Is there such a thing as too much fashion?

Published 25 Jan, 2017 01:46pm
Sana Maskatiya at PFDC Bridal Week
Sana Maskatiya at PFDC Bridal Week

Come spring 2017, Pakistan’s nascent fashion fraternity is set to get very busy and even the most avid aficionado may end up wondering that perhaps the onslaught of design is going overboard.

Lawn, typically, is primed to surge into the market at full-throttle, boasting a designer name and trying to enamour a considerable clientele with the usual slew of embroidered borders, silk dupattas, sequined patches, flotsam and jetsam. Sidling into the unstitched market are also formal chiffon suits — once again, designer-created — mostly targeted towards the bling-lovin’ party-hopping woman.

Should this increasing number of ‘designer’ options have been driven by innovative techniques and creativity, one would have waxed lyrical about the equation shared by fashion and textile and how it’s leading to a trendier high street. Instead, where at one time Sana Safinaz’s lawn would emulate couture, today’s unstitched territory tends to be very run-of-the-mill. Designer lawn, once inspiring bedlam on the roads and raving, shopping-mad crowds, is no longer fashion-forward by any length of the imagination. Given our long hot summers, some brands may still sell well but the designer tag doesn’t ensure profits. Where some succeed, many more flop every year.

There’s a lesson to be learnt here: too much of so-called designer wear erodes fashion’s lustre, leading to lower standards and ennui setting in. It’s sadly a lesson that Pakistan’s small fashion fraternity refuses to learn.

Fashion in Pakistan may have been going through a slight lull but a closer look indicates that soon, fashion is going to let loose in all its awful glory. Will an infinitesimal number of lawns and fashion weeks be its undoing?

Consider the mindboggling number of fashion events that are expected to take place in the coming months. Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) in Karachi is tentatively slotted for the end of February. The PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week is scheduled for early March in Lahore. The Hum Network’s bi-annual Bridal Couture Week is approximately taking place around the end of March, followed by Showcase, a new venture by Hum, swooping in towards the end of April. Sandwiched somewhere in the middle are at least two grandiose individual outings by HSY and Sana Safinaz. Also filtering in from Dubai will be images and videos of Faraz Manan’s solo show taking place this March. And some time in summer, the Fashion Pakistan Council plans to have its Millennial show, a platform reserved for promising new designers.

This dizzying clutch of events is, of course, vowing to set trends for the spring/summer season but going by experience, this rarely ever happens. Anybody who can afford the hefty participation fees is allowed on to the catwalk and a phalange of self-declared critics, satiated with freebies and side-payments, happily pronounce the fashion to be ‘stunning’ on their social media platforms.

The design itself barely impresses, happily leaning towards rip-offs from international runways, and clothes all look the same, with shoddy finishing and ghastly color combinations. Some respite may be provided by a small smattering of outstanding work but it is not enough to redeem the sheer number of fashion events cluttered through the calendar. In comparison, a single event — or at the most two — aspiring to present great fashion and boasting illustrious designer line-ups would have been far more constructive in taking fashion forward.

There’s a lesson to be learnt here: too much of so-called designer wear erodes fashion’s lustre, leading to lower standards and nnui setting in. It’s sadly a lesson that Pakistan’s small fashion fraternity refuses to learn.

There’s hardly much chance of this happening, though. How will fashion councils get the chance to blow their individual trumpets should they choose to join hands for a single fashion week? How will channels throw their weight around with exclusive rights to a show should there be lesser events? How will designers get to stoke their egos as the brains behind an event should they choose to allow another to dictate to them?

Maheen Khan at FPW
Maheen Khan at FPW

Regardless, with hardly any new designers entering the fray, only a very small contingent is available to cater to these multiple shows. And this motley crew has its hands full with lawn, bridal orders and the challenging quest to churn out bonafide design.

Predictably, we’ve run into a ‘hunger games’ of sorts, where events are more likely to lose out than win. Designers are opting to take sides, choosing fashion shows that are organised by friends or that have lower participation fees or which are even offering coveted finale slots for free. Lahore’s fashion crème de la crème generally opts for the Pakistan Fashion Design Council’s well-established platform and this year will feature Sublime, Sania Maskatiya, Ali Xeeshan, Generation, Saira Shakira and luxury-pret by Sapphire as well as some of Karachi’s most famous, such as Sana Safinaz, Shamaeel Ansari and Khaadi Khaas.

Hum’s newly conceived Showcase is also hinting at a very prestigious line-up. With Rizwan Beyg at its helm and the channel pulling its clout, a show schedule is being formulated that boasts names such as Nomi Ansari, Zaheer Abbas, Omer Saeed, Fahad Hussayn, Sonya Battla and Faiza Samee. There’s also a chance that Bunto Kazmi, veritably the country’s most successful bridal couturier, will be taking to Showcase’s runway. This will particularly boost the event’s credibility given that Bunto is generally elusive and hardly ever takes part in fashion events.

With a large chunk of Karachi’s design fraternity opting for Showcase, the other Karachi-centric event, Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW), is bound to have trouble collating an interesting line-up, although an extensive segment on sustainable craft is being planned out, seeking to highlight Pakistan’s rich indigenous heritage. Fashion Pakistan Council(FPC) board members Deepak Perwani, Nida Azwer, Maheen Khan, Amna Aqeel and Nauman Arfeen are confirmed for the show so far. “We intend to work hard and focus on our work despite the fact that yes, this time, we have lesser designers to choose from,” says Maheen Khan, Vice-Chairperson of the FPC.

Nevertheless, the shows all intend to go on – and this is nothing particularly applaudable. One can expect the inevitable inclusion of mediocre work and repeat collections on fashion’s once-exclusive platform. The whole point of trendsetting fashion weeks runs the risk of getting lost. And Pakistani fashion, diligently built brick by brick over the past few years, gets set to crumble down towards the mostly generic, generally unimaginative and utterly boring.

Originally published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 22nd, 2017

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