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In fashion: The way we ‘fashion week’

In fashion: The way we ‘fashion week’

The bridal power game

While its fashion standards may fluctuate, BCW is at the top of its game in many other ways. The event is extremely regular, invariably taking place twice every year, ricocheting between Lahore and Karachi. Also, since it’s owned by the channel itself, it invariably gets plenty of mileage.

It is a perpetual highlight on the network’s channels, taking up prime-time spots during Eid and weekends, reaching out within Pakistan as well as to a well-dispersed Urdu-speaking audience around the globe. Up till last year, when rival channel Urdu1 hadn’t taken over Hum’s position as media sponsor to the ‘other’ fashion weeks, some of this viewership time would also be allotted to Fashion Pakistan Week and the PFDC’s bi-annual events. Now, though, it’s just BCW all the way.

There’s even a special BCW publication that is released after every event, zoning in on outfits in detail. It’s quite popular amongst the general shaadi-bound masses and the copycat kaarigars in Karachi’s Kehkashan and Lahore’s Liberty Market consider it a must-have for their particular line of work.

The glossy, glittery cherry on top comes courtesy the hordes of celebrity showstoppers. Veritably the entire Pakistani acting fraternity works with Hum TV and they are ever willing to extend the friendly gesture of walking onto the catwalk in heavy-duty bridal regalia. However, does bona fide scintillating fashion require a perpetual stream of celebrities in order to make a splash? No, but then again, high fashion hardly ever features at BCW.

Instead, there’s a whole lot of razzle dazzle, a grandiose stage that looks great on TV, quite a bit of generic apparel and celebrities that are loved by the considerably large drama-watching populace. It’s one of the main reasons that has them hooked on to BCW, applauding their favourite stars as they pose in gilded golds, glitter, haphazard cuts and even ostentatious crowns and floral head-dresses. Fan-worship is blind, apparently — especially fashion-blind.

It’s no wonder then that BCW’s regular participant designers are unanimously enthusiastic about the business that is raked in by the event, happily paying the oft-heavy participation fees and earning them back in profits. There are, in fact, ateliers that have particularly expanded their clientele via BCW. Zainab Chottani is a designer who has consistently been part of BCW and has thereon grown from strength to strength. Tabassum Mughal and Islamabad’s Rani Emaan are other prime examples — maisons with critical acclaim but growing, thriving businesses.

“A fashion week is supposed to generate business and that is precisely what we manage to do, very successfully,” points out Hum Network’s CEO Duraid Qureshi.

It is this business potential that continues to attract some very illustrious designers to BCW’s lineup, alongside a spate of up-and-coming brands. The recent Spring/Summer contingent, for instance, featured Amir Adnan, Sonya Battla, Tena Durrani, Nickie Nina, Zainab Chottani, Asifa & Nabeel and Fahad Hussayn as highlights.

But did these designers present high fashion on the runway? This, sadly, is where the event often flails.

Business versus fashion

Emerging from some of fashion’s most promising brands were pastels with intricate silver handwork and beads, fashioned into front-open short shirts, flirty hems, draped and tulip shalwars, belted dupattas and the requisite farshi ghararas and shararas. Pretty, commercially viable, but seen on the catwalk about a trillion times before. Were these designers not interested in pushing boundaries at all?

The remaining milieu of up-and-coming designers fumbled with untidy finishings, slapdash gaudy embroideries and collections that lacked cohesion. Significantly, like their veteran peers, they tread conventional territory. At BCW, it seems, there isn’t much diversification between good and bad design. Designers apparently save their trendsetting statements for other fashion weeks, opting for commercial and run-of-the-mill designs for BCW’s mass-friendly waters.

“We spend a lot of time sifting through collections and selecting our participants,” professes Sultana Siddiqui, President of Hum Network Limited. “Our aim has always been to provide a platform for established designers as well as encourage newer ones who show potential.”

It’s an altruistic sentiment but could this entourage also be encouraged to up the ante? It is a fact that cutting-edge design doesn’t appeal to the mostly conventional bridal market. However, for the love of genuine fashion, could at least a smattering of designs stand out, if not the whole collection? And could the garish simply be eliminated? It doesn’t matter if they’re marketable — they just don’t reflect well on BCW.

The way we are

Nevertheless, there were highlights to BCW this time — and we’re not talking about actor Adnan Siddiqui breaking out into a catwalk jig! Sonya Battla debuted onto the BCW platform and taught it a thing or two about fashion-forward wedding wear. Simmered silhouettes, clean well-defined lines, well-conceived layering and intricately-crafted embroidery defined the collection, targeted more towards the individualistic bride rather than the bling aficionado.

At the other end of the spectrum, Amir Adnan delved into the glamorous side to wedding wear, pairing waistcoats with bright jamawar jackets and printed variations to the sherwani. Focusing on destination weddings, it was a synergy of traditional elements with modernity and the collection’s 17 star showstoppers were as big a hit as the clothes themselves.

“Destination weddings are glamorous gala events with people converging from all parts of the world and attire leaning towards the avant-garde,” explains the designer. “The celebrities in my show represented precisely the kind of people one would expect to meet at a destination wedding and they wore the clothes with a persona that had immediate impact.”

“It doesn’t matter what fashion week I am showing at,” continues Adnan. “I am, ultimately, representing my brand. With that in mind, I make sure that I present a well-thought-out collection which has something new to say. I don’t believe in merely dragging clothes out from my ready stock and parading them on to the catwalk.”

Other designers — and fashion councils — need to follow this principle urgently. Commercialism has been eroding away fashion-forward technique not just at BCW but also at recent editions of Fashion Pakistan Week and the PFDC’s fashion weeks. What’s the point of stepping into fashion week’s spotlight if you don’t have any new trends to set or at least a cohesive collection to put forward? True, it may bring in sales in the short run but only distinctive signatures last the long haul. That’s an important point to ponder upon.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 15th, 2016

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