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A quick look into the tangled web of fashion weeks in Pakistan…

Will Rizwanullah ever model on the PFDC runway again? Here he steps in for Ali Xeeshan.

‘Fashion Week’ is the new buzzword. And there are three registered fashion councils in Pakistan, all three of them attempting to organize at least two fashion weeks a year.  It’s a ridiculous number of fashion weeks for a country as small as ours.

From what one has witnessed, one united fashion council was established for Pakistan in 2006 but it very quickly segmented into the Pakistan Fashion and Design Council (Lahore) and Fashion Pakistan Council (Karachi). The PFDC took off under the leadership of Sehyr Saigol while FP elected Maheen Khan as its first Chairperson. Both councils began with memorandums that pledged to serve the fashion industry and assist members in developing trade and production.

As if two councils weren’t already enough, Arshad Siddiqui of Triple E Event Management registered a third by the name of Pakistan Fashion Council in January 2011. This council appointed Farhana Arshad Chairperson and stylist Tariq Amin as its CEO.

Here’s an overview of Pakistan’s three registered fashion councils and what they have achieved so far in terms of fashion weeks and other milestones…

Pakistan Fashion Design Council

Chairperson: Awais Mazhar

CEO: Saad Ali

PFDC heavy weights: Khaadi Khaas, Kamiar Rokni, Sublime, HSY, Karma, Nickie Nina and Ammar Belal, .

The PFDC was established in 2006 and opened its council-operated multi-brand store The Boulevard – the first of its kind – in Lahore, 2007. A second branch of The Boulevard was inaugurated in Karachi at The Park Towers Mall in September 2009 but was shut down recently.

PFDC organized its first fashion week in February 2010. Since then the PFDC & Sunsilk Fashion Week has emerged as the most consistent and credible fashion week in Pakistan. Hosting fashion weeks alternately in Lahore and Karachi it is ‘the most effective’ launch pad for young and upcoming designers like Ali Xeeshan, Feeha Jamshed, Mohsin Ali, Akif Mehmood, Muse, Zaheer Abbas and Adnan Pardesy. Many of these designers are Karachi-based and not even members but the kind of recognition and mileage they have received after showing at PFDC’s fashion week is unprecedented.

PFDC members at the launch conference of their tie up with L’Oreal for a bridal week

This year the council, in collaboration with L’Oreal, has announced the launch of PFDC-L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week (to be held in Lahore in November, 2011).

Charge sheet: While the council’s achievements cannot be underplayed, its course has not been completely flawless either.

Karachi based designer Rizwanullah, who debuted at the PFDC fashion week this March says, “My show at the PFDC in Lahore will always be a memorable one. To foresee disaster striking and not being able to do anything to prevent it from happening is the feeling I had. My vision was broken. A major part of my collection got cut literally moments before my show. I wish they had informed me even a day before the show. I am very grateful to PFDC for allowing me to show on their prestigious platform but what remained at the end of it was just a bad taste in the mouth. You just can’t disrupt a designer’s creative process completely.”

Rizwanullah’s show was censored for having too many risqué elements, to which he responded, “Sure the show was a lesson that reminded me of the fact that we live in Pakistan. But the ‘unmentionables’ were shown by other designers who did exceptionally well so I don’t see what the big deal was in making them a part of my runway show.”

“I wouldn’t want to show at PFDC again for multiple reasons. Firstly, my experience. Second, it isn’t fair play. The Little Black Book (Designer Management Consultants) was totally aware of my idea. Anyhow…no more showing at PFDC…not unless I am committed freedom.”

Saad Ali, PFDC CEO was contacted to clarify the council’s position but he had not responded by the time this article went to print.

Fashion Pakistan

Chairperson: Shamaeel Ansari 

CEO: Maheen Khan

FP heavy weights: Shamaeel Ansari, Maheen Khan, Deepak Perwani, Sana Safinaz, Bunto Kazmi, Faiza Samee, Sonya Battla, Rizwan Beyg, Umar Sayeed, Amir Adnan, Nilofer Shahid, Nomi Ansari (These designers have been associated with FP though many of them may not be technically registered members anymore.)

American Vogue coverage of Fashion Pakistan Week 2 came in the most important September Issue

FP was established in 2006 with Maheen Khan as its first elected Chairperson and Rizwan Beyg as CEO. Though its list of members comprised fashion’s top brass, the council was riddled with more logistical issues than it could handle. In 2009 it appointed Ayesha Tammy Haq as CEO, and celebrated Pakistan’s first official fashion week in November. Fashion Pakistan Week made it to the world wide news network for promoting a liberal side of fashion at a time when Talibanization was at its height. FP’s second and last fashion week took place in March 2010, after which it also opened its own multi-brand store Fashion Pakistan Lounge in Lahore. The store is operating successfully though the council has not managed to organize any fashion activity since March 2010.

It did, however, conduct its second term elections later in 2010, swearing in Shamaeel as Chairperson and Amir Adnan as CEO. The latter, however resigned, and handed the task back to Maheen Khan who is currently serving as CEO.

Maheen Khan impresses Milan

Charge sheet: The council has been inactive since its second and last fashion week in March 2010, leading members to believe that it is defunct. Secondly, while FP may have had Pakistan’s top designers on board, these designers seemed to lack a united vision for the fashion industry, especially for young designers. When given an opportunity to represent Pakistan in Milan, council heads Maheen, Rizwan and Deepak went themselves instead of giving any youngster a chance. Thirdly, the council has lacked administrative disciple through out.

Shamaeel Ansari, Chairperson FP responds: “It took us this long to get the paperwork together, which the other board should have done before us. But it has all been sorted out and we have finally organized things. We have already held two general body meetings and are planning our next event as we speak. The board has changed and its vision has changed. I believe that things should be run by professionals and we have already started out-sourcing responsibilities. I admit that the former board was not efficient.”

“Meanwhile, we are not anti-trade and have encouraged our younger members like Adnan Pardesy to show at PFDC’s fashion week. In fact, I’m very hopeful that a merger for fashion week will happen between the councils in the future. We would love to host fashion week in Karachi and we would love to participate in a PFDC managed fashion week in Lahore. So far Lahore has not been comfortable with this idea.”

Pakistan Fashion Council

Chairperson: Farhana Arshad

CEO: Tariq Amin

PFC heavy weights: none. While Amir Adnan has been listed on the council masthead as ‘Business Advisor’, the designer confirms that his involvement is casual and he is not am official member of PFC.

Aliya Zaidi makes a brief comeback for Tariq Amin at IFW

Pakistan Fashion Council was launched after conducting Islamabad Fashion Week in January this year. CEO Tariq Amin, the council’s centrifugal force, managed to pull in several high profile designers to show, none of whom are PFC members. He also organized extensive model hunts to build a new pool of professional models for his event. The council’s claim to fame, however, is it’s partnership with the World Fashion Organization but the implication of this partnership on Pakistan’s fashion industry is still uncertain. PFC has announced that Nilofer Shahid has been selected to show ‘one’ garment at the World Fashion Week Welcome Gala, scheduled to be held in New York this month. It’s hardly a coup.

PFC will be inaugurating their second chapter – Karachi Fashion Week – next month.

Charge sheet: Four different stylists were hired for IFW but none of them have been paid for their services so far. One of them, on conditions of anonymity confided in Dawn Images to quote, “ I was promised Rs 150,000 by Tariq Amin plus air tickets and hotel stay for me and six of my staff members. I was informed that I would be put up at Serena and my staff would be put up at Marghalla Hotel, which was fine. After much concern and deliberation, as I was warned about Triple E’s terrible reputation, I called Tariq (before the event) with my concerns and he reassured me that he was personally responsible for my payment. Just a few days before the show I was sent a new email by Farhana Arshad, changing the terms to two staff members only.”

Chairperson Farhana Arshad responds, “The makeup artists participating in IFW were not paid due to the fact that we had committed to pay Rs.150000/- to each on the terms that they would be given accommodation at Margalla Hotel, Islamabad for two nights. The contract listed that the air ticket, food and hotel accommodation of ‘two’ helpers and makeup artist would be arranged by the organizer whereas the cost of extras would be borne by the makeup artists. Nevertheless, all makeup artists stayed at Serena Hotel, Islamabad which cost us Rs.38,000/- extra each. Their helpers stayed at Margalla Hotel. Secondly all the makeup artists brought a team of 6-8 helpers with them and which again cost us the extra air tickets, food and hotel accommodation. That is why the payment is pending till to-date.”

Alexandra Senes with comrades Benjamin and Paz at the first PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week in Lahore

Pakistan’s Super Eight in Paris

The most significant outcome of any fashion week in Pakistan is the participation of eight Pakistani labels in Pret a Porter, Paris and this achievement must be credited to the PFDC. Eight designers – Khaadi Khaas, Feeha Jamshed, Kamiar Rokni, Muse, HSY, Nickie Nina, Adnan Pardesy and Zaheer Abbas – were personally selected by French fashion journalist Alexandra Senes, who is also the Creative Director of the world’s most prestigious fashion fair. Senes has been affiliated with the PFDC since their first fashion week and she has been making regular trips to Pakistan to prepare these designers for Paris.

“Khaadi Khaas is one label ready to open shop in Paris right away,” Senes gave her vote of confidence to the brand Pakistan is proud of. “All these designers are unique and I deliberately selected different characters to give an exciting overview of Pakistan; between Lahore and Karachi these are characters that don’t look alike at all. Paris thinks there is no fashion in Pakistan; that is about to change!”

Senes added that she was disappointed that Feeha Jamshed had to pull out due to a personal tragedy. “Feeha has a rock n roll attitude that the world needed to see,” she said over a telephone interview from Paris. “People kept telling me she cannot produce but I said I don’t care! She is very talented and I want her in Paris. But I understand why she had to pull out. There will be a next time.”

Alexandra informed that a UK-based accessory label – Polly and Me – had filled in Feeha’s slot as there was no time to organize visas and logistics from any other designer from Pakistan. Polly and Me is a funky brand that works with artisans from Pakistan and Afghanistan to produce eclectic traditionally embroidered accessories. The brand can be further explored at

“I have titled this group ‘Super Eight’ in reference to the Steven Spielberg film,” Senes informed excitedly. “It’s a gimmick but gimmicks must be given to the media. This title will work just as well as the six designers from Belgium that I launched fifteen years ago.”

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