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In fashion: More hits, less misses

In fashion: More hits, less misses

There were quite a few spurts of brilliant creativity at the recent PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW) Spring/Summer 2016 held in Lahore. There is, of course, the unmistakable advantage that this fashion week is dedicated solely to prêt rather than bridal, that dubious side to fashion where bling rules while creativity quietly tiptoes into the shadows. But there was so much more to PSFW that upped the ante.

The designer lineup, as always, was illustrious and Nabila’s N-Pro team worked breakneck backstage, creating myriad trendsetting looks for the catwalk. The second day of the four-day event particularly swept in a whirlwind of fashion highs, barring one glaringly bad collection. Then again, in a lineup comprising 18 ateliers, eight high street brands, four debutantes and the somewhat unfortunate inclusion of six voile shows, there are bound to be hits and misses. In its ninth edition now, one expects PSFW to deliver less misses and more hits. This was something that the event could have claimed to do, had it not been for its fourth and final day.

And then there was the sad state of the red carpet, low on celebrity quotient but high on a jostling, creepy milieu of oglers. ‘Let the business of fashion begin!’ the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) declared, in its introductory speech every day; but for fashion to be considered a business — and not an excuse for seedy men to leer at the catwalk from various vantage points — the guest list seriously needs to be controlled. The unnecessarily huge catwalk that made the viewing of clothes difficult was another glitch.

But we’ll brood upon these lows later for there was also some truly great fashion that took center stage. 

The hit list

After three years, Feeha Jamshed made a rockstar fashion week comeback with Bob Squad. Psychedelic ‘bobs’ and floral prints cheekily traipsed the balancing act between edgy and wearable; there were dashes of sequins, straight lines curling into waves and models styled uniformly with short bobs, headbands and black sunglasses. This was quintessential Feeha; youthful, energetic, setting trends of her own rather than following them.

On a completely different design spectrum but just as avant-garde was the House of Kamiar Rokni’s showcase. Originally designed for the Fashion DNA contingent at London Fashion Week, the line was tweaked and trickled out at PSFW, featuring a mix of organza, jamawar and karandi married with bright indigenous handicraft. Playing with hems, silhouettes and varied colour ranges, the collection was standout prêt, ticking all the right boxes.

Maheen Kardar Ali’s ode to disco was yet another winner, brandishing bling with unabashed panache. Glitter-emblazoned shoulders ran in vertical stripes and formed chequered patterns in a fun, uber-cool collection.

Also notable was the debut show by Mahgul, the fledgling brand that has grown from strength to strength with a knack for sartorial artistry. With The Indus Society, the runway was dominated by fierce animal prints, some very chic silhouettes and accessories that have all the makings of becoming wild hits. There was an embroidered bomber with leather accents, gladiator kolhapuris with a snakeskin effect, embroidered khussas and even embroidered aviators. Leather totes were emblazoned with bar codes that when scanned actually read ‘Mahgul Oro’. Now that’s called attention to detail!

There was much more that was visually stirring. Sublime by Sara Shahid stayed true to her minimalistic ethos with Exhale, presenting an on-trend colour palette of pastels and subtle, easy breezy summer designs. HSY’s collaboration with Kashf Foundation exemplified the designer’s prowess in creating for the high street, mixing earthy tones with hand-crafted embroideries. Sania Maskatiya’s Decorer featured zig-zagging hems, well-structured silhouettes and a mix-and-match of solid colours and print.  

It was great to see Khaadi Khaas back on the ramp. The brand’s collaboration with Swarovski brought in oodles of glitter and candy-coloured statements although one missed the chic vibe that has been part of its earlier fashion week outings. Nomi Ansari’s Joyride was an impeccably finished, wacky colourful maze of smiling emojis, bugs, flora, fauna and even skulls! Although it was an ebullient, tongue-in-cheek lineup, perhaps Nomi should now try drifting into different colour ranges. Colour is his comfort zone and he is exceptionally good at wielding it, but seeing a different side to his ethos would be interesting.

Zonia Anwaar’s Ukrainian inspirations were impressive, pairing wearable silhouettes with some very pretty colours over a white backdrop. Ali Xeeshan infused monochrome with pops of lime green and metal detailings in a line that was heavy on theatrics but will probably not make much retail sense. Sana Safinaz delved into sporty luxe and fluctuated between fashion highs and lows. If anything, their predominantly white backdrop with floral prints and embroideries was very pretty and is bound to be a winner when translated into conventional tunics at the designers’ high street store. Similarly, Muse stayed true to its glittery, modern aesthetic yet floundered every now and then with ill-fitted silhouettes. Deepak Perwani’s politically cheeky ‘Fix it’ print was ingenious and the designer certainly knows how to cut a gown. Having said that, certain prints in his collection brought in a sense of déjà vu.

Editing, where art thou?

The flipside to PSFW’s high-fashion moments were a range of collections that had crowds cringing, dozing or making caustic comments on social media’s ever-available platform. For instance, one understands that lawn, with its mass appeal, deserves attention but how could the council allow a range of bawdy, unpalatable designs on to its catwalk? Were the collections edited at all? Lawn does form the more uninteresting side to PSFW’s spectrum but it is, nevertheless, a part of fashion week and needs to uphold a certain standard. Amongst the lawn lineups, only Al-Karam presented a reasonably well-conceived collection.

Similarly, the high street brand shows were lackluster and even some of the PFDC’s stalwart ateliers churned out collections that were mundane or worse, downright gaudy. A well-known designer even put out a very unoriginal collection, far too similar to the work of another local design house. Is favoritism or the allure of participation fees allowing the council to become complacent? Surely, it has worked for too hard and for far too long to allow this to happen.

Business talk

On the upside, PSFW is well on its way to nailing the all-important purpose of furthering the business of fashion. ‘What you see is what you get’ has become a significant catchphrase in the international arena, with social media quickly broadcasting entire collections to the world and maisons adroitly trying to cash in on the buzz as soon as possible. The prospect of showcasing a collection and then taking six months to replicate it for retail is quickly becoming redundant, and it is heartening to see that the nascent local fashion fraternity is rising to the challenge.

Atypically, Deepak Perwani’s D-Philosophy was already under production when the designer showcased the collection and is set to be available for retail within two weeks post-fashion week.

Similarly, orders for catwalk pieces have already been taken by the very business-savvy Sania Maskatiya atelier while market-friendly versions of their collection will begin filtering into their stores within two more weeks. Feeha Jamshed plans to bring her collection to her store bit by bit, with two or three designs being stocked every month. Mahgul, meanwhile, has chalked out trunk shows where they will be taking orders as well as selling off-the-rack pieces.

One also saw some very promising collaborations: Zohra Rehman’s jewellery in Mahgul’s show was absolute statement-wear; Borjan, the shoe partner for PSFW, supplied a varied range of contemporary footwear that was often the sole redemption in a show where the fashion was bad. One saw Andrew Mojica, Swarovski’s Managing Director in the Middle East, smiling happily from his front row seat during Khaadi Khaas’ crystal-encrusted showcase. “This is how relationships are established,” he said after the show.

One can certainly hope so. For the longest time, collaborations and projects used to begin to happen, only to wane shortly afterwards. Things finally seem to be changing. Fashion’s not just a ‘party’ anymore — although images from some of the fashion week after-parties beg to differ — it’s yielding profits and providing a considerable amount of employment. A platform like PSFW is imperative, where trends are set — you can count on spotting a lot of sporty fashion and sneakers in the coming months — and great work is highlighted. Now, if only the not-so-great work was stringently edited, PSFW would be grooving to an unstoppable, infectious beat.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, March 20th, 2016

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