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…BUT does BIG mean business?

Fashion weeks have become quite the talk of the town in Pakistan. They’ve made designers and their brands household names. I don’t think people have managed to wrap their heads around councils, their members and their politics but then they really don’t need to. What fashion weeks aim to do, anywhere in the world, is a) create awareness about designers and project seasonal trends, and b) elevate the business of fashion. Both these purposes are being served effectively, at least for designers who are taking fashion weeks seriously. For the rest of them (and there are many that fall in the fly-by-night category) fashion weeks are just about ten minutes of fame.

Meesha Shafi modeled for Umar Sayeed at the last PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week.

PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week

Contrary to international standards, whereby fashion weeks adhere to two seasons for spring/summer and autumn/winter, after two years of hit and trial, the Pakistan Fashion Design Council decided that seasonal structure didn’t suit them. It was an intelligent call. So now the PFDC (Lahore) has a spring/summer defining week in March/April and a bridal week in October/November. The PFDC L’Oreal Paris Fashion Week, scheduled to take place this week in Lahore is expected to set trends for the bridal season of 2012 and the earlier half of 2013. In theory it sounds perfect but in practice it’s a shame that many of Pakistan’s established bridal designers are not participating, considering it’s the only council led initiative for bridal designs.

When you follow fashion weeks all over the world, the fluidity with which designers innovate season after season never ceases to amaze. Paris Fashion Week is underway as we speak and collections from Manish Arora, Balenciaga, Gareth Pugh etc not only impress but influence as well. In Pakistan, we can never be sure of who’s going to sit out a season. Last year, at the inaugural PLBW, we saw big names like Karma and Umar Sayeed put out two of the best shows, but they are apparently not showing this year. Karma is focusing on a new in-house venture and therefore is too busy whereas Umar Sayeed, who surprisingly didn’t even accompany the design troupe to Delhi (despite his clientele being huge in India) for the opening of the PFDC Boulevard, is lying low this season.

But what about the others? Ideally bridal designers from Karachi – Sana Safinaz, Bunto Kazmi, Faiza Samee, Shamaeel, Nomi Ansari etc – should be showing at PLBW too but here’s where the divisive politics comes in. The kind of politics that is fragmenting the entire country reflects in fashion too. The good thing is that it’s a competitive market and vacuums are filled up immediately. Names that were non-existant a decade ago: Elan, Nida Azwer, Fahad Hussayn, Ali Xeeshan, HSY and Misha Lakhani (this will be her debut show) are the most sought out at PLBW fashion week now.

Many of the top bridal couturiers like Nomi Ansari prefer to showcase at BCW rather than PLBW

Bridal Couture Week

To be held in mid October, BCW – hosted by Hum TV – has been very stable in giving fashion its time and commitment. Though this fashion week is not council-led, it has developed into an effective platform for designers to showcase and publicize their bridal brands. Because of the kind of air-time the shows get on television and the kind of coverage the event gets in newspapers and magazines (and even the bridal catalogue that the organizers publish twice a year), designers find it worth their while. Buyers may not be sitting in the front rows and the shows may be interspersed with entertainment acts that deplete the fashion quotient but the recall value of BCW is so high that individual clientele has been growing by leaps and bounds for designers that show.

Moreover, BCW allows many new designers (with little or no talent) to participate and that gives them very good learning ground. I would judge it as a platform for young designers who have no former experience of putting out a fashion show.

Baani D impressed with their debut at FPW last season but will they be back for seconds?

Fashion Pakistan Week

October is upon us and there is no official news regarding FPW except that it is beginning on October 18 and will be a three-day ‘week’. We have no venue confirmation, no details, no lineup, nothing.

What we do know for a fact is that many FP loyalists are not participating this season. Nomi Ansari, Body Focus Museum, Shehla Chatoor, Sania Maskatiya etc are sitting it out. Reason? There are expansions – both professional and personal – that stand in the way. And Umar Sayeed, who showed last time, is apparently waiting for his Indian visa to set sail for the Kareena/Saif wedding. Again, one wonders why designers cannot keep fashion weeks as top priority, considering they have been elemental in industry growth.

There is much more to fashion week than putting out an impressive collection, though even that seems to be too much for many designers. It needs to follow up with production and so many designers fail to deliver in the retail department.

Kamiar Rokni’s last collection, Sweetest Taboo, appears to have been tabooed from production. If a critically acclaimed designer like him (he even won the Lux Style Award for Best Designer in the prêt category for 2011) can’t deliver the goods, then what hope do we have from the younger ones like Ali Xeeshan, Fahad Hussayn (he says his black and white Paranoir collection was bought-out in India), Feeha Jamshed, Akif, Zonia and others who show but never get around to stocking. I fear that one will have to be discerning when reviewing shows and not get excited over good design that has a history of staying on the drawing board.

To be fair, there designers who design and deliver: Sania Maskatiya, FnkAsia, Body Focus, Sadaf Malaterre (her artistic collection is available at Ensemble), Maheen Khan, Shamaeel and Sonya Battla (whenever she shows) and some others. But they’re a rare breed. I just hope they’re not face extinction.

(Published in Instep Today on October 1, 2012)

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