Pause, rewind, reboot. The coronavirus began its rampage through the world nearly seven months ago and brought life to a standstill. Locked down, with no end in sight, we slowed our pace, self-reflected, look back at what really mattered before ultimately, striding ahead into a ‘new normal’.
Many, including myself, hoped that this bout of reinvention would turn out to be a blessing for Pakistan’s fashion industry. In the pre-Corona world, it was flailing, bogged down by mediocre design, incessant events and a perpetual battle of designer egos.
Would the local fashionscape also declutter and reinvent itself when it resurfaced? Perhaps. It’s a question that will soon get answered now that catwalks are tentatively planning to roll out again despite the coronavirus.
“The coronavirus is the best thing to have happened to the world,” observes designer Maheen Khan, who began her term as the new Chairperson of the Fashion Pakistan Council (FPC) earlier this year. “We have all had to rethink our lives and reboot.”
This new awakening also applies to the Pakistani fashion week infrastructure. Fashion Pakistan Week 2020 (FPW), which was one of the many fashion events that got cancelled in the spring/summer due to the coronavirus, is now scheduled to take place on the 6th and 7th of December this year.
Designer-wear will be showcased to a limited live audience in an open-air private venue. The seating will be spaced out and random – along the same format recently observed at Milan Fashion Week – thereby, eliminating the claustrophobic, clustered and yet, coveted, spots in the front row.
“Over the past many years, I have watched the fashion week and the council grow and I have helped out but I was never part of the process,” observes Maheen.
“Everyone brings something new to the table and my vision for FPW is that it needs to be propelled by business rather than society. I am appalled by how people have flooded past fashion weeks. We don’t put out a play or a rock concert – it’s fashion and it has to be exclusive. The generic slew of socialites and guests that tend to take over the front row are pointless unless it’s a celebrity wearing a designer outfit, generating mileage for the designer.”
She continues, “I have realized that greater focus needs to be placed on the attendance of media and bloggers; people who will watch the fashion week and publicize it, expanding our guest list from a hundred to a virtual 1000.”
The tentative list of designers showcasing at FPW include Maheen Khan herself as well as Nida Asad Tapal (Delphi), Maheen Karim, Sadaf Malaterre, Zainab Chottani, Asim Jofa in his first ever fashion week show, Aasia Saail making a comeback as well as lesser known names like Abdul Samad, Mubashara Najam, Nausheman, Bushra Wahid and Sameer Sain. There will be 10 outfits per collection unless a designer has taken a double slot, as is the case with Zainab Chottani.
“Fashion designers have suffered so much due to the coronavirus. I wanted them to be able to create smaller, more manageable collections,” says Maheen.
Sadaf Malaterre is on board as the show’s choreographer and breaking away from the team of stylists at Nabila’s – veritable mainstays at fashion week – Maheen has enlisted Depilex as the official hair and makeup partner.
“I can’t risk hair and makeup being done backstage,” she says. “The models are all going to go to the Depilex salon before fashion week and their looks will only get touched up by a single makeup station that will be set up backstage.”
“I have also put my foot down when it comes to accessorizing the models. We can’t risk jhoomars, teekas and dupatta settings backstage. If a celebrity showstopper is going to be on the catwalk, he or she can get come to the show completely ready, wearing the requisite accessories. I have told designers that if their clothes are beautiful, they will stand out all on their own, without being accentuated by jewelry.”
But will the clothes be beautiful? Maheen Khan may be trying to streamline and repackage FPW but she can’t make magic when it comes to improving the designs on the catwalk.
Rising from the ashes of an economy weighed down by the coronavirus, valiantly having survived the financial difficulties of the past few months, will fashion have stripped off its mediocre, bling-infested aspirations and moved towards high-end creative territory? Even if the fashion week system improves, will the fashion also become better?
That’s a tough question.