PFDC did good to focus on few, strong collections like the Raema Malik-Wasim Khan collab rather than many mediocre ones
There was an infectious, palpable energy buzzing at the PFDC L’oreal Paris Bridal Week (PLBW) for the event’s first day was one of many hits and few misses.
There was fashion that stood out, a new glossy venue that helped keep things fresh and even a new format for the catwalk with the models zig-zagging their way through two parallel rows a la international events. It had one craning the neck quite a bit but it often takes time to get accustomed to new changes.
And one has to acknowledge that the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) isn’t afraid of change, of shaking things up and trying to move towards greater efficiency. The first day of fashion week, for instance, featured merely four designers but each collection was well-conceived and cohesive. It’s always better to show fewer collections than to show many mediocre ones - one hopes that the council continues to stay true to this adage over the remaining two days of PLBW.
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The red carpet lacked celebrity guests but this is nothing out of the ordinary. With multiple fashion weeks clustered through the year, the events have lost their novelty value and celebrities don’t throng the front rows the way they used to about five years ago. Instead, style statements took center stage on the red carpet for a small smattering of fashion week’s most loyal attendees, the electronic and print media, seem to be developing an ethos of their own. Amongst the usual milieu of dresses ‘borrowed’ off designers, one saw some interesting looks; a cool jacket, a quirky belt, psychedelic makeup.
The catwalk brought in its share of entertainment with actress Resham showstopping for GOLD by Reama Malik, Humaima Mallick for Shamsha Hashwani and theatrics courtesy an Ali Xeeshan finale. The fashion wasn’t too bad either…
Reama Malick chose to take up a show slot to for her jewelry line and there could have been no better backdrop for it than the clean, minimalist, exquisite lines helmed by veteran designer Wasim Khan.
One had seen Reama’s work on the catwalk before, of course, accessorizing wedding wear for designers like Ali Xeeshan, Kamiar Rokni, HSY and Fahad Hussayn.
In this show, though, it glinted all the more; fierce, bold, dipping into history in multiple tiers of gold and precious stones. There were antique chokers, pearl strands, jhumkas, teekas and concentric strands dangling down to the waist. This wasn’t the modern jewelry that tends to be a play of metal and semi-precious stones. Instead, this collection sought to create elaborate, timeless heirlooms that one would pass on to daughters.
And then, perhaps a great coup for Reama was to enlist designer Wasim Khan, who had long retired from the catwalk, to set off her designs. Wasim’s work had a laidback ease and a proficiency that comes from years of experience – and from actually being good at what you do. It was wedding-wear sans the trappings of generic bling, luxurious silks draped with expertise, anarkalis and lehngas constructed with precision and rich jamawar borders on dupattas.
It was show that set PLBW off to a great start. A far cry from the same-looking designs that tend to be passed off as ‘fashion’ these days, this was the real deal, drenched in gold.
Shamsha Hashwani debuted at PLBW last year, showcasing a penchant for minute embroideries. Her collection this time was indicative of how her brand has evolved, inspired by colonial Bengal and the modern lines that simmered beneath its surface.
The silhouettes were sophisticated and some designs were memorable like the off-shoulder shirts with sequins swishing exuberantly from the hem, a one-sleeved long gown with sheer fabric layering a single shoulder and long, long trails that made the clothes look veritably princess-y but can probably only be carried off by the more graceful amongst us. The clothes were set off by some very elegant jewelry by Sherezad Rahimtoola.
It was a pity, though, that Shamsha opted for a color palette of basic reds, royal blue and pastels that have been seen so many times now that it renders clothes forgettable. The same goes for certain silhouettes: the peplum, the shirt with the varying hemline, the kimono kaftan.
All impeccably stitched, cohesive, subtle and well-embroidered but at fashion week, one searches for something new and distinctive design signatures.
Shiza Hassan is new to the fashion industry and only down to her second fashion week outing but one appreciated the slight tweaks that she added to her designs.
Her ‘Aroos-e-Shehnai – Chapter II’ presented a profusion of traditional bridal silhouettes with contemporary details that stood out; sheer tissue layers on shirts and pants and a belt cinching a shirt worked with antique mukesh.
The palette was quite conventional and one wishes that the peplum hadn’t surfaced but it was, overall, a good collection that reflected that, should Shiza develop a more identifiable signature of her own, she may soon be going places.
And then came thunder, flashes of lightning and a profusion of sequin splattered umbrellas!
As always, Ali Xeeshan put up a memorable show. The umbrellas gave way to murals that formed the backdrop for wedding-wear. The larger-than-life murals looked like they belonged on the walls of an ancient haveli and were quintessentially filmi, following in the footsteps of models who came wearing dramatic eye accessories and jewelry: Amna Babar, Hasnain Lehri, Sabeeka Imam, Nooray Bhatti and photographer Abdullah Harris as showstopper.
Beyond the theatrics, the clothes also reflected the Ali Xeeshan touch. The designer has never been one for delicate embroideries and this time, he worked his layered floral embroideries on single-tone color palettes. This was a safer collection than usual with less of the monkeys, peacocks and horses of yore and more of the flowers that please the desi bridal clientele. Nevertheless, the womenswear was pretty – especially the trousseau options - and the menswear would work better in the real world as separates.
What really caught the eye, though, were the long coats, one in black and the other in white, paired with embellished apparel. They certainly weren’t wedding-wear and may not enamor the traditionalist but for the critic, going cock-eyed with fashion’s current fixation with bling, they were the best pieces in the lineup!
With Ali being L’Oreal Paris’ ‘Ambassador of Fashion’ for the season, the show also reflected beauty trends and thankfully, this was the one show where the hair and makeup really stood out with rain-drenched hair, sultry ruby red lips and diamontes sparkling on the lips and eyes. It was so much more exciting than the ‘pretty’ looks in the earlier shows, the low buns and pink lips that designers tend to love.
The styling team at Nabila’s, should one give them the space to do so, can do wonders with experimentation and set the catwalk ablaze. Could we have less of the conventional beauty trends and more experimental ones over the next few days of PLBW? Or is that too much to ask for from bridal’s pretty little comfort zone?
All photographs by Faisal Farooqui and his team at Dragonfly