Desk Mrec Top

Generation celebrates feminism again, this time with illustrator Shehzil Malik

The imagery in the collection resonates my vision of what the Pakistani woman should be like, says Shehzil
Published Oct 05, 2017 12:54pm

Fashion meets art in a limited edition collection that is about to get stocked at Generation stores across the high street – and we’re not referring to your usual, phool-patti artistry here.

Instead, joining hands with graphic designer/illustrator Shehzil Malik, Generation is seeking to make some strong feminist statements: a girl wearing a hijab riding a motorbike; another, with her hair open; girls with piercings, tattoos fair-skinned, dark-skinned; staring boldly out at the world.

Coupled with this imagery are evocative slogans in Urdu and English, splayed down the length of tunics, jumpsuits, jackets, cowl shalwars, crop tops and statement scarves. ‘Nidar’ (fearless), ‘Taqatwar’ (strong), ‘Bahar niklo’ (go outside) and ‘Boss lady’, they declare, along with phrases from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book We Should All Be Feminists.

Graphic designer Shehzil hopes to convey with the imagery of the new Generation collection that Pakistani women need to take ownership of their lives
Graphic designer Shehzil hopes to convey with the imagery of the new Generation collection that Pakistani women need to take ownership of their lives

“The graffiti and imagery resonate my vision of what the Pakistani woman should be like,” explains Shehzil. “They give out positive affirmations of how they need to take ownership of their lives and be comfortable with just the way they are.”

Feminism, of course, is fashion’s ‘it’ trend at the moment, with every other global brand latching onto its bandwagon. It is a catchphrase that has become all too common, often used in the wrong context, to the point that feminism-inspired statements can easily teeter towards the generic.

However, in recent times, one notices how Generation has resiliently stayed away from the commonplace. Playing with silhouettes and unique inspirations, the brand represents the fashion-forward side to the high-street and one hopes that the upcoming collaboration with Shehzil brings in more of the same.

In the collection, we'll find evocative slogans like 'Step Outside' splaying down the length of tunics, jumpsuits, jackets and statement scarves
In the collection, we'll find evocative slogans like 'Step Outside' splaying down the length of tunics, jumpsuits, jackets and statement scarves

This is also not the first time that the brand has promoted its feminist inclinations. Last year, the ‘Step Outside’ campaign, inspired by the Girls at Dhabas movement, was initiated, promoting a woman’s right to be able to move freely in public spaces. It was while shooting the campaign that Khadija Rahman, director of design and marketing at Generation, met Shehzil.

“We felt that Shehzil’s paintings were very impactful. She had slogans that she placed within her art, like ‘Is my shirt not long enough?’ or ‘Are my clothes too bright?’ and we just began talking about working together on a collaboration. This is the first time that Generation has worked with an artist. The art work is all Shehzil’s, which we then transferred onto print and then we worked out the silhouettes with her.”

For Shehzil, the collaborative effort was a learning experience. “I am especially excited about the scarves. They are bright and women can wear them however they like, over their heads or wrapped around the neck like a statement piece,” she says. “Also, I really believe in the messages within the clothes. Women need to be fearless, have dreams and be supportive of each other.”

Women empowerment campaigns have become part of Generation's identity, according to design director Khadija Rahman
Women empowerment campaigns have become part of Generation's identity, according to design director Khadija Rahman

The collection is also indicative of a new direction that the local high street could delve into, breaking away from mundane floral prints and working with innovative young artists. Internationally, such collaborations are common. Gucci, for instance, has been teeming up with artistes who showcase their work on Instagram, and coming up with quirky, limited edition capsule lines. The brand’s most recent such collection, releasing in a free days from now, has been in association with Unskilled Worker, an artiste who was discovered by Gucci’s Creative Director Alessandro Michele via Instagram.

“We want to continue working on campaigns that seek to empower women,” says Khadija. “I feel that it has become part of Generation’s identity.”

On the local front, one remembers Sonya Battla’s beautiful ‘Manora’ line from 2015, created in collaboration with artist Naiza Khan, etching the Manora skyline and seashores onto fabric. And back when fashion indulged in delicious, feisty moments, there was photographer and artist Tapu Javeri, spinning out concentric Karachakra prints and psychedelic colour blocks, which were then trooped out onto the Fashion Pakistan Week runway in 2014, moulded into designs by the House of Kamiar Rokni, Mohsin Ali and HSY.

"I really believe in the messages within the clothes. Women need to be fearless, have dreams and be supportive of each other," says Shehzil (pictured here)
"I really believe in the messages within the clothes. Women need to be fearless, have dreams and be supportive of each other," says Shehzil (pictured here)

The upcoming Generation-Shehzil Malik collaboration is in a separate league not just because of its artistic roots but also because of the very relevant messages it gives out. The affordable price points are the veritable icing on the cake: ranging between Rs1800 and Rs5000. The collection reaches stores on Friday, October 6, 2017.

“We want to continue working on campaigns that seek to empower women,” says Khadija. “I feel that it has become part of Generation’s identity.”

And it is Generation’s determination to have an identity – rather than fade into the lucrative but boring milieu of ready-to-wear in the market – that makes it stands out and has one trooping into the brand’s stores again and again. Not just for daily wear, but for clothes that make statements, feminist statements perhaps.