In this lawn-cluttered summer, sometimes ‘not lawn’ sounds good.
After all, for how much longer is the Pakistani woman supposed to be enamoured by the three-four-or-five-piece jigsaw puzzle with its additional offerings of embroideries, silk trimmings, chiffon swathes, Swarovski buttons, flotsam and jetsam?
Here’s why we aren’t enjoying lawn suits:
In a swelteringly uncomfortable summer, contrary to the assessments of lawn moguls, not all women want to look like busy floral bouquets. Barring a sparse smattering of diligently designed suits, present day lawn collections tend to be the the fruition of designers’ sojourns into the many florals that teem within Pinterest, followed by some adroit digital printing.
Also, a lot of us no longer care about the lawn shoot enticingly shot in a European locale or the bigshot actress endorsing a fabric brand when she was representing another one just a year ago. We’ve even gotten clever enough to not get misled by the videos of long queues of women eager to get hold of the lawn suits of their choice. It’s because we know, from experience, that the lawn suit, regardless of how beautiful it looks in the catalogue, is basically a complicated outfit that requires some very expensive stitching. It also needs to specifically be entrusted to a mathematically-gifted tailor who is able to understand the exact geometric alignment of the many embroideries.
And once the suit does get ready, in all its multiple textures and embroidered glory, often it is destined to languish in the corners of our wardrobes. It is far too formal to be worn to work, far too laden with embroidery to be comfortably worn at a summer lunch and, with so many other women buying the same suit and wearing it immediately, loses its novelty value by becoming far too common, far too soon.
A typical lawn suit costs between Rs6000 and Rs7000 and around Rs2000 for the stitching and the prudent amongst us would want to wear such an outfit for at least two years or so. But lawn is irritatingly ubiquitous, instantly recognisable as ‘last year’s’. Many of us never really get to enjoy our outfits except at the odd family formal dinner or perhaps Eid before it becomes ‘so last year’ and loses its charm.
Besides, designer lawn’s heydays are long over. Back when designers first started creating lawn about two decades ago, they would translate their high-end couture aesthetics onto the pedestrian fabric. The mass market would gain access to a designer signature that they would otherwise never be able to afford. Most present day lawn brands, meanwhile, having nothing ‘designer’ about them. As designer Nomi Ansari recalls, “The very first designer lawns were created by the likes of Rizwan Beyg, Sana Safinaz and Shamaeel Ansari and you could actually see their signature in the designs. Now, everything looks the same.”
Designer Fahad Hussayn reveals, “A lot of designers simply charge a certain royalty for allowing textile houses to use their names for a collection. The prints get created by in-house textile design teams and the designers may just come and choose the ones that they like from amongst them. There’s nothing unique about a lawn collection like that. This isn’t true for all designer lawns but it is quite common.”
In a nutshell, it is increasingly getting more economical – and fashion-savvy – to invest into ‘not lawn’. A sparse scattering of designers, valiantly staying away from three-piece lawn’s lucrative avenues, seem to be agreeing.
Let's take a look:
Studio S’ Boss Lady for the summer!
Studio S’ Seher Tareen, for instance, has been making waves with her ‘Boss Lady’ line this year which comes with a hashtag that proudly proclaims ‘#ItsNotLawn’.
“I realised the need for a line like this when I stopped wearing three-piece lawn about three years ago,” explains Seher. “The designs had gotten interchangeable and didn’t stand out and the prints and colors had all gotten too overwhelming for me.
"I began creating tunics in solid colors for myself. My personal style is preppy and I enjoy tweeds, houndstooth, stripes and checks. I figured that many other women must be on the lookout for similar options which lead to the ‘Boss Lady’ collection. A lot of women don’t want to wear a busy lawn suit when they are giving an office presentation or teaching or going to university.”
The fledgling line turned out to be a success. “I have created 21 different prints in lightly textured cotton. The tunics are mid-length so that they can easily be worn with a pant as well as a shalwar. I started off with single shirt-pieces but now I also have single pieces for lowers and two-piece suit options available. I am going to be making ‘Boss Lady’ a regular summer collection. The unstitched fabric comes with a kit with instructions for tailors – or, clients can give us their measurements and we can get it stitched for them.”
Priced at Rs 2750 for a single unstitched shirt, the collection allowed Seher to reach out to a mass market that she hadn’t tapped with her niche, more expensive ‘Studio S’ line.
Lawn meets couture by Fahad Hussayn
Meanwhile, many years ago, Fahad Hussayn dabbled with designer lawn only to realise that it wasn’t quite his ballgame. “I need to have complete control over what I do and that just couldn’t happen in collaboration with a textile houses,” he says. “I decided to create lawn my own way instead.”
Fahad’s particular ‘way’ has been a capsule lawn collection created every year which can be purchased directly from his studio or ordered online via his e-store.
The prints tend to be replete with the Baroque details that are the designer’s signature: trellises, spirals and arches set off by unique embellishments like chains and 3-D florals and stitched in the draped styles that are also quintessential Fahad Hussayn.
“We stitch the designs according to client’s measurements,” says Fahad. “It would be difficult for a tailor to understand the exact placement of the prints if we provided unstitched options.”
Zaheer Abbas, block-prints and chikans!
Similarly, there are so many other options that allow one to spurn the busy ways of three-piece lawn. BombayWala and Koel by Nurjehan Bilgrami offer block-printed fabric in both stitched and unstitched variations. Afsheen Numair of Blocked intersperses her particular block-prints with quirky giraffes, horses and birds drifting about the usual flora.
Zaheer Abbas spins out a ‘Printology’ line every summer with lawn prints stitched into basic utilitarian tunics in different sizes. ‘Gulabo’ has delved into crisp white cotton tunics and classic shirts in pure Irish linen. High-street brands like ‘Image Fabrics’ have tried to make a difference by giving a twist to the usual three-piece. Instead of churning out prints, the brand has stayed true to its signature chikans by creating ‘Lawn-kari’ three-pieces, coupling chikan shirts with plain lowers and silk dupattas.
It’s still lawn, of course – for before it became synonymous with complicated suits, one understood that lawn was the name given to a lightweight cotton fabric perfect for braving the subcontinental summer – but it’s more individualistic and more interesting.
And next year, we can still keep wearing the clothes without them becoming ostensibly ‘last year’s’. It’s simply the most fashion forward way to go … unless you’re the sort who likes to look like a park in Lahore … in full bloom … in spring. If that is the case, good luck with getting a hold of that lawn suit of your choice. There will always be a market for three-four-and-five-piece lawn suits in Pakistan – but there’s clearly also a growing market for ‘not lawn’.