Forget fashion week, Pakistani social media has lately been deriving its wedding-wear inspirations via Junaid Safdar and Ayesha Saif’s high-profile, long, long wedding. From the groom’s mother Maryam Nawaz Sharif to the bride, the groom and the groom’s sisters, the designer-wear at the wedding events has literally glittered — quite as much as the enormous chandeliers that were a regular part of the décor!
The sartorial choices seen at the wedding were diverse, from heirlooms created by Pakistan’s most prestigious couturier Bunto Kazmi to a mix of Karachi and Lahore’s very best ateliers to the groom’s sister even repeating some of the outfits from her own wedding. It was a family affair but given that this is one of Pakistan’s leading political families, the social media commentaries varied from fawning odes to vitriolic observations.
Stepping away from the politics of the wedding, the family’s wardrobe selection was very beautiful. Perhaps the only design that didn’t quite fit in — on purely patriotic grounds — was the mirror-worked ice blue lehnga choli by Indian designer Abhinav Mishra worn by Maryam at her son’s mehndi.
When there are so many exquisitely crafted options available in one’s own country, why look beyond the border — especially when you’re a powerful political figure?
But enough has been said on social media about the family’s sartorial choices. Here’s looking at the clothes, from the designer perspective:
Bunto Kazmi was certainly the designer du jour with the bride Ayesha Saif opting to wear her creations at most of the wedding functions. And truly, could there have been a better choice?
Odes could be written to the finesse and attention to detail that is the designer’s forte and while a Bunto creation can truly only be appreciated when scrutinised up-close, Ayesha’s outfits stood out even when observed from social media’s vantage point.
A silver long peshwaz and lehnga was worn on a qawwali night, set off by rubies around the neck. Ayesha made the unconventional choice of wearing red, not on her wedding night, but on her mehndi event. The outfit was a classic Bunto bridal — an eight-kali shirt, paired with a kamkhawab gharara and a tissue dupatta. On the wedding day, a beautiful Bunto design in gold took centre stage; with a play of fabric textures and varying shades of gold on the dupatta, the bridal shirt and the farshi gharara.
HSY was here, there and everywhere — in the form of designs seen at the wedding as well as in person, since he was invited to the wedding!
On his wedding day, the groom Junaid Safdar wore a classic off-white sherwani by the designer, set off by brass buttons. The sherwani had a raised collar which, the designer describes, "added a regal feel", and the way in which his turban was tied was a nod this days at Aitchison College.
“It was a pleasure dressing a family that I had known for years,” says HSY. “I knew exactly how they would want the clothes to be especially since I have designed for them before. It was also exciting because I knew that this was a wedding that would be scrutinised extensively for the clothes that were worn.”
A quintessential HSY red bridal was also worn by the groom’s sister Mehrunnissa Safdar who had earlier worn it at her own wedding. Then, at the valima, she yet again wore an ice blue HSY design.
The groom wore Faraz Manan on his valima night, eschewing blingy options for a classy cashmere beige sherwani with brass buttons in gold. An up-close look at the design revealed that the buttons had lions engraved on them, in acknowledgement of the family’s political insignia.
“Junaid wanted a classic sherwani with golden buttons in our signature colours. He also sent a reference photograph of his grandfather from the archives,” says Faraz, “and I added the brass buttons with the lion on them.”
Menahel and Mehreen
For her valima, Ayesha Saif selected Karachi-based atelier Menahel and Mehreen and true to the brand’s ethos, the beauty was within the details.
“For us, the main impact piece was the Delhi-cut farshi gharara,” says designer Mehreen Farooq Khan. “It is in brocade with a lot of ghair and is the case with many finely hand-crafted designs in lighter colours, the workmanship may not be as visible in photographs as it would be in high-resolution of when seen in person," she explained.
The zardozi on Ayesha’s bridal was in silver with gold highlights and some touches of pink threadwork. The embroideries traverse a wide range of flora and fauna; cranes, peacocks, pomegranates, but you can only see them when you examine them up-close, she says. "It was a very labour intensive piece of work and we paired it with an embellished shirt in an apple-toned mint green. We used Italian silk organza for the shirt because it works very well with heavy embroideries.”
The dupatta also took a lot of work. “It was in a soft pink locally spun net material with a handcrafted kamdaani jaal and a cut-worked zardozi border which was, again, very labor intensive.
“We also handmade Ayesha’s clutch and all the ornaments her outfit was accessorised with including the 3-D dragonflies that you see on her shirt.”
The designer continues, “We were very happy that Ayesha and her mother-in-law really liked the final design. Ayesha had selected the mint colour with Menahel and we added the pink later with her approval. The designing process itself was left to us."
The groom’s mother, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif, opted for a beautiful burst of yellow courtesy Elan for the mayun party.
“Maryam Nawaz Sharif wanted to wear yellow on this particular event and looking at her, how she’s so tall and fair, I chose a particular shade for her and ran it by her. She loved it. Then, I sent her a few options from the Elan collections and this was the outfit that she liked which I then customised for her," says designer Khadijah Shah.
"I thought that she would look the best in this design because it is a long shirt with an elegant silhouette. I also loved the way she styled herself; it was such an elegant, classic look. She was an easy person to deal with and once she had briefly told me how she wanted the outfit to look, she just left the designing up to me.”
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan took to the stage on the qawwali night and the groom’s mother decided to zero in on a very complimentary shade of pink in an outfit designed by duo Saira Shakira.
Saira Faisal of Saira Shakira says, “Maryam loved the shade of pink. The outfit consisted of an organza shirt with very light handwork on it, paired with a tissue sharara and an organza dupatta with a floral print on it, handworked with sequins. She selected the outfit herself as well as another one, in black, which she wore to an earlier event in the wedding.”
Maryam wore a classic Nida Azwer angarkha at the valima and aficionados could easily recognise the designer’s workmanship. The long multiple kali angarkha was stand-out, paired with a straight pant and two separate dupattas, one of which covered Maryam’s head.
“We created beautiful zardozi phoenixes, trees and horses on the shirt and there was handcrafted wasli, Swarovski and pearl-work all along the hem,” describes Nida. “One of the dupattas was of pure silk, embellished with wasli and zardozi flora and fauna. The other, which covered Maryam’s head, was a pure Chantilly lace navy blue dupatta edged with zardozi and wasli-work with tiny birds forming the tassels.”
In true winter wedding style, Maryam opted for a velvet lehnga choli by Nomi Ansari on the day of her son’s baraat.
“Maryam wanted to wear emerald green. She chose the colour herself and then we took it from there,” says Nomi. “We decided on this particular silhouette. We thought that the emerald green, which is a jewel colour, would particularly look very rich in velvet. Velvet also worked really well because it was going to be a winter wedding. We handcrafted zardozi, marori, mukesh, naqshi, sequins and dabka in a particular gold shade to give the design an edge. The choli was modest; long, with three-quarter sleeves with a beautiful heavily embellished neckline and sleeves," says the designer.
“The design was especially made for her. She wanted some printed details so the inner finishing of the dupatta border was printed with little rosettes. We basically used different textures of emerald green and we hand-embroidered a lot of gold detailing to it. There were no crystals or Swarovski stones. Just hand-work in gold.”
In addition, Junaid’s sister wore her mehndi outfit made by Nomi Ansari six years ago at one of the events.