There are fashion shows and there are fashion catalogues. And when the former resembles the latter, the clothes aren’t usually groundbreaking.
I returned from the first day of the ‘Winter Festive’ edition of Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) feeling as if I had just viewed a two-hour long catalog. There were clothes that were pretty, plenty had the potential to sell well but in a week or so, I wouldn’t be able to remember most of the designs.
Where were the new trends, the innovations in silhouette, craft, palette? Not on the catwalk, predominantly.
Blame for this primarily lies on the curious balance that has to be struck by a designer aiming to appease the subcontinental bride and all the family and friends planning to attend her wedding. Classically pretty, traditional clothes are in massive demand while very few people want to spend on a cutting edge – albeit beautifully embellished – design.
The bride, groom and their respective retinues often look at the latest fashion week and decide upon what they want to wear to the wedding. Consequently, there is a subliminal understanding that ‘Winter Festive’ for Pakistan is merely a fancy name for a bridal-wear overdose and that’s what designers tend to show on the catwalk – clothes that they know will sell well.
But this defies the purpose behind fashion week. If it isn’t trendsetting, if it doesn’t offer anything distinctive in terms of embellishment, pattern or colour, then it doesn’t belong on the runway. The designer may as well just have created a spectacular catalogue, advertised it via the far reaches of social media and hauled in the clientele. Why bother with fashion week at all?
On the upside, the FPW catwalk was an immaculate, shiny, marble white, with Grecian pillars in the backdrop. Nubain Ali acted as choreographer and team Nabila adeptly churned out bridal looks backstage. A bonanza of celebrities were on the runway as showstoppers, ensuring that the shows got plenty of hype on social media’s starstruck realms: Kubra Khan for Aamna Aqeel, Imran Abbas and Sana Javed for Lajwanti, Noor Khan and Sarah Khan for Huma Adnan and Junaid Khan and Bilal Ashraf for HSY. Additionally, Sheema Kirmani introduced the Pink Tree Company’s collection.
As for the fashion, ‘safe’ would be a good way to describe them; some of the collections were safe but very good, some safe but not so good but none were abysmally bad. Perhaps we could be optimistic and say that the glass was half full?
Tena Durrani’s bridal procession came laden with heavy-duty regalia, glittering with sequins, blending colours, merging the embellished shirt with the embellished lehnga and layering it up with the embellished dupatta. If you haven’t realised it already, embellishment was the most noticeable feature in this collection.
Tena’s market for wedding-wear – which is considerable – is likely to place orders for many of these designs. Some may be purchased as trousseau but given how heavy most of the clothes were, there were quite a few options for brides as well.
The mix of colours was eye-catching but the fit for some of the designs could have been better.
Huma Adnan’s aesthetic has always tilted towards quirky, colourful, tribal elements. This was visible in her bridal collection which mixed and matched textures and embroidered motifs on a range of easy to wear, uncomplicated silhouettes.
It was good to see that the embellishments weren’t overwhelming – a fully embroidered shirt, for instance, would be paired with a skirt with only a light smattering sequins. I wonder, though, if the designs will also be priced accordingly, with lightly embellished clothes being more economical.
Having said this, newer silhouettes, finer fabrics and finer, more minute embroideries could have helped accentuate the line-up.
The Lajwanti showcase started off with sparkling sequins and then proceeded to bring on the bling till the very end.
To be fair, it was a very pretty sort of bling, running down sari borders and sprinkled onto a pastel palette that ran the gamut from powder pinks to icy blues, mauves and mint greens. The silhouettes were wearable although not particularly unique – then again, as discussed earlier, uniqueness was not really prevalent in any of the showcases.
I hope that Lajwanti sells quite well. Theirs was a very pretty catalogue… oops, fashion week showcase.
Zainab Chhotani was visibly eyeing the most lucrative of all prizes for local ateliers – orders for the main bridal jora that comes with embroidery, glitter and a hefty pay cheque for the designer.
Except for a long kaftan and a metallic grey suit worn by model Zara Abid, bridal wear took center stage. It was all pretty – as was the black off-shoulder worn by showstopper Mehreen Syed – and the embroideries were quite extensive.
I wish that Zainab had dabbled with a slightly more different colour scheme. Pastel colors gilded with silver may be pretty but they are now so ubiquitous that they give off a sense of deja vu.
Aamna Aqeel’s modern, minimal aesthetic offered a refreshing break from the perpetual profusions of sequins.
There were whimsical lopsided bows attached to the waistline of dresses, sequins running in horizontal stripes, a golden eagle in flight and filigree bordering just a collar or a hem. The designer also dabbled with a floral print, lining it underneath shirt hems and jackets but the slight twinges of gold embroideries were much more impactful.
It was a modern, flashy party-wear that could possibly make the transition from runway to retail should the designer choose to do so. It is time now for Aamna to move beyond small-scale exhibitions to consider stocking at various multi-labels across the country and make sure that she what she shows on the ramp, truly is what she sells.
A collection by the Pink Tree Company, paying ode to the fiercely feminine Gulabi Gang and, quite literally, the clothes were swathed in 50 shades of pink.
Knowing the brand’s penchant for traditionalism, I can easily predict that a wedding-wear centric show by the Pink Tree Company is going to dabble with old-world wedding mainstays like lehriya, gota, ghararas, lehngas and voluminous dupattas. But there’s nothing wrong with being predictable. In fact, this fledgling brand has now built a signature of its own and it’s quite an individualistic, beautiful one.
The gota-work dominated but it came in variations; zig-zagging chevrons, worked into extensive ‘jaals’, molded into florals and in thick borders along dupattas and shalwars. The fabric varied from cotton to organza, silk and velvet. It was quite reminiscent of the subcontinent of yore, of stately women resplendent in grand ghararas, sindoor adorning their hair, organza dupattas proudly draped across their shirts.
It was a safe collection – one that oozed beauty rather than make zingy, bold statements. Those, I believe, are set aside for the brand’s luxury-wear showcased earlier in the year. Fair enough.
An HSY finale is something to look forward to, even when the clock's ticking towards an exhausting 11pm, as it did this time around. With rolls of thunder and lightning – is there an HSY show ever without those particular effects? – the male model cortege walked out wearing sleek suits, blazers and turtlenecks.
Scarves were wound about the neck, there was plenty of layering and the palette was subtle and sophisticated: metallic greys, blacks, navy blues, burnished coppers, suede browns and a pristine white suit worn by showstopper Bilal Ashraf.
There was some womenswear as well but the menswear took the spotlight. HSY has a flair for men’s suits and knows precisely how to style them for the catwalk. He should delve into such shows more often.
All photographs by Tapu Javeri