Designer Fahad Hussayn has announced that his brand has undergone bankruptcy and that he is closing down his couture house. And it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this is sad news for local fashion.
As a designer Fahad has his fans and his critics and as a reviewer, I can vouch that I have always looked forward to his shows. Fahad’s shows, even when sandwiched in a multi-designer fashion week lineup, have stood out, for their very distinctive aesthetic and the extra oomph added in through fanciful headgear, catwalk theatrics, props and fantastical lighting.
The designer has always preferred to create the accessories for his show himself, painstakingly putting together high-fangled crowns and jhumkas, involved not just in showcasing the clothes but in the hair and makeup, down to how he wants the models to walk.
The shows have also had the most interesting titles, straight out of fairytale lore: ‘Dara Shikoh aur Sunehri Churail’, ‘The Huntman’s Lament’, ‘Agnikot’, ‘Labyagawachi’ and ‘Suraiya Titanic’, among others.
The collections, showcased under these intriguing titles, haven’t disappointed either. Fahad’s bridals and couture come in unique hues that are intricately meshed with detailed handwork, his stitched lawn comes splashed with bright colours and kitsch.
His meticulous attention to detail, however, has always won Fahad his friends as well as his enemies. Backstage at a fashion week, he has often fretted when he wants the accessories to look a certain way and isn’t given the time to style the models the way he wants.
He has openly gotten disillusioned with his peers but then, eventually, simmered down and made peace again. His designing prowess can’t be denied and despite his now infamous artistic temperament, fashion weeks have always welcomed him back to the fray. In an industry bogged down with copycats, Fahad is the real deal. There are so few like him.
And Fahad’s couture house would have continued to grow stronger, had it not been for his business sense.
“Bad business decisions” lead to him shutting down, he wrote on social media, when he announced leaving the business. He also wrote, “… as an artist I’ve struggled with business skills, I thought with time and resources I could make my vision come to life on my own, but sadly not everything works out the way you want, maybe I don’t want to do the business, I just want to keep on creating art…”
Also read: What makes Fahad Hussayn so angry?
What were these bad business decisions? “I spread myself too thin,” Fahad pondered to me, following his announcement. “Maybe I should have just worked on couture and not expanded to Print Museum. I didn’t have the financial resources to invest in so many different lines.”
I argue that he had a flair for the eccentric, artistic prints that defined his Print Museum.
“So what? I am a great dancer too. That doesn’t mean that I should do it for a living,” he points out.
Most designers have investors giving them financial backup. Didn’t Fahad have a business partner supporting him?
“Of course, I have worked with investors but they would all ask me to create designs like so and so brand. I refuse to copy anyone. I have a vision of my own. Unfortunately, investors did not understand this.”
Another factor that in all probability lead to a downslide in his business were a few orders that Fahad couldn’t deliver. Disgruntled clients took to social media, complaining of delayed deliveries on an order placed many months ago or Fahad cancelling a bridal order just three days before the actual wedding.
Even if Fahad made these mistakes as he struggled to balance business with art, a bride, who ends up being short of a wedding dress at the very last minute, is unlikely to understand this.
Fahad elaborates on this: “There have been misunderstandings, yes. Over the past month I was downsizing and I cancelled orders placed by some clients. But I cancelled these months in advance. I did not leave them in the lurch at the last minute. On the other hand, there was an issue with one bride recently but what she failed to mention is that she had ordered a very complicated design. It was an amalgamation of different patterns in my studio and somehow, it couldn’t work out. The resulting outfit did not look good. I apologized to her profusely. Mistakes do happen and I was genuinely sorry about it.”
“I am tired of the way people are rude and don’t understand my aesthetic.”
Will he make a return to the business of fashion once he is less tired? “I don’t know,” he says.
But I hope that he does. Fahad Hussayn may need to rethink his business strategy and restructure his design house, but he is one of fashion’s most inventive designers and is so essential to an industry bogged down by mundane aesthetics.
When he does return though, he needs to make his designs more accessible to the market, to cash in on the catwalk rave reviews by following them up with prompt deliveries and trunk shows. Customers are getting savvy and social media has given them a platform where they can promptly complain. A business cann't be run based on delayed and cancelled orders.
Perhaps, then, it is all right for Fahad Hussayn to take a break – as long as he makes a business-savvy return.
Besides, this is not the first time that a local designer has gone off business, only to return some time later. Over the years, so many brands have shut down shop, made a return to functioning on a smaller scale from their homes, built upon their profits slowly and then, make an all-out comeback. It is the first time, though, that a designer has made an announcement about having gone bankrupt. That’s Fahad Hussayn for you – saying things like they are, always.
At a bridal fashion week some years ago, I remember talking to stylist Nabila while her N-Pro team worked on the models’ hair and makeup backstage. She told me that she loved working with Fahad Hussayn.
“Everyone else wants the same pretty looks,” she observed, “but Fahad wants to play with accessories and color. He lets us think out-of-the-box, to be creative.”
With Fahad wrapping up work – hopefully, temporarily – I am going to miss the creativity.