Beautiful, traditional bridal-wear sells well which is why designers with an eye for business create it. And when the clients begin to flock in, they create some more.
Beautiful, wearable clothes, with layers and layers of embroidery winding over them. And so the vicious cycle turning the wheels of the business of bridal-wear continues.
Nothing wrong with that at all except when you place those clothes on a catwalk that is ideally all about setting new trends. What trends can be set with heavily embellished bridal-wear?
Sometimes, none at all. And at other times, at a fashion week dedicated to bridals, the trends can be found within the details: a new color palette, unique placements of embroidery, a twist to a conventional silhouette.
These nuances can make a collection stand out. Also, quite often, a great bridal collection is one that simply celebrates the work of a designer, asserting a well-honed signature and showing how it’s getting stronger.
In that vein, the first day of this year’s PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week (PLBW) was, more than anything else, a celebration of Nida Azwer’s glorious, instantly covetable artistry. There were also certain others who made a mark.
But before we go into the sartorial details, let’s turn towards the PLBW runway this time around: a faux garden with a backdrop of leafy plastic plants and astro-turf covering the length of the walkway. The theme would have befitted a spring/summer event more easily rather than a fashion week positioned in autumn/winter.
Also, with plenty of red bridals floating out in every collection, the mix of red and green in the resulting images was Christmas-card worthy. All you needed was a bit of mistletoe and carols playing in the background.
From a technical point of view, the catwalk appeared to be too narrow with lehngas often rustling past the feet of the people in the front row. Bridal-wear tends to be voluminous and requires a wider space in order to be showcased in its true element.
Also, a ramp that is higher rather than at the same level as the audience may result in better images. Far too many times, images from a great collection have lost impact because somehow, a gaggle of men have been caught in the background, having a good laugh, looking bored or worse, taking selfies!
A flatter runway may have a more international feel – for that’s how it’s usually done internationally – but until the front row crowd starts behaving better, we have to accept that we are not living in uber-fashionable Paris.
On to the clothes now. The first day of PLBW boasted some established names and some new ones and it was the diversity in design on the catwalk that made the day interesting…
Hussain Rehar was slotted in as the opening act of PLBW and let’s all be thankful for him.
In a world where pastels, sequins and Swarovski crystals refuse to leave the catwalk – ever – young, vivacious firecrackers are rare. Hussain, with his knack for individualism, is an anomaly but such a welcome one.
He has been making waves with successive, distinctive luxury-wear collections and with this show, he proved his mettle with bridal-wear. But having said this, he wasn’t really a firecracker this time around.
With plenty of dhol-dhamaka in the backdrop, the models streamed out, sifting through bright colors and intelligently-placed embroideries. Gold lame nudged shoulders with corals and old-school green and pink combinations, set off by the sweetest bridal pouches and clutches, some of them worked with traditional chata-pati.
There were culottes, jackets, lehngas and fully embellished shirts that swooped low at the back or backless cholis, held together merely by a web of strings. The finishing was very neat, giving testament to how Hussain is coming into his own.
It was all very pretty. Quite obviously, the designer is zoning in on the lucrative business for wedding-wear, decisively veering away from his love for the fantastic. But I do hope that come next fashion week, Hussain doesn’t show a similar collection.
Pretty is great and it sells well, but it isn’t memorable. Notwithstanding this collection, Hussain Rehar is so, so good at creating memorable clothes. He’s also got a predilection for sharp tailoring. I hope that as he gets more business savvy, he doesn’t let his intrinsic edginess slide away.
Zubia Zainab made their catwalk debut with a collection that made the mistake of falling into a pastel and sequins rut. They wouldn’t be the first new brand to have done so. This particular rut is a favorite amongst designers and I am sure that it draws in clientele. But on the catwalk, it just drones on.
There were capes and embellished tunics, with ruffles and flares added in, mirror-work that was pretty but should have been neater and a smattering of gowns.
Gowns, in fact, are another glaring error to be found in many collections. We are generally a lehnga-wearing, kurta-shalwar clad country – we don’t know how to carry gowns and even if we do, most of our designers don’t know how to cut them.
It’s better to stay away from them or, if we absolutely have to wear them, buy them from a foreign brand that is a pro with the cuts.
Appreciable in this debut line was the effort made not to completely smother the clothes with embroidery. The designers, however, need to think out of the box in order to gain prominence.
With ‘Anarkali’, Nida Azwer carried on with her love for Mughals – meticulous hand embroideries etched Mughal scenes on shawls and jackets and the silhouettes flowed romantically from anarkalis to kalidars, lehngas, saris and izars.
This wasn’t the first time that Nida has paid ode to the Mughal era or played with traditional silhouettes. I am sure that it won’t be the last time either. In fact, it would be safe to say that should I place Nida’s collections through the years together, it would be sometimes difficult distinguish one from the other.
But then again, I don’t think Nida wants to create disparate collections every year. Hers is a signature that is deep-rooted in old-world Eastern glamour.
She has built her brand, dedicatedly and painstakingly, forging an identity that is easily recognizable. She may add a few tweaks here and there but truly, she is in her element when she is creating clothes that are timelessly beautiful, carefully crafted, to be cherished and worn and then, worn again and again.
Could a few tapered, tailored outfits have added versatility? Maybe. But then, those wouldn’t have been classic Nida Azwer, would they?
The Rising Talent segment was dominated by clothes that were more fantastical than wearable and yet, some of the new designers showed promise simply because they tried to push boundaries.
Urwah Ali, for instance, created pretty layers of tulle in a ballet dress and etched ballet figures on the hem of a long cape. Abbas Jamil Rajput’s (‘AJR) ode to the artistry of Versailles and Marie Antoinette created dramatic costumes.
Model Mushk Kaleem carried off a heavy trail of tulle – which, may I say, was far too reminiscent of other tulle trails that I have seen in the recent past – and there were other outfits that were worked with ruffles, feathers and heavily pleated fabric.
Elaha Ahmed’s ‘Game Of Thrones’ inspired collection offered uninteresting layers of chiffon while Mehak Yaqoob’s designs, with their chains and buckles, did not impress.
As Rising Talent segments go, this time’s showcase wasn’t a strong one. From unappealing colors to badly placed embellishments, the clothes could have been better.
But these are fledgling designers, only just beginning upon their careers and they are likely to experiment before they develop a decisive ethos. Hussain Rehar once made his debut on the Pakistan Fashion Design Council’s (PFDC) catwalk. So did Ali Xeeshan, Fahad Hussayn, Zonia Anwaar and so many others.
Sometimes, it takes time for a designer to improve but kudos to the council for persisting on with its efforts with the Rising Talent, providing mentorship and even financing their collections. If the industry has to grow, new talent has to be ushered in by all means.
The most obvious description for Saira Shakira’s show would be ‘heavily embellished’. This designer duo is yet another young success story, showcasing repetitively and working very hard, slowly and surely building a considerable clientele.
‘Kali – A Bloom’ was completely immersed in embroideries and Eastern silhouettes, clearly meant for this clientele.
As they tend to do, the designers added a few elements here and there – fringes on the sleeves and cutwork at the back. But these twists, that I look forward to when I see a Saira Shakira show, were very few this time around.
It would be fair to say that the designers’ recent luxury-wear outings have been much more fashion forward.
This collection, meanwhile, got lost in a cloud of glittering sequins. Young brides-to-be may enjoy it but I missed the quirkiness that usually comes to easily to Saira Shakira.
It was a good ending note - that could have been better - to the first day of PLBW.
One down and two more days to go. Will we be blinded by bling – and proceed to see embroidered florals floating about in our nightmares – or is there some high fashion in the offing? With the way bridal fashion tends to be, I can’t be too optimistic. Then again, let’s hope for the best.
All photographs are by Faisal Farooqui and his team at Dragonfly.