Whoever thought that a fashion event could be quite like this?
One had gotten quite accustomed to the ebb and flow of fashion content, the senses lulled to the point that one excused the run-of-the-mill as ‘market friendly’.
One had attuned the mind to search out the few promising spurts of design that served as the silver lining in umpteen humdrum lineups.
One had assumed that the rise of the high-street had lead designers to think ‘business’ and it was only natural that they should curb creativity in order to appease a mostly conventional clientele.
This was before Showcase took place.
With Rizwan Beyg playing show director and editing collections thoroughly and Diva Magazine’s editor Raheel Rao handpicking designers for the lineup, the three-day long event managed to put up a show where the fashion highs rarely subsided and one stellar collection followed the other.
It was all very efficient: the show started around 8pm and ended around an acceptable 10pm. The catwalk was fuss-free and effective. The media mileage was sufficient with major print and electronic media in full attendance and the media sponsor, Hum Network, at hand to film the event and air it out to its considerable audience.
One could say quite objectively that Showcase exemplified what local fashion events should ideally be like although they haven’t been managed to be this way in recent memory. And while, from the viewpoint of the fashion purist, one could sing about the fashion for ages, we’ll just make do with this long list of all the collections that bowled us over:
Bunto Kazmi is veritably the country’s most coveted bridal couturier but she has always cringed at the thought of bringing her designs out onto the catwalk.
Her painstakingly created, densely crafted apparel has always been created in single pieces according to bespoke requirements for her clients alone. It’s been eons since Bunto Apa chose to air out a complete show in the limelight. It’s a coup for Showcase that she chose this particular platform.
What shone out on the ramp were a range of traditional silhouettes as well as edgy designs that the designer has always delved into but never really showcased. Bunto’s quintessential penchant for craft was, of course, exemplary. Cholis were worked with intricate zardozi, lehngas were bordered with traditional chata-patti and gota, a cape came encrusted with a jeweled collar and delicate hand embroideries ran rampant on a canvas of pure jamawar, velvet and tulle.
Also in the show were Bunto Apa’s coveted shawls and the sheer detail captured on them can only be appreciated up close. The white shawl, for instance, had definitive French inspirations with chinoiserie motifs and Hispano Moresque architectural features. There were pagoda-like buildings etched down to every minute nuance and tiny oarsmen with canoes rowed their way across the length.
It was, in essence, an awe-inspiring show of classic, timeless pieces. One would expect nothing less of Bunto.
One was afraid that Rizwan Beyg, busy playing show director, would not be able to show on the catwalk but we’re so glad he did!
In his all-white ‘Lace Couture’ the designer played with structure, lace and three-dimensional florals with the finesse of a master craftsman.
Skirts were uplifted by seamless can-cans, necklines were bordered by stiff pointed collars, layers of lace cascaded down the length of gowns, dramatic trails accentuated knee-high skirts and lacy pants and lopsided bows cinched waistlines and tied up at sleeves.
There was an anglicised elegance to the collection and while Rizwan’s technique and aesthetic were incomparable, one hopes that some semblance of this line trickles down to the local market, tweaked to suit local clientele.
Faiza Samee’s blend of colour, embellishment and layers was exquisite.
Chintz floral patterns were splattered down tapered lehngas, culottes and jackets, block-prints glinted in gold, tiers of ruffles made of tissue were modulated into standout flared pants, tops were hand-painted, there were shades of ombre and intricately hand-embroidered boleros that could work very well as separates for the red carpet as they would as trousseau for the style-savvy bride.
Fusing the traditional with the modern, Faiza’s expertise with design was very visible. Her collection was wearable and yet, artisanal.
Nomi Ansari’s ‘A Night in Paradise’ grooved to the beats of ‘90’s hits and what better soundtrack could there be to go along with this rollicking rainbow-colored rollercoaster of a collection?
Multi-colored beads and sequins swing down swanky little dresses, cheeky macaws, toucans and vivid flora flitted over skirts and off-shoulder shirts, stars formed the inner lining of trails and men’s suits came printed with geometry and checked patterns.
There is always great finesse to Nomi’s cuts and he sprinkled his color wheel with sequins and crystals. Vivacious and great fun, this line was certainly ‘Livin’ la vida loca’!
Wardha Saleem’s penchant for print came into play with the prodigiously titled ‘Mon Amour – Babushka, my love!’
Russian Babushka dolls were printed and appliquéd on garments, mixed in with appliqué, embroidery and basket-weaving techniques. Mixed and matched on a bright, quirky palette, the clothes were complemented by a smash-hit line of accessories: earrings shaped into key-rings, leather bags handpainted with florals and Babushka dolls and shoes with the dolls attached to the heels.
Chic, colorful and cohesive, this was the Wardha Saleem that one has always loved – having fun with fashion and happily making it her own.
Faraz Manan’s 'Mirage' made its second outing at Showcase. Part of the collection had already been shown in Dubai while some of it was then saved for Showcase. The remainder of the extensive lineup showed the very next day at Beirut Fashion Week. And with his gimlet eye for sophistication, Faraz Manan didn’t disappoint.
Luxe fabrics were tamed into belted tunics, fringes, pant-suits and gowns. A sequined gown with shades of silver, gold and white worn by Cybil was particularly beautiful.
And there were quite a few designs that swooped down to the ankles – very evidently serving Faraz’s local market as well as his growing clientele in the Middle East.
One has always enjoyed Adnan Pardesy’s interpretations of traditional gota and the designer put forward some very artistic formal-wear.
Gota came twisted in origami patterns, forming zig-zags, crisscrossing in chequered patterns and striped in alignment with delicate pleats. The clothes had a geometry of their own; pointy hems, capes, off-shoulder kaftans and fitted blouses. Dominated by shades of gold, bronze and off-white, this was Adnan in his element.
Zaheer Abbas’ evolution as a designer was evident in his ‘Cosmology’.
There was fluid structure to the ruffles that he teemed into gowns, an assured confidence to the exaggerated lines of his sleeves and a flair for showmanship in the tassels, draped chiffon and swirling hand embroidered kamdani and dori modernised in order to emulate the celestial bodies of the cosmos.
The meticulous details, the flattering silhouettes and the pristine white background all culminated into a stellar collection.
We want to see more of this, Zaheer! Let’s hope some of Cosmology trickles soon to the designer’s e-store and for Karachi-dwellers, to his newly opened standalone store near E-street.
What a debut this was! Khaadi returned to its roots with a collection of very fine, very classy hand-loomed apparel, soon to be launched under the brand name Chapter Two.
It was clean, sophisticated, fuss-free fashion, sifting from monochromes to vivid bursts of red, tangerine and shocking pink. Shirts fell in layers, paired with smart jackets; there were chequered culottes and sleek striped cigarette pants. From day-wear for the working woman to evening wear for the woman who likes to look unique, the collection offered umpteen possibilities.
This was the original hand loomed Khaadi cloth and tunics that we fell in love with many years ago, gearing to traverse new sartorial realms. Bona fide fashion, distinctive and very Pakistani; this first glimpse at Khaadi’s soon-to-launch new chapter was pretty fabulous.
Shamaeel Ansari’s burnished oranges and reds spoke of the fiery independent woman who has always been the designer’s muse.
The trademark Shamaeel design elements were all very visible: tassels, paisleys, kimono-like shirts, geometric prints and a range of boleros and jackets. Although the collection did give one a sense of de ja vu, it is appreciable that Shamaeel stuck to her signature. As always, her collection was distinctively for the bold-hearted statement maker.
Inaaya’s 'Tabeer' was predictably high on craft. Rilli was fashioned onto skirts, pants, trails or it simply peeped from within the folds of a shalwar.
Also visible was mirror-work, glinting down the lengths of pants or in multi-colored glory on a risqué mini-skirt. There was plenty of draping, variant hemlines running into floor-length gowns and easy breezy off-shoulders.
Inaaya may be a relatively young label but it has already become instantly recognizable on the runway. No one else yet has managed to take traditional handicraft on to funky dimensions quite as easily as Naushaba Brohi does.
One could tell that the very business-savvy Sania Maskatiya was thinking about her customers when devising this collection. The metallic hues, worked with thread embroideries, are bound to be winners in the upcoming festive season. Make the embellishments more elaborate and you have modern wedding-wear; tweak it here and there and you have Eid-wear, red carpet wear or even – and this, we hear is a popular category - Milad-wear!
There were shimmery pant-suits, glistening minimalistic gowns, belted tunics and – a particular favorite – a one-shoulder kaftan with sparkly embroidery swirling over it. The men wore well-fitted sherwanis and waistcoats. Well-tailored and elegant, it was a collection that held its own within Showcase’s rather mighty milieu of participants.
HSY’s ‘Love Letters’ had scripture etched onto fabric in myriad ways – typewritten, handwritten, embroidered, stamped. There was a market departure from the designer’s typical predilection for embroideries.
Instead, he kept the collection minimal, taming diaphanous georgettes and chiffons into pleated shirts, kimono silhouettes and fluid gowns. The palette of earthy browns, beiges and whites worked well with the overall theme and the collection is certainly one of HSY’s more memorable ones.
It’s a pity that soon after being showcased, the designer was accused of having had plagiarized the designs. It’s important to note that while the technique of writing on fabric may lately have been implemented the world over, HSY placed it onto his own designs. Plagiarism or a simple case of inspiration?
This was Umar Sayeed departing from his characteristic subtle workmanship and strolling down Zainab Market, soaking in the kitschy imagery, the effusion of denims, the casual bohemia.
One especially enjoyed Umar’s take on denim jeans; decorating them with florals that were gilded in gold or splashed with bright color. Also taking center stage were heavily thread-worked pants etched with scenery, animals, entire storylines. The ruffled off-shoulder dresses were possibly just there to add drama but as separates, there was a lot that worked in Umar’s lineup.
Moving away from his comfort zone of bridals, this was Umar having fun – as did we!
With ‘Midnight Opulence’, Ideas Pret delved into a very well-balanced line of luxury-wear.
Crystals and beads worked as embellishments and digitally printed imagery hinted at the grandeur of the European Renaissance. While running the gamut from dresses to jackets, harems, geometric hemlines and exaggerated sleeves, there was a sophisticated restraint in the designs.
One had hitherto always associated Ideas Pret with casual day-wear but this lineup was indicative of how it could also become our go-to destination for formals.
Munib Nawaz has cracked that secret code to being a successful menswear designer.
He understands when to blend the austere with the out-of-the-box, when to add bright red horizontal stripes and when to stick to black thread-work.
He’ll balance out a bright red suit positioned to appease the adventurous with the classic sherwani in earthy hues to suit the sedate groom-to-be.
His collection was diverse and presented some very interesting well-tailored options for menswear.
Ahmed Bham returned to the catwalk after a long, long time and showed what he does best – an array of impeccable suits.
The jackets fit like gloves, the pants were neatly cut, the shirt collars starched to stiff perfection.
Nobody cuts a suit the way Ahmed Bham does and while his considerable clientele knows this, he should showcase his collections more often, just to show a thing or two to other contenders to menswear design.
Deepak n Fahad experimented with menswear and nearly always got things right.
One enjoyed the digitally created face half printed down a jacket, the maze of criss-crossing lines and the dizzying geometry.
Following a monochrome palette, one hopes that the designer duo manage to bring the collection to retail. It has the potential to become a huge hit with the artistically inclined male sartorialist.
Momina Teli’s monochrome embellishments and silhouettes had definite potential.
Filigree bordered wide necklines and twined down the length of silhouettes that were modern and quite on-trend.
It was an eye-catching lineup that hinted at an eye for retail and the confidence to push the sartorial bar a notch at a time.
Header photography by Jaffer Hasan | Runway photography by Faisal Farooqui and his team at DragonFly