There is always an intangible energy running through the very final day of fashion week.
This may be because, with the fashion omnibus rolling to an end, this is the last day when the city’s fashion set – and then some – dresses to the nines for the red carpet and networks about.
By this time, there is also plenty of gossip floating around – collections that worked, that failed and the odd inevitable controversy that’s being whispered from ear to ear.
There is also a sense of relief, particularly observed amidst the council that is orchestrating the event. Fashion weeks are lumbering, contentious creatures and it isn’t easy reigning them in. Now, finally, their work is done for a few months.
And if HSY is slotted for the finale show, as he often has been at the Pakistan Fashion Design Council’s (PFDC) fashion weeks, the attendance runs high. Shero is the eternal networker who everyone loves and his friends from the fashion frat tend to turn up to sit in the front row, offering their support.
On the third day of the PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week (PLBW), HSY did showcase for the finale and I did see quite a few designers as well as social high-fliers turn up especially for him. Unfortunately, his show only managed to start at midnight. Many of them had left by then. It was a sad throwback to the PFDC’s heydays when fashion week would go on and on till the early hours of the morning. I hope that we don’t end up downsliding to those very uncomfortable, exhausting days.
When shows get delayed one after the other, it is only inevitable that the energy, so palpable earlier in, begins to wane. It makes me wonder whether the finale to a fashion week truly is as coveted a slot as it is perceived to be. After all, it does mark the culmination of an event that has lasted several days. The audience has already seen multitudes of bridal designs. And with the clock ticking on, the audience is likely to be tired.
Designers work hard on their collections and it seems unfair when their work isn’t appreciated the way it should be. The solution to this is easy: end the fashion week early.
But before I write about the final act, let’s start from the very beginning. The day started well, with an unexpectedly strong debut made by a brand that had been allotted the early evening slot. This slot usually tends to be dominated by bad design. Mohsin Naveed Ranjha, with his colossal 65 piece collection, broke the jinx…
This may have been Mohsin Naveed Ranjha’s first time on the PFDC’s catwalk but he is hardly a new contender in the business. The designer from Gujranwala has slowly and surely been building his name, dressing celebrities, investing into multiple campaigns, participating in the Hum Network’s Bridal Couture Week and last year, when cross-border relations were better, landing himself into the spotlight by hiring Bollywood star Ranveer Singh for a fashion shoot.
Mohsin also has a store on Lahore’s fashion-forward M.M. Alam road and word has it that it does quite well, attracting clientele within Lahore as well as those from the many cities in its vicinity.
With his ‘Chaharbagh’, he catered to this market with a massive collection that ran the gamut from trousseau to heavy duty mehndi and wedding clothes.
From vermilion to crimson, greens, yellows, bridal reds and glinting whites, myriad colors were poured on to the catwalk, set off by smatterings of glitter: embroideries, gota and mirror-work. An effort was made to create some very different floral patterns although silhouettes were completely traditional.
It was a pretty collection but certainly not an experimental one. It was also very varied and while one may not like some of the clothes, there were others that were bound to appeal.
The menswear, similarly, offered many options: bright kurtas with embroidered necklines, sherwanis and waistcoats – some, a bit too bold, while others, more urbane and restrained.
Nevertheless, the very long show would have had been difficult to bear had it not been for the upbeat Punjabi music playing out and the models coming out in twos and threes, dancing to the Punjabi beats, twirling and breaking out into impromptu bhangra.
The joie de vivre was infectious and the audience cheered, taking photographs, making videos. Showstoppers Sheheryar Munawar and Maya Ali added in even more appeal.
As far as debuts go, this was a good one. But Mohsin Naveed Ranjha will have to think out of the box and make an identity for himself in order to make it to fashion’s big league.
FAS’ lineup offered nothing new in terms of palette and delved frequently towards loud, OTT embellishment. This is, of course, quite common in the case of bridal-wear but the designer treaded far too deep into generic waters.
There was nothing particularly new about the embroidery patterns and many of the clothes – especially the menswear – did not fit well. The lack of finesse made this collection one of the weakest of the day.
And this was despite the presence of some very heavy duty showstoppers: Omer Shehzad, Kubra Khan, Amanat Ali, Imran Abbas and Ayeza Khan.
But showstoppers can haul in a bit of social media mileage but they can’t save a show.
Noreen Neelam’s selection of whites and bieges had promise.
Also, the mirror-work employed by the designers glittered prettily from afar. Had its placement been more innovative, the clothes could really have made a statement.
Neater, more finely cut silhouettes would have also made this collection a stronger one.
Nickie Nina’s collection was varied, as is the case with most bridal lineups, eyeing every event that encompasses the Pakistani wedding, from colorful Mehndi options to cardinal reds and silvers and powder pinks for the valima.
The multicolored options were particularly appealing, offering blends of glitter and floral print.
The heavier options in all-red and silver were less interesting, particularly because overdoses of embroidery tend to smother design, making it forgettable.
There was a ballet dancer and a man playing the violin, a bride who seemed to be in distress and a whole lot of twirling and whirling on the catwalk.
Hareem Farooq played a role and Aima Baig sang live. But what was Fahad trying to say in this dramatic pantomime? The audience wondered. Even the models wondered – I know so because I especially asked them later.
But the show did transfix. Creatures of fashion like Fahad Hussayn are so necessary to fashion week. They keep things interesting and they make the effort to deliver not just a show but an experience. I don’t ever remember a Fahad Hussayn show to have been boring. This one wasn’t either.
And yet, in this particular show Fahad’s clothes got lost in all the drama. Some of the heavy wedding-wear was so beautiful and quite quintessentially Fahad Hussayn in the way in which the embellishments were intricately meshed together.
But their finer details could hardly be appreciated with the models constantly moving and the lights changing color so that the clothes’ true hues weren’t usually visible.
Also, the few outfits from Fahad’s print line, ‘Print Museum’ were very out of place amidst the heavy wedding-wear. On a bigger catwalk, Fahad’s theatrics could have been more riveting. At PLBW, they only ended up looking confusing.
Omar Farooq has made a mark for himself as one of the foremost menswear designers in the country. Time and again, he has proven that he has a well-honed artistic eye for the various genres that encompass menswear: fashion-forward pret and formal-wear. His collections at bridal week tend to cater to the latter category and never had Omar disappointed with his suits and sherwanis. Until now.
There was nothing particularly innovative about the Eastern formals and in fact, the mix of colors, print and textures often did not go well together. There were certain designs that truly made me wonder if Omar was creating them – like the sherwani with the chevron pattern down its length, the beige kurta paired with a silver brocade shawl or the short jackets in unflattering colors.
In addition, a selection of male models also came out wearing suits, carrying cloth bags that held flowers, apparently stressing that all humanity should be given freedom.
I can’t fathom what florals had to do with this particular message. And while I am all for supporting social messages, both on and off the catwalk, a collection lacking sartorial finesse can’t be saved via social commentary.
Whatever happened, Republic by Omar Farooq? This collection came as an unwelcome surprise.
HSY, however, raised the fluctuating sartorial quotient with a finale that was indicative of his brand’s evolution. The thick beige hand embroideries that are his signature were very much there but amping them was a play of color and texture.
There was embroidery running down the length of shirts in intricate rivulets, curving into scallops, chevrons and florals.
There were eye-catching deep blues and violets, with their blend of jamawar and threadwork; long column shirts that were lovely and all-white designs that had a classy elegance to them. Less appealing were the light blue ruffled tops, giving off a Spanish effect, but not quite befitting the pairing with an embroidered lehnga.
Nevertheless, the womenswear as well as the menswear was well-conceived. It was, certainly, one of the designer’s stronger collections in recent times and it thankfully wrapped up a not-too-great day at fashion week on a happy note.
But a great finale can’t excuse an entire day where sartorial standards ran low. On the third and final day of PLBW, some major fashion heavyweights couldn’t deliver. Is this because designers are thinking far too much about retail now? Is the economic crunch weighing so heavily on them that artisanal inclinations have been set aside?
Has fashion week lost its groove with commercial concerns taking over completely? I hope not.