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There is a fine line between being fashionable and being ‘over the top,’ especially when it comes to men’s fashion; more than often we see collections that edge towards costume design and the bizarre and we wonder what kind of men (if any) would be caught dead in them. While many men’s wear designers have made it big, there are only a handful that have managed to strike a balance between innovation and unwearable, between creative and commercially relevant styles. Ismail Farid happens to be one of those few designers who have reached the milestone of creating wearable, practical and yet fashionable menswear. His designs have been sported by top artists for various red carpets and appearances and he has managed to make a significant name in the industry, despite not over-commercializing his brand and keeping well under the radar. Ismail Farid is a rare brand of social media recluse.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he’s a recluse, period. He isn’t a regular at fashion weeks or red carpets and not many people would even know what he looked like. Farid stays away from the various fashion weeks that are held in Karachi and Lahore (despite having retail presence in both cities), we do not see him make unnecessary public appearances or use his social media profiles overtly. However, the designer has managed to win four Lux Style Awards for Best Menswear, reinforcing our belief in the power of real fashion.

Ismail Farid’s recent Eid collection showed minimalism at its finest, with his signature eye for detail and sleek designs, and we asked the designer to point out what he thinks menswear as a whole is lacking these days.

Ismail Farid

Reclusive menswear designer Ismail Farid won his fourth Lux Style Award for excellence in men’s wear this year.

“Fashion is missing from menswear these days,” he said, without mincing his words. “Traditional menswear doesn’t mean adding embroidery on everything; it can be trendy while being desi. All we see actors wearing across our television channels these days are jamawar waistcoats or embroidered kurtas. It’s like watching a shaadi ceremony on TV. There are so many cuts to experiment with just within those two things, yet we don’t see it happening.” The designer’s own collection is proof of that statement, where he has brought on various waistcoats in distinct silhouettes, as well as casual kurtas with innovative details.

We asked the designer why he chooses to sit out fashion weeks and doesn’t use the ramp as a medium of expression for his new work.

“We have taken part in fashion weeks previously, but I felt my hard work was not being justified on the ramp, mainly because we don’t have the right models,” the quiet designer reflected. “These days there are a couple of models who are talented and doing well, but when you have a collection of 12-15 pieces, a couple of models do not suffice. My collection wasn’t being justified on the ramp, and I decided that I would rather choose one model and tailor 25 outfits according to his measurements and present a good campaign than the other way around.”

One would feel that sitting out fashion shows would mean bad business for a brand, but such has not been the case with Ismail Farid as he continues to strengthen his brand year after year.

“We do a couple of proper collections every year with proper photo-shoots, and those are good enough,” he said.

The designer released an impressive range of traditional menswear for the month of Ramzan and Eid and his next collection will be a summer linen line, comprising mainly of suits and western wear.

This article was first published in Instep on Friday, 30th June 2017.