Designer Wardha Saleem on incorporating elements of Sindh into Bakhtawar's ivory and gold bridal dress
The wedding of Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, daughter of the late Benazir Bhutto and former president Asif Ali Zardari, is well over but we're still basking in the sartorial afterglow of the dresses the bride wore.
The details of what — and who — she would wear were guarded right up until Bakhtawar or her husband Mahmood Choudhry revealed them themselves on their social media.
There was Karachi-based Nida Azwer for the engagement last year, Lahore-based Zara Shahjahan for the mehndi function and for the much-anticipated nikah dress, the bride chose another designer from Karachi, Wardha Saleem.
It was an exciting indication that some of fashion’s younger set of designers are now gaining clout. It had been largely assumed that Bakhtawar would opt for one of Pakistan’s longstanding veteran ateliers to create the design for her big day. The fact that she put her faith in a younger — albeit experienced — designer was refreshing.
Wardha Saleem says that it was “an experience that she will always cherish”.
“The response has been overwhelming. Coming from a Sindhi background myself, it gave me great pride to be designing the outfit for the 'daughter of Sindh'," the designer told Images in an exclusive conversation.
According to Saleem, this was the first time that she designed for Bakhtawar and her family. “They approached us. Bakhtawar has been following our work and liked our design sensibility. We had our first video call where she revealed her interest in wearing us for the main baraat event.”
Evidently, the couple had already decided on an ivory and gold look as an ode to her mother’s iconic wedding outfit. “She trusted us and gave us a complete free hand to give the design our own interpretation and create a signature look.”
Saleem goes on to describe the outfit in great detail: “It was a timeless ivory and gold hand-embroidered heirloom bridal; a classic long peshwaz silhouette paired with a traditional sharara, a main bridal dupatta and another ghoonghat dupatta for the nikah ceremony."
"We opted for a hand-woven masuri crinkle chiffon fabric for the shirt and dupatta and customised hand-woven organza for the sharara. In an effort to amalgamate subcontinental heritage with the legacy of Sindh, geometric motifs particular to ajrak were mixed in with Mughal-esque jaalis and florals and fauna from Thar," she elaborated.
"There were peacocks and house sparrows sitting in jharokas against Khairpur’s banana trees and deer dancing along the main border. We also incorporated our signature chand-baala and lotus leather applique motifs in the outfit.
“Blue accents were added in the outfit and the custom-made clutch was created in sapphire blue once Bakhtawar confirmed that she would be wearing Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s wedding sapphire necklace.”
The embellishments varied; from age-old aari, zardozi, kamdani and French knots to Swarovski crystals, pearls, Naqshi and textured appliqués.
Did the designer have to observe certain confidentiality requirements until the wedding day when the pictures were finally revealed? “She wanted to reveal the designer label herself and we respected her wishes,” shares Saleem.
“We saw Bakhtawar as a young and sophisticated bride who valued her roots and was deeply committed to her family’s traditions and legacy. At the same time, she wanted to make her own mark. Keeping this in mind, my design for her was classic and traditional and yet, young,” the designer told Images.
“Bakhtawar was the dream bride that any designer would love to create for.”