From fashion shows to music videos: Designer Fahad Hussayn talks about his love for creating visuals

From fashion shows to music videos: Designer Fahad Hussayn talks about his love for creating visuals

He's directed the music video for Ali Sethi, Shae Gill, Maanu and Abdullah Siddiqui's latest track but that's not all he has up his embellished sleeve.
Updated 02 May, 2023

“Give it up, give it up, light a fire now,” chant Ali Sethi and Abdullah Siddiqui.

Maanu, the latest Gen-Z musical sensation, joins in.

Shae Gill’s hypnotic, mesmerising vocals drift in between and hold you transfixed.

The song — the newly released ‘Left Right’ — is catchy and experimental, symbolic of the cataclysmic changes taking place in the Pakistani soundscape. The video is eccentric and aesthetically pleasing. Abdullah wears a kurta with his signature psychedelic eye-glasses. Ali is in a velvet dressing gown, his hair gelled and parted sideways. Shae has a Madam Noor Jehan-esque flower in her hair, which is gathered back in a bun. She wears a sari, the pallu wrapped around her. Maanu, unfathomably, is dressed like a postman.

The director of the music video, designer Fahad Hussayn, didn’t think it was necessary for the singers to represent characters that had meaning. They could just play different personalities, coming together to sing a song. Fahad explains, “I feel that it is very important that a music video doesn’t draw attention from the song. ‘Left Right’ is such a great song. It doesn’t need complicated visuals to uplift it. Also, I feel that a lot of people feel alienated by music videos that rely too much on artificial visuals. I wanted the video to look great but not be overwhelming.”

One of the most decipherable elements in the video is the old world feel that it has. Ageing walls with quaint doorways form the backdrop to the musicians’ vocals. A cover photo posted by Ali Sethi shows the four artists sitting together in an image that has been colour graded to a fading yellow, much like a photograph found in an old photo album.

“Ali Sethi and I go back a long time. I love listening to his songs and when I heard this one, I liked it so much that I asked him if I could direct it. The other song that I directed for him was ‘Ghazab Kiya’, the video for which ended up coming out before this one,” he says. “For ‘Left Right’, Ali wanted an old world feel while I wanted to keep it old world but with a Gen-Z twist. The concept was developed. The video has been shot in a building in old Lahore. We decided on the clothes that they would all wear. I insisted that Shae never let the pallu of her sari fall. I wanted her to look like this begum, the sort that you’d perhaps see in a Satyajit Ray movie.”

Fahad Hussayn’s prowess as a fashion designer is, of course, well-known. What prompted him to turn his attention to music video direction? “I have never agreed to the tag of fashion designer,” he says.

“I have always found it very conforming because while I do design clothes, it is just one way in which I express my art. As the world has evolved, I have equipped myself with all the various ways in which I can sell my art. It could be creating clothes or creating visuals for a music video or setting up a space in an artistic way.”

In retrospect, even in the initial years of his career, Fahad was never merely designing. When he showcased at a fashion week, he would create entire lineups of accessories to complement his clothes. I remember stylist Nabila commenting to me that it always took the longest to style the models for Fahad’s show because there were so many specific looks that had to be created and accessories to be added on. She had added that working backstage at his shows was always creatively invigorating.

I have seen Fahad Hussayn shows where the models act like characters in a theatrical story. I remember Nooray Bhatti making a dramatic statement on the catwalk wearing a multi-tiered crown. There was a Fahad Hussayn fashion shoot called Pulti Ghar where the models had their eyes painted to look eerily stony, their bodies tilted unnaturally, with sticks zigzagging down their backs like the cross braces used to manipulate puppets. The shows also used to have bizarre, intriguing names: Suraiya Titanic, Labyagawachi, Dara Shikoh aur Sunehri Churial.

And while Fahad may have only recently started collaborating with musicians, it has long been practice to have original scores created for his shows as well as the music videos that feature his collections. He directs these videos himself.

It’s really no big surprise then that Fahad is dabbling with music video direction. “I enjoy creating visuals and I think I am able to make people feel comfortable and give them directions. Ali Sethi dances in front of me and that isn’t something that a person can get him to do easily!” he says.

“I am currently creating the framework for an academy where I, as well as young talented artists that I know of, will provide our services for different assignments. This includes directing videos and creating artistic interiors.”

One wonders if Fahad’s diversification towards other genres of art is a consequence of the increasingly mundane requirements of local fashion. He regularly showcases his work in annual solo installations and is one of the few designers who still tries to present visuals that are exciting and new. However, the fashion climate in Pakistan is generally dismal. Fashion councils appear to have bitten the dust. There are no regular fashion weeks. The designing fraternity has, at large, eschewed their creative inclinations in favor of creating retail-friendly pretty clothes.

Is this why Fahad is extending his creativity to other genres? “Not really,” he says. “My designing business now functions smoothly, according to set patterns. These is just another way in which I am now creating visuals.”