Lahore tends to buzz during fashion week days.

There is always a hefty crowd filing in to see shows but there’s also a lot of excitement surrounding the events – salons packed with day-long bookings by guests vying to get red carpet ready and soirees planned out for later in the night, after the shows have ended.

The alleys of androon shehr Lahore are particularly thronged by fashion glitterati late into the night; there’s nothing quite as fun as gossiping and giggling over a platter of hot chicken karahi!

The Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) will tell you that fashion week is a serious affair for them and that it is planned out to the tee in order to further the business of fashion. But for the city that relishes putting up her hair, slipping on high-heeled stilettos and strutting out in bona fide designer wear, fashion week is – and will always be – great fun.

The bonhomie is infectious – anyone who attends fashion week in Lahore can’t help but chortle through the shows and spend a little bit more time getting trussed up for the red carpet.

Of course, it helps if you’re soaking in some great fashion. Even the most vivacious of cities can elicit yawns and bleary eyes if the catwalk is mundane. However, the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW) never really has been boring. The three or four-day long event always features some very strong contenders who pull in the punches and overshadow the weaker collections. And as time progresses and the fashion industry matures, it would be fair to say that slowly the hits are beginning to outnumber the misses.

But what if wedding-wear keeps making an appearance at a fashion week dedicated to pret? What if it’s beautiful, breathtaking bridal wear? Does that make it a ‘hit’ or a ‘miss’? More on that later.

Casting an eye upon the 20th consecutive PSFW – taking place from the April 11 to April 13 this year – here’s a look at what’s coming up…

Here’s who’s showing

Kicking off fashion week will be designer Zara Shahjahan, making a long overdue return to the catwalk, with a collection of luxury formals. Zara may have had taken a break from fashion weeks but her aesthetic has consistently remained in the limelight, visible in her hot-selling lawn collections and the formal wear worn frequently by celebrities like Syra Shahroz and model Sadaf Kanwal. The designer says that she will be showcasing some of the same traditional statements, “with a twist”, at PSFW.

Hussain Rehar, HSY and Saira Shakira are some of the designers showcasing pret at PSFW
Hussain Rehar, HSY and Saira Shakira are some of the designers showcasing pret at PSFW

Another fashion favorite that had been in absentia for far too long is designer Yahsir Waheed, also showing on the first day, with a collection that he describes as a ‘fun and youthful mix of fabrics’. Khadijah Shah’s fledgling high-street brand Zaha will be making its catwalk debut with an ‘80’s inspired lineup of ready-to-wear, intriguingly titled ‘Wild Things’. Chapter 2 by Khaadi will be presenting their signature hand-loomed fabric in a collection dedicated to the ebb and flow of time through the day. The clothes will be styled and layered into wearable silhouettes. HSY, completing 25 years in the industry, has dedicated his ‘RANI’ to his mother, creating hand-made patterns on a mostly monochromatic color palette.

In a surprise move, Nomi Ansari will be dismissing his penchant for bridals altogether with an athleisure line created in collaboration with local sportswear brand Tuhura. “It’s a very young, funky line, for people who are fond of going to the gym and looking good while they are there!” says Nomi. “There will be separates for men and women; tops, lowers, bottoms, tracks. And there won’t be any embroidery.” A collection by Nomi Ansari without any embellishments – this ought to be interesting!

Nomi Ansari is ditching bridals for athleisure at this PSFW!
Nomi Ansari is ditching bridals for athleisure at this PSFW!

The young– but talented – Hussain Rehar is planning to go back to the future with the ‘Fifth Dimension’. “It’s a futuristic collection with exaggerated silhouettes, a lot of structure, modern embellishments and a brilliant color palette,” describes Hussain.

With ‘Isfahan’, Sania Maskatiya will be presenting her take on traditional-wear, incorporating it with signature cuts and indigenous elements. I am guessing that this is going to be a business-savvy line, targeting the designer’s considerable clientele who are soon going to be keeping an eye out for festive Eid apparel.

On the other hand, Saira Shakira seem to be dabbling towards anglicised territory with ‘The Secret Garden’, which will feature embellished Western-wear inspired by the wilderness of a garden.

… and you can’t escape wedding-wear

It also seems that despite its professed inclination towards pret, PSFW will feature occasional glimpses of wedding-wear gliding on to the catwalk.

Fahad Hussayn’s show, for instance, will showcase his Print Museum line as well as his couture line which will include some embellished wedding-wear options, according to the designer.

Instead of their usual all-bridal collection, House of Kamiar Rokni will show a diverse mix of designs
Instead of their usual all-bridal collection, House of Kamiar Rokni will show a diverse mix of designs

The House Of Kamiar Rokni, bridal couturiers at heart, are planning to drift elsewhere – but not quite – with a diffusion line titled ‘Neo-folk’. According to designer Kamiar Rokni, the collection runs the gamut from “the holiday to the wedding.” Inspired by ethnic folk elements from around the world, translated into contemporary design, the collection will be a mix of bespoke pieces as well as others that will be available for purchase off-the-rack as well as online.

Sana Safinaz’s formal-wear will also be teetering towards the wedding, with a collection that will be a spin-off of their solo ‘Message From the East’ at Karachi’s Fashion Pakistan Week just a month ago. The first quarter of that show had featured affordable, modern wedding-wear that could be purchased off the rack from the designers’ bridal studio.

Sana Safinaz's show will feature a mix of fresh designs and those previously shown at FPW last month
Sana Safinaz's show will feature a mix of fresh designs and those previously shown at FPW last month

At PSFW, Sana Safinaz will be extending this aesthetic, incorporating some new designs into the collections as well as some that have already been seen. Perhaps the designers want to assert this all-new take on trendy wedding-wear-on-a-budget by showcasing it in two different cities. Regardless, it would have had been more innovative and certainly more exciting had they opted for a new collection for PSFW. Then again, perhaps Sana Safinaz will be giving a different spin to the clothes?

Also, I hope that while these designers may sway towards formal embellished apparel, they don’t decide to bring out heavy duty bridals on the catwalk. Designer bridal-wear may (sometimes) be beautiful but it will seem oddly placed at a spring/summer fashion week dedicated to pret.

In the realm of men's fashion

Standing alone – but, perhaps, standing strong – in the realm of men's fashion, will be Republic by Omar Farooq, showcasing a lineup of street-wear as well as formals, inspired by symbolism. The palette will mostly be muted, with pops of neon shaking things up.

Republic by Omar Farooq's collection was received well at the PSFW last year
Republic by Omar Farooq's collection was received well at the PSFW last year

Read on: Republic by Omar Farooq makes menswear cool again on Day 3 of PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week

Surfacing again … the Rising Talent

It’s also great to see the Rising Talent segment return to PSFW’s catwalk. The show, dedicated to nurturing new designers, had faded away when the chief sponsor had backed out. It had been unfortunate because, after trundling through years of unfathomably experimental collections, the Rising Talent segment had only just begun to have a clear direction, with the selected students being mentored to creating wearable, fashion-forward designs. Would new talent not be given a chance at fashion weeks just because the sponsors had had a change of heart?

Zafar Ahsan Naqvi's wild and quirky collection for the Rising Talent segment in 2017
Zafar Ahsan Naqvi's wild and quirky collection for the Rising Talent segment in 2017

The Rising Talent segment, however, is back now, sponsored by Aquafina, and will feature the work of three freshly graduated designers: Zeeshan Mohy-ud-din, Hafsa Mahmood and Mahnoor Azam. According to PFDC Chairperson Sehyr Saigol, the designers have been strictly mentored while creating their collections.

The evening shows

Slotted for the evening shows – dominated by lawn, the high street and debutant designers - are So Kamal, Rici Melion, Zasimo, Sameer Karasu, Almirah, Hana, Khaas and Sanoor. While this segment is mostly about retail, one hopes that it also proves to be fashion forward. Why delve towards the catwalk at all if you don’t have anything new to say? And why should the PFDC allow lackluster design on to its catwalk, even in the early evening?

The TDAP connection

Who will be watching the shows, then? Lahore’s high fashion circles invariably attend fashion week as does the media as well as a small smattering of celebrities. Also, possibly filling in the rows will be the foreign visitors attending the Trade Development Authority Pakistan (TDAP)’s first textile-based TEXPO in Lahore, taking place near the PSFW venue.

Foreign attendees of TDAP’s first textile-based expo are likely to attend PSFW this year. But will they take anything other than Pakistan's soft image back home with them?

Ideally, most of TDAP’s visitors at the PSFW will have a knowledge of fabric and embellishment. In the short run, this means that they will gain a better understanding of the crafts and techniques being employed in the local fashion industry. In the long run, it could lead to deals being struck between Pakistani designers and foreign buyers, investors or brands.

Then again – and I speak based on past experience – it could simply mean that a host of foreign attendees will be watching the show and return home impressed by Pakistan’s ‘soft image’.

But I hope that there’s a lot more that’s impressive about PSFW than merely our softer, creative side. It would be great if the business of Pakistani fashion could finally move conclusively towards global territory. If not, fashion weeks should at least give it the strength to steamroll through the local market.