain canvas to let it truly take center stage. We also found it odd that the background at the start of every showcase was a photo of trees – we wonder what that was about?
Many designers chose to play cello versions of hit songs for their showcases that at one point it all started sounding the same. What happened to getting songs customized for showcases? It’s a huge part of the experience. As for the crowd, although better controlled than preceding years, fashion week still looked like a family outing with your children, who are not the most fashionable demographic. There was local media, sponsors and their friends and the fashion fraternity but no foreign press or industry seminars. Fashion weeks are the best time to bring these people in to get a feel of the local fashion scene but their absence was conspicuous. There was a time when Hilary Alexander attended fashion week in Lahore.
Despite these small infrequencies, PLBW’17 got one thing right: the content. In previous years, we’ve sat through many showcases and wondered why they weren’t edited better. Why some collections even made it to the catwalk but this year it seemed like the council had taken note of that critique. There were no garish, see through, ill fitted clothing as there has been, on occasion, in the past. Some of the best brands showed over the course of the three days. There was an exciting comeback to the runway by Wasim Khan, who designed a collection for Reama Malick’s collection of bridal jewellery. Picture solids with classic gold jewelry – each model looked like royalty. Ali Xeeshan closed day one with his usual theatrics – thunder, flashes of lightening and decorated umbrellas followed by huge mural style paintings of the people who have impacted his career. High on drama, interspaced with some interesting fashion moments especially the cool long jackets on top of the lehngas. Mahgul showed a very intricately crafted collection that was a real charm to look at. Sania Maskatiya delved into bridals with her usual impeccable craftsmanship and Nomi Ansari played with colours like no other as per usual. One must laud him for sticking to his signature at a time when most others are detouring to pretty pastels. Sana Safinaz presented lovely western-style evening gowns and column dresses which were an extension of their grand FPW collection.
We also noticed an entire pool of striking international models walking the ramp. They were tall, lean and had great bodies but we also noticed that they were visibly uncomfortable in the heavy bridal ensembles. Designers were overheard complaining backstage about their lack of experience but also shared that importing international models is actually more feasible. They admitted that although our local models are much more experienced to model our genre of clothing, they charge a lot more and aren’t professional in discipline or behavior. On a side note, we think that models desperately need representation and proper management in this country. Modelling agencies exist but most models don’t sign up with them. A proper system needs to be in place so that more local models are used because we have no shortage of them.
The ‘black carpet’ at PLBW was much more exciting than previous years and it sparkled with star power and society; Lahoris are known to pull out all the stops when it comes to dressing up! Socialites, fashionistas, the fashion frat and well-heeled friends of designers all came out to The Nishat. The carpet mostly lacked celebrity appearances on day one and two but made up for that on day three. Over the course of the three days, a handful of celebrities posed for the shutterbugs outside while the rest walked as showstoppers.
Sana Javed, Ali Rehman, Aima Baig, Amna Ilyas, Mikael Zulfiqar, Maya Ali, Resham, Humaima Mallick Iman Ali (twice for two designers), Zeb Bangash, Ali Sethi, Urwa Hocane, Mawra Hocane, Sajal Aly, Ahad Raza Mir, and Fawad Khan (who walked out with Sadaf for a final bow) all made their appearance felt. Celebrity show stoppers were abundant at PLBW and while they might provide a moment of excitement and Instagram mileage, fashion week is about the clothes so one wonders whether so many show stoppers should be allowed to walk away with headlines. Good fashion shouldn’t need celebrity endorsement and if a designer really wants celebrities present at their show, they could dress them up and have them sit front row, like it’s done abroad. We’re beginning to feel it becomes more of a rat race for the most exciting showstopper than about the clothes themselves.
Speaking of celebrities, Mahira Khan also made an appearance but not for a designer. She was announced as the first Pakistani spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris Hair Care on day three, joining the ranks of Aishwariya Rai and Eva Langoria. She showed up during shows in a very fitting white power suit and spoke about how no one else’s opinion should define your worth because “including me and all the women out there, we’re all worth it!” Playing intelligently with the brands tagline, she made a great speech that also alluded to how she felt about the Ranbir Kapoor debacle that did its rounds on social media this month. That was a definite highlight of fashion week.
We must also give a nod to Nabila’s team for the hair and makeup. Although, they couldn’t experiment to the degree they might have liked to (given the bridal element), Ali Xeeshan’s showcase made it evident that even a bridal showcase could incorporate beauty trends if designers chose to push the envelope. Xeeshan, who is also currently L’Oreal Paris’ ‘Ambassador of Fashion’ had the ‘wet hair’ look on the models with ruby red lips created with diamantes. It was exciting to watch and made us realize that if designers play up beauty trends it would only make the show much more thrilling to watch. During wedding season, attendees can dabble with the beauty trends established if the bride wants to play it safe. L’Oreal also attempted to set three makeup trends as part of their #BeautyMeetsFashion platform with acclaimed makeup artist Saima Bagfrede – metallic lids, two tone lips and the nude look.
One does wonder about the reason behind holding a bridal showcase this late into the year. We are almost done with October and wedding season is in full swing. December brides have placed their wedding wear and trousseau orders by now so PLBW comes pretty late in the year. Fashion Pakistan Council’s Winter/Festive showcase last month still came at a time when orders could be taken by designers. While everything else seems to be moving in the right direction, we ask the council that to propel the business of fashion, shouldn’t they also reevaluate when the showcase takes place?
– Photography by Faisal Farooqui @ Dragonfly