Bridal fashion weeks aren’t usually exciting affairs but this year’s PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week (PLBW) truly did pack in some glitzy, glorious punches.
It's interesting to note that the designer lineup transcended cities with the best collections divided between the designers who had flown in from Karachi and the Lahore-based ones. From Karachi, Nomi Ansari, Nida Azwer and Misha Lakhani put their best feet forward while Lahore wielded clout via Faraz Manan, the House of Kamiar Rokni, HSY, Republic by Omar Farooq, Ali Xeeshan and to some extent, Hussain Rehar.
Here’s another point to mull over: designers seem to be making a return to the fashion week format. Faraz Manan, for instance, had long been building his brand via solo shows in Lahore as well as abroad and last year, Ali Xeeshan had declared that he wanted to plan out a separate show rather than participate in fashion week. HSY, also, hosted a grand solo extravaganza earlier this year.
And yet, here they all were, part of the PLBW lineup.
This doesn’t mean that the trend for solo shows will die down – Faraz has several dotted about his calendar and Ali’s PLBW show was, in essence, a solo – but it indicates that fashion weeks continue to be considered credible platforms for building the business of fashion. Solo shows are tedious, expensive affairs and given how competitive the bridal market is getting, fashion week can serve as a powerful, more economically feasible, marketing tool – provided that the collection being showcased is good.
One wonders, though, if the early evening shows at PLBW are truly benefitting marketing-wise as much as the mainstream shows that are scheduled later. The earlier slots tend to be allotted to younger, more commercial brands, but media interest in them is markedly low and they don’t get the extensive reviews that the later shows do. Perhaps the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) could make more of an effort to digitally market these shows so that they can at least make a mark on social media? Having shouldered the expense and made the effort to create a fashion week collection, these brands deserve this much, at least.
Having said this, fashion statements in the earlier slots tend to be at an all-time low. More than anything else, I feel that the catwalk serves as a training ground for these newer labels, allowing them the chance to mature and develop a signature before they can be promoted on to the more prestigious late evening timings.
Showcasing in the early evening on day three were Tabya Khan, Ahmad Sultan, Mehroze Saboor and IVY Couture. Following those was Faraz Manan’s solo show – the ‘Return of Faraz’, as someone quipped – and it lived up to all the hype that had preceded it…
It is quite evident that Faraz Manan now caters to an international clientele aside from his considerable local one. The 40-piece PLBW collection was meant not just for the high society local wedding but also for the red carpet, the film superstar, the expat community and the Middle Eastern royalty – the many markets that Faraz dabbles with so adeptly.
A range of silhouettes took center stage; straight column shirts with ruffled sleeves, boleros twinkling with embroidery over a bustier, layered shirts, full skirts, trailing sleeves, full-length embellished suits and a standout gown, worn by Mehreen Syed, in a brilliant emerald green. The menswear, also, was exceptional; crafted in subtle tones with well-fitted layers and neat, intricate embroideries.
Faraz wields glamour so well, shaping it to his quintessential blend of the contemporary and the traditional. There was so much to love, so many details that were dazzling and it was all explains the clout that Faraz Manan now has, locally and internationally.
Colour was the strongest selling point in Nickie Nina’s ‘Noor Mahal’, appealingly played out in chunri and block prints, accentuated by the glint of gota.
Shirts predominantly rose high, paired with Dhaka pajamas, cigarette pants and tapered shalwars. Was there anything significantly new about the collection? There wasn’t. Regardless, it was pretty and featured options that could work well particularly for mehndis.
The heavier outfits – targeted towards the baraat and valima, I am assuming – were less inspiring, weighed down by thick, spaced out embroideries. More innovation and minute, finer threadwork would have definitely helped.
Time and again, Hira Ali is proving herself to be a bright young spark who insists on dancing to her own tune. In her debut bridal show, sponsored by the PFDC, her designs took a bold turn towards the after-hours wedding party or the anglicised destination wedding.
'Snap trapped’ was anything but typical – the sequins were worked into geometric shapes, thick round beads were enmeshed into concentric patterns and short dresses, boat-necked blouses and jumpsuits streamed out. It was funky and fun and the embellishment patterns may even set off a few trends.
Having said this, Hira needs to work on developing cleaner, more well-defined cuts.
First Faraz Manan and then a stellar collection by Omar Farooq – the third day of PLBW proved to be one that pushed the ante within the erstwhile market for men’s formals. Omar Farooq’s Eastern formals followed classic lines, sticking to a sedate palette and merging slight, understated prints with plain blocks of colour. Following up were the suits, well-tailored, well-structured, sans embellishment with a mere frippery added in the form of a tiny sequined motif above the front pocket.
Omar apparently drew inspiration from Rajisthan for the collection but this wasn’t very obvious unless the details were scrutinised: the weaves, especially hand-woven and subtly patterned with the florals that dominate Rajisthani pottery and the brooches - on the suits, turbans and khussas - shaped like the mythical creatures that are also part of the region’s mythological beliefs.
It was classy and never OTT. Omar Farooq isn’t one for dandyism. He designs for the refined man and with every passing season, he does it with greater expertise.
The HSY finale was dedicated to the women of KPK and given his penchant for following themes, the designer had Khumariyaan, the band featured in season 11 of Coke Studio, play folk music live throughout the show. The requisite thunder and lightning that tends to precede an HSY show – I now actually look to forward to it – was followed by a collection that bore the designer’s signature.
The wedding-wear filtered out in the deep autumnal hues that are such favourites of his - multi-tiered lehngas, layered saris and ghararas, constructed from fabric that varied from silk to thick velvet and worked with the swirling gold florals that are now a decipherable element in HSY’s designs. This collection was made interesting by the layering and tribal-esque embroideries. Having said this, some of the designs were reminiscent of past collections. Then again, perhaps they were just indicative of the HSY ethos?
What caught the eye was the styling with the models walking out wearing turbans, sunglasses and even the occasional set of headphones slung about the neck!
Models Cybil Chowdhry and Noore Bhatti – ostensibly missing from the PLBW runway but seen sitting amidst the audience throughout fashion week – came on to the catwalk for HSY and it was good to see them doing what they do best. The PFDC’s effort to bring in tall, foreign models is appreciable but traditional wedding-wear looks its best on Eastern faces rather than pale blonde ones!
It was an energetic ending to fashion week - an HSY show ensures this. Then again - notwithstanding some very late show timings - the PLBW had been high on energy throughout, flying on the gilded wings of bridal fashion and quite often, veering them towards newer, more innovative territory.