There seems to be an unwritten law within Pakistani fashion that dictates that any fashion week that takes place in the latter half of the year needs to cater to the impending big fat winter wedding season.
Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW), following a ‘Winter Festive’ theme, adhered to this law and it made sense because, really, what are the biggest festive occasions in the country? Weddings. And when do they usually take place? Winter. Capiche?
But even though it makes sense business-wise, this all-encompassing fixation with wedding-wear usually tends to be a bit of a bore, spinning out same-looking designs in dozens - likely to sell, unlikely to impress. Luckily, the second day of FPW chose to break a law or two and offer refreshing variations in designs. Strewn amidst the bling, the sequins, the flotsam, the jetsam, was wedding-wear that dabbled with different flavors, a heady dose of luxe and a grand, fashion-forward finale.
These were the collections that made one go snap-happy taking photographs on the cellphone and cheer, half-relieved, “Yes, this is ‘Winter Festive’.”
Wardha Saleem has always had a penchant for color and she played up to this strength with her ‘ChandBala’. For most of the time, the colors ran rampant down Wardha’s canvas, winding into quirky ‘chandbala’ patterns, running in horizontal borders and snazzy chevrons and mixing in with gota, zardozi, kora dabka and foil and screen printing.
Parading out to Mai Dhai singing live to the beats of the tabla, there were so many options that screamed ‘Mehndi-wear’. Stepping off the color wheel, the designer also presented more single-toned options – the cardinal red joras for the bride, the silver, mauve and gold for the valima.
And yet, the many iterations of color were what truly resonated with what I feel is the Wardha Saleem signature, melding dashes of quirk with the traditionally pretty and doing it very well.
Sara Rohale Asghar treaded hackneyed waters when she opted for a palette dominated by pastel pinks and silvers with occasional spurts of maroon thrown in. Those colors, that criss-crossing ‘jaal’ and that shimmer of Swarovski crystals has been seen so many times before that there’s nothing new about it. The reappearance of the peplum on the catwalk was a further blast from the past.
The designer had very evidently worked hard on the clothes for the workmanship was extensive and her celebrity showstopper Ayeza Khan looked like a veritable princess. I wish that some of this effort had been invested into innovating with silhouette and pattern and most importantly, changing that color palette!
Deepak & Fahad turned towards groomswear with ‘Zartaab’, conspicuously setting aside the streaks of playful design that I have come to associate with them. There was no place in this collection for the abstract sketches, chequered patterns and theological references that have been part of their past collections. Instead, sherwanis embroidered with paisleys and florals took center stage, followed closely by monotone kurtas, shawls and waistcoats. The cuts and colors were quite staid, being very wearable but not particularly interesting.
And this is unfortunate considering that Deepak & Fahad have proven in the past that they’re quite adept at creating design that is interesting. Perhaps in another show at another fashion week?
Maheen Karim’s particular brand of glamour is so unmistakably her own. The beauty lies in her cuts – she understands contemporary luxe and has a gimlet eye for tailoring. The pleats of a trouser fall just right, the ruffles cascade in just the right proportions, the cancanned skirt billows perfectly and the off-shoulder is cut neatly, precisely.
And then there were the prints; potent mixes of phosphorescent reds, tangerines and corals, worked into kaftans, off-shoulder gowns and pants and embellished with hyperbolic three-dimensional florals. There was an elegance to it all, an ebullient love for fashion and the expertise to tease and tweak it into different directions.
Other designers who aspire to create anglicised gowns truly can learn by observing Maheen’s collections on the catwalk so that they understand that it takes a certain finesse to cut a Western silhouette. It isn’t everyone’s ballgame. But it is Maheen’s. She ran home-runs with it.
Classic traditionalism almost never fails and it formed the underlying ethos of Rano’s Heirlooms. As the brand’s name implied, the designs followed ethnic silhouettes and embellishment techniques, playing with plenty of net, embroideries running in scallops and a mish-mash of color that merged well.
It was all a tad safe but there was an old-world charm to the collection that would appease the traditional amongst us – and may even convince the non-traditional to indulge into a bit of nostalgia.
With his debut menswear show, Shahmeer Ansari paraded out sherwanis, suits, jackets and kurtas – but none of the designs made much of an impact. Better finishing and finer stitching could have helped improve the collection.
The best was quite literally saved for last. Maheen Khan delivered nonchalant glamour effortlessly, marching to her own tune, spinning out beautiful bona fide design. There was raw silk molded into tunics that pinched at the waist, exaggerated lopsided collars self-importantly winding about the neck, a skirt with pink florals romantically littered upon it and the designer’s vision for bridals: minimal, feminine, allowing the fabric and the design to breathe.
And this is what fashion week should be all about: delivering a fresh perspective, strengthening a signature, marrying experimentation with the visually appealing, leading up to the exclamation, ‘I want to wear this!’
Maheen Khan, in the last of FPW’s group shows this season, taught this lesson well. Question is, will it be a lesson that will remain unlearned?
All photographs by Tapu Javeri