Cutting-edge bridal fashion doesn’t exist in Pakistan.
It may make an appearance now and again, in short bursts, only to be instantaneously quelled by its commercially viable counterpart.
Brides want to look beautiful rather than edgy and it doesn’t make sense for designers to go completely experimental. Keeping this in mind, one doesn’t really expect groundbreaking trends at a fashion week dedicated to bridals.
What one appreciates, instead, is a cohesive collection, a salient signature, unique color palettes, fine workmanship and ideally – though designers find this particularly difficult – an original collection as opposed to an ‘inspired’ one.
On its first day, the PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week managed to more or less deliver on all these aspects (except the inspiration bit – copycatting is one obstacle our fashion fraternity refuses to overcome).
It was a fine, fine day for bridal fashion, with many highs and very few lows. Prior to PLBW, one had heard whispers of how the event had a lackluster line-up with regular participants opting out for the season. At the risk of sounding clichéd, great quality is better than quantity.
Aside from the Bank Alfalah Rising Talent Show, which hasn’t impressed in a long time, four collections were showcased at PLBW and each upped the ante for bridal design.
Particularly noticeable was the way designers are moving back to traditional silhouettes, spotlighting the gharara rather than the Capri pant or the tulip and embellishing the long-ignored dupatta. It was a welcome change – we’ve had quite enough of the peplum worked over cigarette pants in long-hackneyed shades of pink and worked with beads.
Perhaps a dose of old world glamour is precisely what bridal fashion needs to present something new.
HSY has long had a penchant for all things luxurious and with his ‘The Kingdom’ he professed to depict how his ethos had evolved.
The collection was also meant to symbolise how his brand was going to stay true to his love for couture in this age of fast fashion. In a special preview organized a day prior to the show, the designer explained how all the fabric had been imported from Italy and the embroideries were painstakingly done by hand. His excitement was quite evident and one wondered if the collection would manage to live up to the hype.
It often did. Traversing four capsule lines, Kalajar, Mahkar, Khat-e-Sahil and Sherastan, the Kingdom sifted through many moods – and designs. There were some vivacious, rich prints and intricate embroideries, fur crept onto hemlines and cinched the waist, lengths varied and the men wore heavily worked sherwanis and jackets.
Shero’s always loved the red bridal and the design worn by Mehreen Syed in Sheristan reflected the HSY of yore, who had shot to the top with his bridal wear in crimson hues.
It was an extensive collection, mostly toeing conventional lines that are going to be a hit with the designer’s clientele but also tilting sometimes towards the modern, like the tilla and thread-worked jacket worn by Hasnain Lehri and the hems cascading down in multiple lengths.
The hard work showed - this was HSY in true form, before he began diversifying into show direction, hosting and what-not. It’s good to have him back.
With her ‘Autumn Dream’, Sania Maskatiya shifted away from just presenting trousseau wear, onto heavy-duty bridals. The craftsmanship was the main highlight of this line while the silhouettes primarily dwelt in Sania’s comfort zone of conventional mixed in with the modern.
There were short shirts on simmered gharara pants, wide-necked long shirts, lehngas and diaphanous dupattas worked with sequins. The peplum of varying lengths – quite a staple at Sania Maskatiya – featured quite often as did bejeweled peacocks.
The palette was veritably princessy; pastels and jewel hues set off with zari, gota and resham. Also, there wasn’t a red in sight although Sania assured me that she had designed the requisite red bridal jora for the collection. “Ultimately, I just didn’t think it worked well with my fashion week signature,” she explained, “but it’s there in my store.”
It was appreciable that even while extending herself onto more embellished territory, Sania remained true to her signature. A gorgeous line-up that screamed ‘bridal orders’ – one is sure that this line is going to be a favorite on the social pages once the winter wedding season swings in. Always business-savvy, the brand has already set up its first post fashion week exhibit today at their Lahore store, followed up by another in Karachi this September 30th.
A young brand that knows how to swerve conventional bridals towards the trendy, Saira Shakira’s collection had one sit up and take notice.
Amidst the requisite milieu of lehngas, short shirts and peplums, there was the well-fitted halter neck, pleats, whimsical bows worked onto the back, fitted bodices splaying out into flowing lines and spurts of lemon yellow – a hue that is infinitely more preferable to the ivories and off-whites that are making bridal-wear boring.
The collection exemplified how the bridal envelope can be pushed even while retaining the requisite beauty of the overall garment. Saira Shakira’s work has certainly matured over time; they rocked fashion week and they may just rock the bridal market out of its ennui.
One wonders what it must feel like to be the triad that forms the House of Kamiar Rokni; to be accustomed to accolades and a perpetual stream of rave reviews. Do they still feel a high when applauded or is it now all in a day’s work for them? For while I have lauded this design house to the skies time and again, their finale on day one, the ‘Heritage’ collection, has me waxing lyrical all over again.
As the name indicates, the ‘Heritage’ line was a throwback to bridal fashion, the way it used to be: exquisite hand-worked dupattas, multi-colored chata-pati, gota worked into grids and floral patterns, the old-world voluminous gharara, sequins, paisleys, resham worked onto dupatta borders … the whole shebang.
As always, there was a riot of colors on the catwalk; the bridal jora in just the right shades of red and maroon; light yellows, peaches and mint greens and then bolder royal blues and shades of emerald … basically the House of Kamiar Rokni ran the gamut from the engagement to the mehndi, shaadi right down to the valima!
Impeccably finished and so, so lovely, it was a grand ending to a strong day for bridal fashion.
And then there was the Rising Talent; sticking out like a sore thumb.
In their efforts to show their dexterity over cuts and technique, young designers inevitably falter on this platform.
Aamina Naeem took inspiration from Madame Pompadour from the 18th century and dwelt upon bustiers, skirts and corsets in pink satin silk.
Maryam Amjad’s ‘Medusa’ reflected the life-cycle of the jellyfish and while the embossed screen-printed fabric was very pretty, the silhouettes took the jellyfish far too literally to be fathomable.
Sara Naqvi’s ‘Sarkash Rajkumari’ was more plausible but also, fairly run-of-the-mill: her reds and olive greens had nothing new to offer.
There was also a special section where each designer presented a final garment and Aamina Naeem chose to dress up Fouzia Aman in a trailing gown of red roses with a crown on her head. Bad fashion galore – and there is no need for it.
After years of sitting through this section, I have come to the conclusion that this segment of the show either needs to be eliminated altogether or else, the ‘talent’ needs to be given some guidance before let loose onto the catwalk. Help them ‘rise’, or else, don’t make a joke of them out in the limelight.
All photographs by Faisal Farooqui and his team at Dragonfly