Models present creations by designer Natasha Kamal during Pakistan Fashion Week in Karachi.─AP
Models present creations by designer Natasha Kamal during Pakistan Fashion Week in Karachi.─AP

There’s outstanding fashion, abysmally bad fashion and then, retail friendly design that is mostly mundane. It was this last category that prevailed for most of the third day of Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW).

Most designers insisted on sticking to their comfort zones which belies the whole point of showing at fashion week. If you don’t have any new statements to make, why show at all? Despite celebrity showstoppers galore, there were very few truly scintillating moments.

Why are so many designers losing their verve, one wonders. Has the spirit to create outstanding design been subdued by the consistent flattery that prevails on social media, regardless of merit? It might be the case. Social media reviewers have happily declared each and every collection to be ‘outstanding’, ‘gorgeous’ and ‘stunning’.

We beg to differ.

Sonya Battla

The opening was strong enough – Sonya Battla collaborated with textile and visual art students from Karachi University to create the very experimental ‘Identity’.

The all-white collection was a work in artistry, exemplifying the designer’s proficiency with structure and her commitment to original, creative design. There were multi-tiered dresses, layers of triangular cut-outs, capes fashioned from cut-work, necklines jutting out at three-dimensional angles, wires and webs winding about and hemlines that rose and fell at stiff inclines. It was a collection laden with meaning; for instance, the bubble wrap used alongside leather flowers symbolized the over-usage of plastic and how waste is just discarded. The inclusion of barbed wire depicted thorny insides to beautiful exteriors and an outfit, ostentatiously created with huge thread balls, showed how individuals get overpowered.

Challenging yet fun to execute our line IDENTITY showcased at FPW today.

A photo posted by Sonya Battla (@sonyabattla) on

There wasn’t much in the collection that was instantly wearable but this was Sonya’s intention. She did successfully craft catwalk drama and her efforts were aided by the adroit N-Pro team, styling the models with stark white wigs and bold theatrical make-up.

Director Asad Ul Haq played the showstopping necromancer, hinting at the local pir culture with his staff and steaming pot.

The challenge is for Sonya to now to translate her designs to the less flamboyant realms of luxury-pret for her store in Karachi. It’s a line-up we’ll certainly be watching out for!

Generation

In contrast, designer Khadija Rahman’s first collection for Generation was chic wearable design that you just wanted to buy there and then, right off the catwalk. ‘A dot that went for a walk’ had a frivolous beat of its very own, with myriad versions of the shalwar, reinvented takes on tunics, long, loose fringes that criss-crossed in some very unique ways and the occasional twinkle of gota-work. Long diaphanous kameezes flowed over brightly hued pants or blouses while shorter form-fitted tunics were paired with billowy lowers.

If this is going to be Generation’s fashion-forward new vibe then it’s going to up the ante for the local high-street. A fabulous debut!

And then fashion’s high note began dwindling to a low, monotonous beat.

Al-Karam

Al-Karam’s show can be appreciated for presenting wearable clothes in some complimentary color palettes. It was a relief that they did not attempt fashioning their fabric into over-designed silhouettes that would make no sense either on or off the catwalk. The collection of shalwars, cigarette pants, tunics, kaftans and even a jumpsuit or two was very well-tailored. Some on-trend accessorizing was also at play: a casual belt cinching a loose tunic and color-coordinated clutches.

Actress Syra Shahroz as showstopper looked extremely pretty. She only recently made Al-Karam’s lawn stand out on billboards. She did as much for their fashion week line-up.

#Repost @secretclosetpk with @repostapp. ・・・ #sairashahroz owns the ramp for #alkaramstudio #FPW16✨👗#AlKaram

A video posted by alkaram studio (@alkaramstudio) on

The amazing @sairoz as the showstopper for #alkaramstudio #alkaram at #FPW16 #digitallawn #happeningtoday

A photo posted by alkaram studio (@alkaramstudio) on

Nevertheless, the design ethos was one that we have seen many times before. Al-Karam has strong market-centric aesthetics that now need to inch towards the cutting-edge. Only then will it manage to make the cut at fashion weeks.

Natasha Kamal

Lahore-based Natasha Kamal had plenty of friends cheering for her from the audience. But from our objective standpoint, her resort collection wasn’t much to enthuse about.

The cutwork and stitched on floral embellishments were not particularly inspiring and Fouzia Aman’s neckline malfunctioned right in the middle of the catwalk, revealing a bit too much to the cameras!

Form-fitting designs, worn by Cybil and Fia were quite unflattering.

In contrast, some of the sequin embroideries, curling into swirls and wavy lines worked well. Also, a navy blue asymmetric tunic with buttons worked down one side was very interesting. Natasha Kamal may have promise but as she extends her market forward, she needs to place greater focus on fitting and distinctive pattern.

Nida Azwer

There are always designs in Nida Azwer’s collections that are best-sellers. This time, the Origami-inspired ‘Kirigami’ featured a number of boleros and longer jackets that Nida’s clientele will probably love. One also enjoyed the wrap pants and pointy dhoti shalwar that rose up to mid-calf at one end. The embellishments, though, were very similar to Nida’s earlier work: three-dimensional embroideries, cutwork and floral inspirations.

Nida Azwer spotted with her show stopper Nooray Bhatti. #fpw16

A photo posted by Nida Azwer (@nidaazweratelier) on

As a result, Kirigami seemed to be more of a continuation of an ongoing collection rather than a brand new idea altogether. Nida needs to innovate and think beyond retail considerations.

Zainab Chottani

Zainab Chottani’s family deals with denim which is probably why the designer was able to work the fabric so well into her Club Cobalt. Multiple hues of blue were merged into pockets, culottes, shalwars and skirts with frayed ends. The hemlines printed with the New York skyline were fun and lace details complimented denim well – except in certain cases where they went overboard.

Iman Ali personified the sultry rockstar as Zainab’s showstopper.

A cohesive line-up overall with all the makings of fashion-savvy prêt, with just a bit of fine-tuning.

Iman Ali does Zainab Chottani.─AFP
Iman Ali does Zainab Chottani.─AFP

Aamna Aqeel

Aamna Aqeel’s show opener held promise: model Areeba Habib wore a black and white striped jumpsuit with an embroidered waistline, paired with a long sleeveless jacket.

And then the designs began to fluctuate. Sequined embroideries dangled loosely down shirts and overdoses of bling covered shoulders, zig-zagged on blouses and tapered down the entire length of a pant.

The combination of black and white striped print with bright neon pops of color would have worked very well had Aamna paid more attention to finishing, developed interesting, well-fitted silhouettes and dealt out shimmer with a lighter hand. Even the finale dress, worn by actress Mantahaa Maqsood, failed to impress.

Shamaeel Ansari

A finale by Shamaeel Ansari is bound to showcase a bit of drama and characteristic opulence on the catwalk.

#grandfinale from #shamaeelansari and what an end to #fpw16

A photo posted by Shamaeel Ansari (@shamaeelansari) on

Atiya Khan opened the show and Zhalay Sarhadi walked out in the final outfit. Trailing out in between were myriad odes to the Orient. Dragons forked out tongues and birds flitted on cherry blossom trees in Shamaeel’s prints and embroideries, termed by the designer as ‘floating’ due to their 3-D effect.

There was some structure at play; hemlines splayed out or formed long trails, sleeves hung loosely with frayed ends and layers were worked onto lowers.

Shamaeel has a penchant for details and as she merged texture with embroidery and garment construction, she invented silhouettes that were confident and unique. However, she delved into overdesigning here and there; a skirt with a dragon print that was hardly visible due to a sheer layer over it and the complicated hemline of Zhalay’s shirt for instance. It was dizzying. A departure from the usual palette of regal bronzes and maroons would also have had been refreshing.

Despite this, Yugure had some unmistakably strong fashion elements. Shamaeel Ansari stayed true to her signature and delivered precisely what her market expects from her.

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