What happens when two entrepreneurial minds from entirely different backgrounds get together? A one-of-its-kind collaboration with a purpose to preserve and further the indigenous craft of Pakistan.
Kashf Foundation, a specialised and women-focused microfinance institution, collaborated with master couturier Hassan Sheheryar Yasin of HSY to commemorate the institution’s 20 years of socially empowering over 1.7 million women in the country.
To celebrate Kashf’s two decades, HSY came up with a special 20-piece prêt collection that took him three months to complete. Each piece showcases the handiwork of a different client of the institution.
These 20 pieces were exhibited on Thursday at an event attended by MNA Marvi Memon as well as the who’s who of the corporate and fashion worlds, including Razzaq Dawood, Seema Aziz, Fakir Aijazuddin, Asim Zafar, Ali Zafar, Fahad Qadir, Yousuf Salahuddin, Salman Ghani, Aamna Taseer, Naseer Turabi, David Gilles, Faisal Ijaz Khan, Hajeebur Rehman, Najam Ahmed Shah, Tahira Syed and Vaneeza Ahmad.
Kashf ke naam se himmat ka safar jaari hai
Sinf-e-niswan ki maeeshat ka safar jaari hai
The mellifluous voices of Roshaneh Zafar and veteran singer Tahira Syed crooned this special song written by Wiqar Ali Khan and composed by Naseer Turabi for Kashf’s 20-year celebration as guests made their way inside the exhibition area. A documentary also played in the background highlighting some of Kashf’s remarkable work and its journey.
Talking about the collaboration with HSY, Kashf Foundation Founder and Managing Director Roshaneh Zafar said when they took the concept to the designer, he thought it was a wonderful idea to bring the women entrepreneurs to the fashion industry and interpret Kashf’s 20 years together.
“However, it was a lot of effort that each one of us put in: crafting the idea, putting it together, thinking of the way we would represent the journey where it means something, it was a risk that we took.”
Roshaneh said they didn’t want to celebrate this milestone with a run-of-the-mill charity event or conference. Instead, they wished for people to experience the foundation's journey.
“The idea was to do an exhibition, so we thought 'Okay, do we bring in 20 of our clients who'll talk about it? Then we thought even that’s not going to [raise the profile] of their work and celebrate it the way we wanted to. So that’s why when I shared the idea with HSY and he was game.”
20 mannequins displayed HSY’s creations bearing the delicate embroidery made by Kashf Foundation's clients with a little board besides each figure highlighting the events in a particular year the dress represented.
Ombre of Spring featured blending colours to represent a ripple-like effect of Kashf’s creation in 1996, while Diversifying Products used patchwork technique to evoke the sustained change in the lives of women in 2000. Another dress represented evolution in 2006 using modern design, style and fabric, and an off-white dress signified progress in 2011 using layers and textures to show change that the institution had to undergo.
Telling Kashf Foundation's story, one stitch at a time
“When we sat down with Kashf Foundation, we said let us really pick your brain and tell us the story of every year,” said the man behind the creations, Hassan Sheheryar.
"For instance, there's a small little outfit about a dhol. There was a time when Kashf Foundation was being shut down; everything had become completely closed down for them. I asked them how they brought it back. They said 'hum dhol lay ke aik aik village ke paas jatay thay aur dhol bajatay thay 'Kashf wapas aa gaya, Kashf wapas aa gaya'. Small things like that. There's an outfit, which has three layers of ocean underneath. All of these stories come from Roshaneh's mind and her journey. I as a designer have to interpret it."
Was it a task putting it all together? HSY aka Sheru said he had no idea what they wanted when Kashf initially approached them. It was after they sat down that they decided to celebrate each of Kashf’s years in business with a different type of embroidery.
"We believe the lace should be from France or digital cutting from NYC, but what about the crafts in Pakistan? Why not bring it to our clothes? If I have the ability to give them business, I should." - HSY
“They have so many different types of tankas but I said let’s work with those that are dying. When we got in touch with [the women workers] there was a notion even in myself that the work wouldn’t be able to happen fast enough or the quality quick enough or logistics wouldn’t be fast. This is where Kashf is incredible. They’re not just very good in setting up these businesses, but also the logistics between us and the client itself was so incredibly smooth that we found the production to be very fast.”
About the cuts, silhouettes and design of his creations, HSY said he wanted to do clothes that were not just right for the Pakistani woman, but could also be worn or translated in another part of the world.
“We believe the lace should be from France or digital cutting from NYC, but what about the crafts in Pakistan? Why not bring it to our clothes? And these women aren’t asking for money for a handout, they are asking money for business. And if I have the ability to give them business, I should. If I do it then perhaps other designers who would like to copy me could maybe copy this element of my business structure and give the women work because without our craft we're nothing.”
Roshaneh and HSY both told us they’ll be showcasing this entire collection at the upcoming PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week taking place in Lahore in about a week.
“For the first time, I’m showing two collections. Everyone’s asking why two? I’m showing my own collection, but I think this one needs to be shown too," shares HSY.
"This is the journey of each woman," he elaborates. "And if we can make some difference by showing these clothes then even if one person says it’s okay, I’ll be happy. We want to recreate this collection and take it out to the stores as well. This is just the beginning. It’s a big step.”