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In fashion: Five reasons to celebrate Pakistani fashion (in Dubai)

In fashion: Five reasons to celebrate Pakistani fashion (in Dubai)

It doesn’t get any better than this —11 countries, 40 regional and international designers from the South Asian and the Middle East region and an event hosted by a distinguished brand with a glittering history going back 120 years. The diverse group of designers was commissioned by Swarovski Professional to incorporate crystals into their design element in four categories; namely bridal wear, ethnic wear, evening wear and modest wear as well as statement jewellery and accessory pieces. It was all played out at the Madinat Arena Ballroom with a fashion installation featuring innovative techniques of display and lighting to further accentuate the cuts and structure.

While the Dubai exhibition remains a far cry from similar attempts in Pakistan and no parallels can be drawn between both, Pakistan did manage to stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the competition in terms of sheer ingenuity in design, detailing and craftsmanship. It was one of the far-in between moments when Pakistanis could stand tall with their heads held high while soaking up adulation and accolades for a job well done.

Here, Images on Sunday takes cue from the designers who did us proud as a nation — Maria B, Elan by Khadija Shah, Tena Durrani, Faraz Manan and Fahad Hussayn and Saira Shakira — and analyses five reasons why Pakistan perseveres when it comes to the fashion design industry.

Pakistani designers rule

There can be no doubt about it: the evolution of design and the fine-tuned aesthetics of our fashion designers has always enabled Pakistan to put its best foot forward whenever it has stepped into the international arena. On home turf many moons ago, celebrated couturier Rizwan Beyg did his countrymen proud by presenting a collection made entirely of the understated newar at the Carnivale de Couture; just as Sana Safinaz stole the show from right under the very noses of the visiting Indian counterparts with the label’s hallmark understated elegance and finesse.

Pakistan boasts of some of the region’s leading names in couture and it accounts for easy pickings when a renowned international brand comes shopping to celebrate 120 years with the likes of a Sparkling Couture exhibition in Dubai. We Pakistanis have the best on offer and likewise offer the best.

A vibrant, booming fashion industry

With two fashion weeks every year that feature prêt collections and the same number of bridal fashion weeks in a given year — besides the odd fashion shows and designer flagship store launches — Pakistan’s fashion calendar remains chock-a-block the whole year round.

Add to it the Lux Style Awards that primarily celebrate fashion and award designers and it all adds up to a vibrant, booming fashion economy that surpasses the lethargic Pakistan economy any day. At a time when the country had to look inwards to set its house in order after repeated terrorist threats and attacks while the country’s image in the international media suffered due to accusations of ‘exporting’ terrorism, Pakistani designers were taking baby steps and making their way to international catwalks to gain accolades not only for themselves but also project a positive, softer image of Pakistan as its ‘style ambassadors’. Case in point: Maheen Khan, Rizwan Beyg and Deepak Perwani at Milan Fashion Week 2010.

A heritage of superior craftsmanship

The finesses of intricate, classic taankas and assorted embellishments as well as the widespread movement of revivalism in fashion has resurrected the fading or forgotten trends in embroidery as well as the reemergence of age-old crafts.

The centuries-old techniques handed down from generation to generation of master craftsmen has found a home thanks to traditionalist designers such as Bunto Kazmi, Faiza Samee, Nilofer Shahid, Shamaeel Ansari and many others who fuse it with modern, contemporary trends to showcase something new and truly exciting. What you get at the end of it all is an amalgamation of old-world charm with modern-day sensibilities in designer pieces that reflect shades of past glory yet are modern and practical in their approach to fashion design aesthetics.

The bling effect

It’s official! Nobody does it better than the Pakistanis in this particular genre of ornamentation and adornment, a craft honed to perfection over decades and centuries. Metallic embellishments give any traditional jora its razzle dazzle and sparkle, making it shine like stars in the night sky.

Dabka, salma, zari, gota, cut dana, sequins, pearls, glass beads and semi-precious stones in the right hands are the raw materials that give form to an elaborate tapestry through sheer innovation in art form. It is by creating everlasting bonds of silver and gold that the vintage ganga jamini effect was created by the old guard of craftsmen, or the everlasting regal paisley motif that is symbolic of the beauty, grandeur and superlative design element gifted by the Mughal rulers to the subcontinent.

A tale of two cities

Lahore and Karachi — the two fashion capitals of Pakistan, each with a very different and distinct approach to fashion design and a rivalry that transcends everything in between. But the competition has also given rise to excellence in design and as each fashion hub aspires to create something unique and spectacular in its attempt to outdo the other, great fashion is born.

This rivalry permeates everything including the fashion boundaries erected by both the fashion councils; the Lahore-based Pakistan Fashion Design Council and the one in Karachi called Fashion Pakistan. The beneficiaries are the designers who are allotted slots at fashion weeks and gain multiple platforms from where to showcase their designs as well as the deserving and talented fashion school students and graduates of both PIFD and AIFD who are awarded cash prizes and bonuses to kick-start their business with corporate mergers.

No surprises then that in light of such a vibrant, fashion-friendly environment, Pakistani designers supersede expectations and shine out in the international arena whenever the opportunity arises — as they did at the Swarovski Sparkling Couture exhibition in Dubai. In fact, it’s the start of something truly exciting and marvelous as a collaboration between Swarovski and Khaadi is already underway. What comes next is anybody’s guess.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 15th, 2015

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