Fashion Pakistan Week introduces a unique ‘Winter/Festive’ flavour to the season but served between commercial collections and bad branding, it suffered from some style setbacks that could easily have been avoided.
Unlike the western world, Pakistan has two unique fashion seasons: summer and wedding. And so to label this season’s Fashion Pakistan Week ‘Winter/Festive’ was not a bad idea at all. Winter in Pakistan is all about festivities, whether it’s weddings, parties or the overall celebratory air of family reunions in the holiday season and that’s the cue designers were given for their collections. Whether wedding wear, trousseau, party or simply winter wear, what they interpreted as Winter/Festive was their personal choice.
Shehla Chatoor chose to show her very first bridal collection at a fashion week and it was stunning; Nilofer Shahid made a Fashion Pakistan Week debut by paying homage to Rembrandt and hers was the kind of couture showcase that has been relegated to glory past. Sana Safinaz and Elan both pulled out their modern aesthetic and sent out wild, botanical jungle fever in predominantly western silhouettes. Maheen Karim stuck to her signature western party wear that is best suited to Arab-meets-Ibisa. And Umar Sayeed and Faraz Manan exhibited what they do best: beautiful, immaculate wedding wear.
There were a few quirks here and there: Wardha Saleem’s Zar Gul teased convention and her youthful take on festive wear was refreshing. Zaheer Abbas offered sparks of ingenuity in his Baad e Naubahaar collection. The rich, dark palette was striking and the silhouettes he offered, diverse. There’s no denying the precision of his creations. And then there was the eponymous Delphi, an interesting niche brand (they make crocheted clothing), let down somewhat by an unpleasant colour palette. The best surprise of the event was menswear designer Nauman Arfeen’s departure from heavy and cumbersome festive wear to a lightweight and rustic look for men. The variety of crisp white lowers he displayed was definitely something that should pick up as a trend.
As if on ‘bridalwear’ cue, there were far too many commercially driven collections that appeared better suited to Hum TV’s Bridal Couture Week rather than a fashion-led, supposedly fashion forward event. Ayesha Farooq Hashwani, Tena Durrani, Nida Azwer, FnkAsia, Deepak Perwani and Zainab Chottani all played it too safe. One had high expectations from Tena Durrani after her successful Swarovski outing but the collection she sent out lacked innovation and played to the masses. Deepak Perwani, who’s mastered the art of party wear, also coloured within the lines.
The Hair Fashion Scout showcase, heralded by Saeeda Mandviwalla, was essentially what one needed to see more of. Sania Masktaiya literally stunned with her sharp, monotone capsule and it made one wonder: FPW has the distinction of being the only fashion week in the country that features winter wear; why did most designers chose to walk down the aisle instead of putting out some solid, winter collections like this one? The other designer in the HFS was Maheen Khan, who started with her signature solids but then allowed an overdose of colour and print to get the better of her collection.
Essentially, the lineup was stellar and despite several big (and usually creatively reliable) names being a let-down, the accumulative content was strong. Ideally Fashion Week isn’t about anything but the content and collections, but when strong ingredients go into a shallow pot it does effect the quality of broth. And there were three distinct elements that let this style soup down.
Branding: It initially did seem like a cool idea to have branded flooring replace the conventional red carpet but it turned out to be an eventual eye sore. The ‘red carpet’ backdrop was so busy that it completely over whelmed anything anyone was wearing. The result was a massive compromise on the first look of the event. The runway branding was even worse. A gigantic Urdu One written above the event title (on Day 1, though it was modified on Day 2) made it read like Urdu One Fashion Week and again, it jeopardized the oomph of all visuals. I do think sponsors need to take note and realize that blatant branding is considered quite tacky and very last century. Look at all the title sponsors of world fashion weeks; they are hardly visible on the runway, if at all. This sledgehammer approach needs to go.
Looks and styles: You’d think that Saba Ansari and her creative team would ace ‘shaadi makeup’ as making up brides is her forte. Unfortunately, the ground reality was far from it. Simply put, the hair and makeup at FPW was a big let down and the biggest proof of that is Rabia Butt. It’s very difficult to make this gorgeous, dewy skinned model look bad but even she looked positively grey on the runway. And there was none of the attention to detail that we’ve become accustomed to with Nabila at the helm of styling the shows. Unkempt hands and feet, mediocre body makeup (or lack of it), bobby pins on display and flyaway hair…the list is quite long. Hair and makeup – the look – is such a big part of any fashion week and that’s what FPW missed out on this season. If the council wants to work with everyone, which is the reason they gave for switching teams, then they should look at all options: Depilex, Raana Khan, Rukaiya Adamjee and even Natasha Khalid, who’s going very strong these days.
The models: It has become impossible to find the tall, statuesque models that once existed but to see this gradual degeneration of standards is painful. One has sat through show after show and one fashion week after the other for years to observe what has changed. For one, the purposeful model walk, formerly known as a ‘catwalk’ no longer exists; models stroll in as if they’re strolling through their drawing rooms. Secondly, the sharp attitude – formerly associated with a fashion model – is gone. To see fashion models smiling and ‘connecting’ with the audience is more of an ‘award-show acceptance moment’ than a fashion moment. What’s happened is that most models can now be found on television; acting is their second profession. So when they walk, they tend to turn to character or celebrity mode. What’s needed is an expressionless clothes-horse that allows the audience to connect with the clothes, not the model herself. Finally, one could write a thesis on their choice of footwear (toe-hangovers are not attractive) but that may be taking it too far.
Then you think of it, these are minor flaws and nothing that can’t be easily fixed. What’s important is for Fashion Pakistan Council to continue with this momentum, keep the standards high and most importantly, to be consistent. To polish the event a bit more would just lend it the oomph that it merits.
Turn to the back page for our Fashion Week hotsteppers/celebrity showstoppers that turned the heat up at Fashion Pakistan Week W/F 2015