Designer Shamaeel Ansari’s aesthetic has always been distinctively regal. And over a career that spans over three decades, the designer has made a mark with a signature that is instantly recognisable: curated prints, worked with interestingly placed embroideries and an overlapping of texture and color.
Two years ago, Shamaeel had staged a solo showcase where she had transformed the corridors and rooms of her home in Karachi into a veritable fashion museum.
A selection of the clothes had been seen on the catwalk while the remaining collection had been placed on mannequins standing in different rooms, lit up in interesting ways, allowing you to peer closely at them.
“I feel that the nuances to my designs sometimes get lost on a catwalk,” Shamaeel had told me then. “There are so many details that can only be appreciated if you see them up-close. They aren’t very visible when a model just sweeps past you in a show.”
Her words rang true when I went to see her show. Shamaeel is a true couturier; old school even in the way she designs, keeping an eye on viability and yet, never deviating from her aesthetic.
Such bona fide, original fashion can sometimes be lost in a multi-designer show organised in a practical albeit generic hotel auditorium.
In a week’s time, though, the designer will be taking a colossal 50 piece collection to London and will be showcasing it in a beautiful venue: the Savile Club in Mayfair, London, a gentleman’s club dating back to the 19th century with frescoed walls, wooden paneling and parquet floors.
Shamaeel’s show, ‘The Queen’s Symposium’, will take place at the club, in collaboration with The Citizen’s Foundation.
“It’s a collection that makes references to some of the most enigmatic queens in history, from the Mughal empire to the Ottoman kingdoms and the Tudors. In Mughal history, I looked at Noor Jehan who was a fashion icon of her times. The ostentatious Tudors have been reflected in apparel that has rich embroideries and bold colors."
"And while I have also dedicated collections to the Ottomans in the past, this new line refers to the queens who hailed from different parts of the world – Russia, Italy, Greece – and came into Ottoman harems. The artistic influences of these women contributed to the melting pot of aesthetics that became a part of Turkey.”
The show will include a sit-down dinner, with models walking past the guests, quite like the format that we often see at international fashion weeks. With the runway eliminated, attendees will be able to see the clothes up-close – as Shamaeel would like them to.
The music for the show has been created by Abbas Ali Khan, Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is writing the poetry for the segments and Tariq Amin has come onboard for hair and makeup.
“There will be dinner and candles and I feel that the ambiance will go well with the luxury that is associated with my label,” says the designer. But why opt to show in London instead of at a fashion week – or in a solo show – in Pakistan?
“I wanted to make a sartorial statement where the location would be up to par with the collection. London is a lucrative international market for designers and I feel that we need to make more efforts to expose the best of Pakistani craft to the international community.”
Of course, even in the past, local designers have very frequently showcased their collections beyond Pakistan. In recent times, Elan, Faraz Manan and HSY have all been part of international solo shows, in collaboration with a charity or an international investor.
And only last month, show director Sadia Siddiqui orchestrated Fashion Parade New York which boasted a lineup that included Kamiar Rokni, Elan, Ali Xeeshan and Faiza Samee. There is potential for big business to be earned from the expat community and it makes sense for designers to try to tap into it.
Shamaeel’s upcoming show may be at a very classy venue and hold the promise of high-end fashion but it is, nevertheless, a ticketed event. In her experience, do people really pay the considerable ticket price to attend a show by a well-known designer, albeit one from Pakistan?
“The tickets are sold already,” she tells me.
Will we be seeing semblances of this collection in Pakistan soon, perhaps at a local fashion week? The possibility is there. But before that, there are chances that we’ll be seeing the designer’s unique regal finery showcasing in London, from our vantage points on social media!