His collection ‘Nawabzaadiyan’ was more conventional than you'd expect from Rehar – until you honed in on the details
His collection ‘Nawabzaadiyan’ was more conventional than you'd expect from Rehar – until you honed in on the details

Solo fashion shows in Pakistan, in recent times, have been celebrations planned out by veteran designers, commemorating several decades in the industry. Breaking away from the crowd of collective shows, the veterans take on the spotlight all on their own, flexing their muscles, proving that they don’t need to rely on a fashion week in order to create buzz.

It’s also a testament to their confidence, that they are willing to place focus solely on their own collection, basking alone in the applause but also running the risk of getting singled out for critique.

Merely three years into his career, it was brave of fledgling designer Hussain Rehar to decide to fly solo. So many of his seniors had never done so and yet, here was Hussain, very sure about his designing skills, ready to march into the spotlight all on his own, deciding to think business and veer his usually edgy aesthetic towards the more traditional realm of wedding-wear. Had his collection not been up to the mark, his plans could have backfired.

They didn’t. Well, not really.

It was all very pretty, as wedding-wear shows tend to be. Hussain’s dulhas, dulhans and colourful entourage of baraatis twirled out to the tune of popular wedding songs and the beats of the shehnai played out by a live wedding band, enacting the events that are inherent to the big fat Pakistani wedding: the Mehndi, the Baraat and the Valima.

With every successive year, the designer has been developing a stronger eye for finishing and silhouette and there was certainly a neatness to the outfits. I hope that he hones his craft further in the future.

The palette ran far and wide, traversing multicolours, classic red bridals and light pastels – a whole range of options for the customer planning ahead for the many weddings just about to take place, despite the persistent presence of the coronavirus.

“I made sure that the show had a lot of variation, with heavier designs as well as more lightly embellished clothes that can be ordered at lower prices,” Hussain told me after the show.

The relatively affordable clothes, according to him, were embellished with more machine embroideries and less handwork. I also noticed lehngas and shirts where the embroidered motifs were more spaced out, probably lowering the outfit’s price and yet, still very festive, relying on colour and bling to make a statement.

There was a procession of lehngas, paired with cholis, simmered gharara pants, column shirts and heavily worked dupattas – standard, pretty, wedding fare.

But one expects more from Hussain Rehar than just the usual

Having followed his career, I remember him whipping together unusual colour combinations on risqué, modern silhouettes, placing 3-D embroideries in unconventional ways, playing with neons and funky geometric patterns. He has a rare talent for creating out-of-the-box design and this, so far, has been his USP.

‘Nawabzaadiyan’ was more conventional – until you zoomed in on the details. A daintily embroidered giraffe peeped out from the filigree on a formal shirt, beautiful scallops lining dupattas, unique floral patterns, minarets and domes etched all along the length of a hemline, plenty of palm trees and thick layers of sequins. It was interesting, peering at an embroidered lehnga and deciphering the tiny, quirky details that lay within it.

Nevertheless, the show would have benefitted had a few cutting-edge silhouettes been added to the mix. Where was the modern aesthetic that is quintessential Hussain?

It was quite evident that he was concentrating on merging his craft with business with this show. And avant-garde design doesn’t usually bring in great business. Instead of creating designs that a woman would admire but not be willing to wear, Hussain simply opted to show clothes that were beautiful and wearable, just as they were.

Fair enough. But while fashion shows must certainly be instrumental in turning the wheels of business, they also need to be a tad experimental in order to become memorable and set trends. Perhaps, now that he has proven his mettle at commerce, Hussain could return to dabbling with a bit of zaniness in his next showcase?

The solo element

It was also a very clever move to plan a solo showcase. Hussain’s show is the first to take place in Lahore in months which in itself was reason enough for it to get noticed. With the fashion industry slowly beginning to revive, only one other show has taken place recently, Elan’s solo presentation in Karachi. The fact that he was only the second to stage a major fashion event helped generate plenty of positive mileage for him – and hopefully, this will continue to be the case as long as no one falls sick.

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Also, Hussain is a relatively new designer and had he opted to save this collection and showcase it once fashion weeks resurfaced, it was likely to not stand out quite as easily. With multiple designers taking on a catwalk, presenting their takes on wedding-wear, a newcomer, even with a great collection, doesn’t always manage to get the same mileage that an established label does. On his own, Hussain made people sit up and take notice of his designs alone.

He didn’t waste too much time on additional details. With business only just picking up for him, Hussain had a limited budget – and so, he used a friend’s private venue for the show. A tree was simply wrapped up in shiny foil and a ‘stage’ set in front of it where the bridal entourage would settle and get photographed. There were no celebrities, although Hussain dresses them often enough. Celebrities tend to charge colossal sums in order to attend events and maybe the designer chose to save himself some money by skipping out on the star power.

The show took place in the daytime, negating the need for heavy lighting. Cost-effective, refreshing and allowing the details within the clothes to truly be appreciated. Perhaps more brands could follow suit, so that we could see collections while we are still lucid instead of late into the witching hour?

How does Hussain go forward after this show?

I understand that he is now building his business but it is imperative that he doesn’t lose out on his experimental side. It is, after all, what has made him distinctive from the many other new brands in the market. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eyeing the lucrative wedding-wear market, as long as he doesn’t shake it up with a wacky, modern spin every now and then.

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Meeting him after the show, I quizzed him, quoting the press release I had received prior to the show, asking him what had made him decide to call himself the ‘prince of fashion’?

“I didn’t!” he professes. “The PR wrote it for me and I just forwarded it on. Why would I give myself a royal title?”

Why, indeed? The Pakistani fashion industry is thronged with self-proclaimed monarchs, but I do think that it is far better to be a successful designer with a great head for business than a royal figurehead. It would be even better to be a designer with a thriving business and a flair for veering into delightful, out-of-the-box territory every now and then. Hussain has the potential to be that designer.

And now, even as he hones in on the traditional, not-very-adventurous clientele in Pakistan’s wedding-wear market, I hope that he becomes that designer.

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