Ali Xeeshan donned a hat with a rooster on it at the Magnum Chocolate Party in 2016, and let us tell you, he was hard to miss!
Ali Xeeshan donned a hat with a rooster on it at the Magnum Chocolate Party in 2016, and let us tell you, he was hard to miss!

"I wish that beiges, pinks and golds would get banned at fashion weeks," Ali Xeeshan, known for his louder-than-life creations, lamented recently.

We were discussing the Autumn/Winter fashion weeks in the country that have now culminated.

"It's all I see at fashion weeks these days," Ali said.

So I remind him that his own wedding-wear collection, shown recently at the PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week (PLBW), also featured a healthy dose of beige.

Ali Xeeshan's wedding-wear collection at the recent PLBW.
Ali Xeeshan's wedding-wear collection at the recent PLBW.

"Yes, I got a bit disillusioned and decided to play it safe," he admits. "I take pride in adding the X-factor to design but this time I just couldn't. It's why I have decided that I will be going solo in 2018."

And so, Ali joins the burgeoning motley crew of Pakistani designers who are choosing to depart from the multi-designer fashion week format and showcase on an individual platform. Considering that Ali has been something of a fashion week mainstay and has won rave reviews of late, his plans for going solo are somewhat surprising.

"The thing is, I no longer want to be treated like just another designer at a fashion week,” he explains.

"I have worked very hard to get here. I make a lot of effort to make sure that every show of mine is an experience. My shows have personality, they create drama for the audience and I'd like to believe that they inspire young up-and-coming designers into doing things differently rather than following staid, market-friendly formats."

"I take pride in adding the X-factor to design but this time I just couldn't. It's why I have decided that I will be going solo in 2018"

"Even at PLBW this year, I came up with a unique concept. It takes time, effort and finances to have life-sized portraits created for the catwalk. That’s just the way I am. When I put up a show, I make sure that it is a production with something for everybody; the conventional bridal clientele, the haughty front row-ers and even the peons working behind the scenes. I pour my heart into it."

"Many of my peers even... they don’t really appreciate this, although they know how sincere I am. There's no sense of ownership within local fashion. I feel alone. And besides, fashion weeks aren’t what they used to be," he continues.

"With bloggers and known journalists taking pay for promoting designers, lately hard work has been going unrecognised. The most boring designs will be trending on social media and a bona fide show may only generate a few posts. I just feel suffocated by all of it.

Ali Xeeshan's put up a memorable show at PLBW 2017.
Ali Xeeshan's put up a memorable show at PLBW 2017.

"The designer lineup consists of women with prestigious surnames with nothing new to showcase. It takes six months to create a Rolls Royce and a day to create a Honda Civic. Why are fashion weeks bunching the two together?"

Where and when does he plan to air out his particular brand of 'Rolls Royce's', I ask him. "It's not confirmed but I am tentatively looking at Autumn/Winter next year. Ideally, I'd like to set a target for Autumn, perhaps September or early October. It makes sense for a bridal-wear show to take place at this time so that I can take orders for the winter weddings that begin to take place November onwards.”

Ali's plans – of course – are nothing new with many designers putting up solo shows. However, the designer has long been closely associated with the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC), encouraged often by Chairperson Sehyr Saigol. Wouldn't the council mind him breaking away from their fashion week format and going off on his own?

"With bloggers and known journalists taking pay for promoting designers, lately hard work has been going unrecognised. The most boring designs will be trending on social media."

"I think if I go solo and manage to make a difference, if any at all, Mrs Saigol will still be happy for me," he insists. "She is someone who has always wanted fashion to move ahead. Besides, I may either have an individual show or do it within the council's umbrella. It's all up in the air at the moment but I do know that I need a break from fashion week."

This 'break' points towards an increasingly clustered fashion week calendar in the coming year, with fashion weeks and umpteen individual shows jam-packed together. It may very well lead to fashion fatigue but somehow, the thought of an Ali Xeeshan show is anything but fatiguing.

Ali Xeeshan at the finale show at PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week 2017
Ali Xeeshan at the finale show at PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week 2017

What will he be doing in the show, I ask him. Jump down from a helicopter? Have the models balance roosters and eggs on their heads? Create carnivals, masquerades or Gothic horror on stage?

"You never know," he laughs.

But the fact that I am keen to know is testament to Ali's prowess at putting out experiences and not merely shows. And while Ali's design sensibility is not welcomed as dramatically by critics, his individuality cannot be denied. Could fashion's generic flag-bearers please follow suit?

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