There’s a lot that’s right about working for a social cause.
All around the world, narratives have swerved towards advocating for awareness about social issues. One could say that it is in vogue to turn good Samaritan and pinpoint any number of problems; child abuse, women’s rights, pollution, you name it. It’s indicative of an increasingly sensitive world and the willingness of humankind to actively work towards building a better future. And fashion, as an expression of art, is more and more frequently presenting a canvas for painting a picture of the vices that surround us.
But expressions of art need to be... well, artistic. On the first day of Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW), social causes often dominated the runway but not always in aesthetically pleasing ways. It isn’t enough to latch on to a social cause and say that a collection is inspired by it – the designs have to somehow be linked to the central idea in a well-conceived, savvy manner. Just saying that a collection is dedicated to a cause and then presenting something completely disconnected to it does not make any sense.
Also, fashion at a fashion week needs to be fashionable. I thought that didn’t need to be said out loud but apparently it does.
There was an uber-cool opening act, a promising debut and some pretty collections. And then, there were the others that defied all reason, had no place on the catwalk and implied a lack of editing.
Nubain Ali worked well as show director and the hair and makeup by team Nabila was exceptional, as always. But even the best peripheral efforts can’t save a collection if the fashion is bad.
But first, a look at that deliciously trendy opening by Maheen Khan...
Top picks: Everything
It’s noteworthy that while Maheen Khan is a longtime fashion pioneer, she still understands the essence of young, trendy design and spins it adeptly into clothes for her label ‘Gulabo’. Her ‘Liberation’ came with a number of slogans, printed in graffiti fonts: ‘Save The Earth’, ‘Water Is Life Don’t Waste It’ and ‘Mein Bhi’, among them.
The fashion itself was liberating, free from the embroidered hackneyed inspirations that tend to dominate the runway, dabbling instead into lazy, chic silhouettes, easy breezy lowers, carefree truck-art print dresses, summer jackets and cool hoodied tunics.
The symbolism was visible. The models held fists to their heart signifying their oath to save the Earth. The very first piece, worn by model Areeba Habib, featured a fragmented Pakistan in print, with the slogan, ‘Yes to Jinnah’s Pakistan’. The accessories were fashioned from rope, rubber wire and steel pipes and are going to be part of a Gulabo accessory retail line.
Well-cut, very distinctive, with every piece a must-have, the collection was signature Gulabo. Making the fashion more relevant is the fact that the clothes are all going to be available in the Gulabo store as well as online. One wishes that more designers would tread similar unique territory.
Top picks: Some of the breezy white dresses and the accessories which included statement neck-pieces and belts
FnkAsia molded embroidered fabric into dresses, capes and pants and there were certainly options that were pretty. The whites, particularly, could work well in the sultry summer ahead. There were other designs that were barely noticeable. It was a collection created primarily on anglicized lines.
Some interesting cuts and a few desi silhouettes here and there perhaps, could have made it more applicable to the local high street.
Top picks: Phulkari-work on capes, saris and three-piece suits
It was appreciable that Cheena Chhapra dedicated her collection to plus-sized women and some of the indigenous craft in her designs was eye-catching: phulkari, gara, kanta and block-prints. Her show was certainly high on energy. Folk music played out and her ‘real’ models often broke into dance on the catwalk or swished their saris exuberantly. These were women from all walks of life, comfortable and confident about their figures.
The designer had titled the collection ‘Buxom’, indicative of its leaning towards plump women. But Cheena could have maybe fared better had she not been so fixated with the plump.
Beyond craft, her collection had nothing new to offer in terms of silhouette, pattern or color. Why didn’t she improvise with design rather than simply stitching out basic Eastern silhouettes for her ‘real’ models? Also, a bit of dance and cheer on the catwalk is fun but Cheena’s show was more like a dholki. Fun, yes - but not exactly the stuff of fashion week.
Cheena’s message – that all women are beautiful and enjoy looking fashionable – is an important one. She just really needed to move beyond the message and also be innovative.
Top picks: We’ll pass on this one.
Gogi by Hasan Riaz endeavored to speak out against child abuse and child labor with his collection and his show started off with two children taking to the catwalk with their hands bound. The remainder of the show did not connect well with the theme.
It, in fact, did not even connect with the basic purpose of a fashion week which should be to set trends and make statements. Colors mish-mashed with abstract structures and unfathomable accessories.
Fashion Pakistan Council, why did you allow this collection on to the runway? And, given that Hasan Riaz is a young up and coming designer, why didn’t you at least guide him into doing better?
Top picks: the sequined top worn by Mehreen Syed
Yasmeen Jiwa didn’t impress with her sedate gray and blue palette and safe, uninspiring silhouettes.
More of the sequined top worn by Mehreen Syed and less of the fusion meets wedding wear designs could have helped.
Top picks: We’re thinking Mehndi-wear and Eid-wear here; the saris, the chata-pati lehnga worn by Areeba Habib, the tangerine and pink lehnga, the all-white gota-laden three-pieces... that’s pretty much most of the collection
And then came The Pink Tree Company and the catwalk, trundling into lows thus far, heaved a sigh of relief. ‘Chand Raat’ symbolized the label’s forte with traditional wear and craft. The collection’s focus was on gota, zardozi work and block-prints with the silhouettes remaining predominantly Eastern and not experimental. It was very ethnic, quite glamorous and predominantly in cotton which makes it quite perfect for the sweltering Eids we have up ahead.
Did this mean that aesthetics at FPW were a bit mixed up, yo-yoing from prêt to Mehndi-like clothes? Yes but we’re refraining from complaining. A good collection – even an embellished Eastern wedding-ish formal collection – is better than an entourage of bad ones.
Top picks: A blue sherwani and Zhalay Sarhadi’s suit
Amir Adnan knows how to cut a sherwani and one appreciated this in his collection. The designer also made a very worthy gesture by starting off his show with seven hearing impaired models. The boys beamed as they took to the catwalk and the effort made so much sense. Let’s hope that Adnan has set a precedent and many more designers follow suit by helping out the physically challenged in different constructive ways.
This being said, his ‘Beast’ was a bit too winter-friendly for our liking, featuring plenty of velvet and brocade. One understands that the designer’s groomswear market requires luxe fabrics but they still have to be weather-specific. We can’t see a groom wearing something in velvet in the coming few months at least.
Had the fabric been more lightweight, some of the sherwanis and the profusion of layers could have made better sense. The catwalk looks were far too over the top to truly make impact.
On the other hand, showstopper Zhalay Sarhadi looked fantastic all suited up. Like we said earlier, Amir Adnan knows his cuts.
Top picks: The floral lawn shirts and for the wedding bound, Mehreen Syed playing princess in pink!
Farah Talib Aziz stuck to her penchant for pretty Eastern designs and made a very retail-friendly fashion week debut, running the gamut from cotton tunics to embellished formals to wedding-wear worn by her showstoppers. These are the florals that her clients come to her for; the pink and silver embroideries that so many women love. Did the collection make any cutting-edge statements? No but at least Farah understands her signature and plays with it rather than erroneously decide that a fashion week collection means Western gowns.
That’s a point that all our many gown-loving designers need to note – Western-wear and skin show doesn’t always equate to fashion especially when you don’t even know how to cut a neat silhouette.
Coming back to Farah Talib Aziz, it was an aesthetically pleasing line and she couldn’t have chosen better showstoppers than actress Syra Shahroz and her mother-in-law Safina Behroze. The two, in FTA wedding-wear, looked beautiful on the catwalk.
And so, the supposedly prêt based first day of FPW culminated with wedding wear. It isn’t really anyone’s fault simply because designers insist on showing their heavily embellished designs because of their lucrative potential. A good debut, wrapping up a not-so-good day for fashion.