What I don’t miss about fashion weeks

Will the post-Covid world bring in a new, better era for local fashion? Or will it continue stagnating on catwalks?
Updated 23 Jul, 2020 03:52pm


There have been no major Pakistani fashion events this year.

The coronavirus came along just when spring was unfolding upon the country, and none of the events — there were four of them when I last counted— set to showcase the latest seasonal trends could take place.

And those of us used to scheduling our lives around the yearly annual fashion calendar, did miss the catwalk; it seems absence does make the heart grow fonder.

We missed the buzz, which may have been hard to find in recent times but would still sometimes simmer onto the surface, on particular days, during particular shows. We missed the fashion on the catwalk and off it and the opportunity to meet with the fraternity, for three or four days in a row.

We also missed the excuse to get dressed up, slip into our high heels and go out for the night. Of course, how could we not miss the behind the scenes gossip which always runs so rampantly at fashion events and is often talked about much more than the fashion itself?

Read: Who will help Pakistan's fashion industry?

As a fashion critic, I personally missed pulling all-nighters, assisted by big cups of coffee, reviewing one show after the other. While writing about the more ghastly collections is never enjoyable, there is a certain high that I get when I wax lyrical about clothes that are utterly beautiful, a show that is standout or a brilliant new designer who has all the makings of becoming the next big thing.

And yet, there’s a catch to missing fashion week.

It’s no secret that the Pakistani fashion event rigmarole has become exhausting and very, very tedious. While I wish that the coronavirus ends soon and we’re back to sitting side by side, gazing at the catwalk, one day after the other, there is also honestly so much that I don’t miss….

The timings!

This one’s a no-brainer. One of the most irritating aspects of attending a fashion week is that the show, officially supposed to start at a sedate ‘6.30 p.m.’ almost always begins two or three hours later.

There are usually six to eight (if not more) designer shows scheduled for a day and this means that the event only wraps up around 11 p.m.

The last day of a fashion week is an exception. The final show of the event, also known as the ‘grand finale’, is only able to bring on its grandeur around midnight, or even later. By this time, the eyes are getting bleary and a slight headache is threatening to take over.

A local fashion week choreographer once quipped when the media complained about the late hours, telling them that they weren’t turning into vegetables after midnight. The Cinderella-esque reference is quite funny because one does feel like a slowly vegetating pumpkin as the clock ticks on. The mind gets numb and fashion fatigue kicks in.

Most critics will tell you that even if the final show is exceptional, it loses much of its impact because the audience is so tired by then.

Nabila's team works hard back stage
Nabila's team works hard back stage

There was a time when fashion councils had taken note of these cribs and an effort was being made to wrap up a show by 10 p.m. But —except for HUM Showcase which is not a fashion week but a couture based show that has so far always been very timely— these developments were short-lived and recent fashion weeks have all only come to an end late into the night.

It’s no wonder, then, that ‘fashion week survival kits’, often given in the form of goody bags to the audience, include aspirin, as an acknowledgement of the pain that an extensively delayed event can induce.

And here’s a thought: perhaps the coronavirus can act as a wake-up call for fashion weeks to sort out their organizational problems? In an effort to follow international fashion schedules, local fashion weeks could try to switch to day time timings or at least, early evening hours? That’s how it’s done in the rest of the world.

Shows at fashion weeks are always fashionably late
Shows at fashion weeks are always fashionably late

Nowhere else, except in Pakistan, are people expected to attend a work-based event long after midnight.

The fights over the front row

Everyone wants to sit in the front row. They fight with the PR, advocating why they deserve to be seated right up front.

Sometimes, they just persistently somehow squeeze themselves onto front row seats, perched precariously between friends. Even though they may have no work to do at fashion week and could simply see the show from a back-row, sitting anywhere else would administer an indelible blow to their egos.

The PR itself is often up to its own machinations, devising unfair seating arrangements: their friends who are merely there for the ‘experience’ somehow end up sitting in the front, critics and bloggers whose work requires them to cover the event in detail could get relegated to the back.

Fashion shows are more than just entertainment —Source: Getty Images
Fashion shows are more than just entertainment —Source: Getty Images

Some people find the front row tussles entertaining but ultimately, they are disconcerting, especially for people who look upon fashion weeks as business-centric events. It’s not a show, created for entertainment.

Designers are not in the business of making spectacles that merely provide glamorous backdrops for people wanting to take selfies from the front row. Heavy investments are made into a fashion week showcase, in creating a collection as well as paying participation fees to the fashion council.

Front row fights that tend to ensue right before the first show make fashion weeks look petty, as if they are merely putting out shows for entertainment rather than pushing forward the business of fashion.

The large crowds

There was a time, so long ago that one has to try hard to remember it, when fashion week attendance was restricted to a select, exclusive niche.

These were people who were genuinely interested in designer-wear and often brought business to local brands. When they would crane their neck to scrutinize an outfit or applaud after a show, it would have been because they had truly liked a collection. ‘It’ celebrities would also attend the event, seated in the front row, supporting their favourite brands.

Large crowd has become an inevitable reality at any local fashion week, wheedling their way in through passes given out by sponsors — Photo by Rana Irfan Ali / Anadolu Agency
Large crowd has become an inevitable reality at any local fashion week, wheedling their way in through passes given out by sponsors — Photo by Rana Irfan Ali / Anadolu Agency

Fast-forwarding to present day, the audience claps when they see a celebrity as a showstopper on the runway. It doesn’t matter if the celebrity is wearing the most ghastly clothes; that’s just when the cellphone cameras get clicking and the applause rolls in.

And the unwanted riffraff that manages to somehow secure seats in the second and third rows, happily crane their necks at the catwalk, assuming that fashion weeks have been devised to simply serve the purpose of allowing them to freely ogle models.

Somehow, this crowd has become an inevitable reality at any local fashion week, wheedling their way in through passes given out by sponsors. They won’t mind pushing you as you weave your way through the crowded entrance. And don’t be surprised if they wink or blow kisses at you from their vantage point, seated across from you. Yes, that does happen. All the time.

It is only rare, and usually at solo shows, that crowd control ceases to be a problem. The select crowd and the stars return, cheering a great collection, adding exclusivity at an event.

The bad fashion

The fashion can be very, very bad. There are always high points to a fashion week, stellar collections that are always remembered over the years.

Sometimes, there’s a single day at fashion week where several designers showcase exceptional works. There have been times when young designers have debuted and proven their mettle with innovative new ideas. These are the collections that make you clap, click away on your cellphone camera and acknowledge that yes, this is what fashion week is all about.

But over the years, these days have become rare. Outnumbering the good collections are the mediocre ones. Rearing their heads every now and then are truly ghastly clothes. Copycat fashion, plagiarized right off another designer’s collection, is frequent. It’s quite common for sequins to scatter on to the runway or threads to run loose. It seems that anyone and everyone can be part of the event as long as they are willing to pay the hefty participation fees.

Less fashion weeks will mean that fewer brands will be able to show. The better ones can get selected while mediocre brands can try their luck again, next time. The copycats could be rejected altogether. The badly finished collections could be skipped out.


Even some of fashion’s longest-standing, most prestigious names have often been unable to impress.

Pakistani consumers don’t usually invest heavily in experimental clothes. They prefer pretty colour palettes and embroideries on safe, easy-to-wear silhouettes. In the past, designers would showcase more avant-garde work on the catwalk and then, simplify it for commercial retail. Now, with so much competition in the market —and copycats running unhindered— customers have become more fickle. It seems as if designers prefer to use the catwalk as a catalogue, showcasing wearable, pretty (but forgettable) clothes that can be ordered, as is.

It makes for some very boring fashion weeks. Not really the sort of stuff that you’d miss.

Too many fashion weeks

And this, precisely, is why there are certain things that one doesn’t miss about fashion weeks. The generic collections, the mediocrity and the general predilection for treating fashion as entertainment wouldn’t be there if there were fewer fashion weeks.

Both Karachi and Lahore have their own slew of events and —this could be wishful thinking— the economic crunch administered by the coronavirus may be the impetus that both cities’ fashion councils need to finally start working together.

Will the post-Covid world bring in a new, better era for local fashion?
Will the post-Covid world bring in a new, better era for local fashion?

Less fashion weeks will mean that fewer brands will be able to show. The better ones can get selected while mediocre brands can try their luck again, next time. The copycats could be rejected altogether. The badly finished collections could be skipped out.

And if high fashion is seen more frequently on the catwalk, it can drive other brands to aspire towards similar standards. Fewer fashion weeks but better ones would be the way forward, steering the industry towards more refined aesthetics.

But will the post Covid world bring in a new, better era for local fashion? Or will it continue stagnating on catwalks where anything goes and the hours stretch on, smothered in pastel-coloured, sequin infested, same-looking clouds of fabric?

Will designers and design councils manage to look beyond their egos and realize all that they have been doing wrong and work harder towards creating an authentic, exciting design?

In truth, designer egos, their frequent clashes and their obstinate refusal to look at how their penchant for commercialism and mediocrity has been diminishing the very essence of Pakistani fashion … that’s also something that I don’t miss.