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STYLE: The Keys to Bridal Couture Week’s Success … and Failure

STYLE: The Keys to Bridal Couture Week’s Success … and Failure

If fashion is a creative expression of art then bridal fashion is its most extravagant form. It’s also the most lucrative which is why, ironically, wedding-wear is often not real fashion. The allusions to artistry simply get replaced by commercial concerns. The Hum Network’s Bridal Couture Week (BCW) omnibus, then, is an exhibition space facilitating the commerce of local bridal-wear. Herein lies the key to BCW’s success as well as its failing.

BCW  is now in its 14th edition — mouthfully titled QMobile Hum Bridal Couture Week (QHBCW) this time around — and no one can deny its prowess as a very successful exhibit space. Designers swear by the business they get from the mileage generated by the event. The network stays fixatedly true to its calendar, staging BCW twice a year — once, in the Spring/Summer and then, again, in Autumn/Winter. The show is then broadcast constantly, touted as a ‘special,’ viewed by a large wedding-bound audience within Pakistan as well as abroad, wherever the network is aired.

Further hyping the event is the presence of umpteen celebrity showstoppers. Many of them are actors that are being seen in the Hum Network’s ongoing slew of TV dramas and considering the avid fan followings these enjoy, BCW easily ends up ‘trending’ on social media. A bi-annual BCW catalogue is also released on to bookstands. Marketing can’t get more persuasive than that.

Where’s the fashion?

But what is BCW marketing? Is it fashion or is it just commercially viable wedding-wear? Is it presenting new trends or just rustling up a mixed chutney of silhouettes, colours and technique that one has seen a gazillion times before? Most of the time, the latter case tends to ring true.

The designers showcasing in the event invariably feature a smattering of young labels along with some veterans and almost all of them are fixated with showing clothes that will sell well. With this aim in mind, they generally don’t try too hard to set new trends. They’ll rustle out baggy, long trailing shirts that may be uninspiring but enamour women who want to hide their waistlines.

They’ll create untidy versions of peplum hemlines because top ateliers  introduced them three odd years ago and they’re continuing to sell well. The beads, the cutwork, the sequins and the hackneyed pastel colour ranges have all been seen umpteen times before but as long as the audience still wants to buy it, the designers will keep on showcasing them.

And there’s nothing wrong about this. It’s business, after all. But, from the viewpoint of a purist, it isn’t fashion.

The bridal conundrum

Then again, one may argue that bridal-wear in Pakistan can’t generally be too experimental. Even the country’s most illustrious design houses have a predilection for classic silhouettes that their clientele appreciates. Some improvisations may be made with the colour palette or embellishments or a unique theme may define the collection. In general, though, bridals are inclined towards being beautiful rather than avant-garde. For brides, when they pay an arm and a leg for their wedding-wear, generally prefer to cash in on the expenditure with an outfit that is timeless enough to be reused over the years. Beauty is prioritized while cutting-edge glamour is relegated to the more affordable realms of prêt.

Keeping this in mind, one doesn’t necessarily expect out-of-the-box statements at a fashion event dedicated to bridal wear. There still needs to be some element of design that stands out. In the recent past, Elan has moulded intricate craft in jewel-toned colours on to diverse, modern silhouettes. Shehla Chatoor has a way of fusing traditional Eastern handwork with edgy cutwork, belts and leather lattice-work. Ali Xeeshan may have a penchant for nautanki but his designs with their loud colours, overlapping patchwork, block prints and beadwork have an identity of their own. Faraz Manan has a taste for sophistication and the House of Kamiar Rokni is remarkable at creating traditional classic design.

At the recent QHBCW, certain designers did manage to make an effort. HSY’s ‘1909’ explored a range of colours, textures and was very heavily-worked. Amir Adnan’s menswear was characteristically well-cut, accompanied by traditional wedding-wear created by wife Huma Adnan. Yasmin Zaman played ebulliently with sorbet colours. Fahad Hussayn’s Dara Shikoh Aur Sunehri Churail had regal, fantastical elements with layered, extremely embellished design and occasional spurts of multicolours. Newbie Annus Abrar’s chata-pati and gota-work was lovely. Sonya Battla’s capsule collection for the finale was quintessentially minimal and subtle in its impact.

These collections were the occasional saving graces of QHBCW although they still had definite commercial aspects. Had these designers been showing at some other event, perhaps they would have added in a few edgy trousseau options. It is high time that designers extend the same effort towards their BCW collections.

After all, they are paying hefty participation fees and it wouldn’t hurt to make at least some elements in their line-ups stand out. BCW organisers need to take note — they have now established themselves as a strong business platform but with 14 editions completed, they need to make an effort towards quality control.

Why single out BCW, though? Fashion events, overall, currently seem to be suffering from an obsession with making money. Mediocrity prevails not just at BCW but at many other so-called trend-setting fashion shows across the country. Generic design prevails and original, bona fide fashion is hard to find.

One had to search for it at the 14th QHBCW; one searches for it, in general, in the local fashion scene.

Published in Dawn, ICON, April 9th, 2017

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