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Hilary Alexander speaks to fashion model Mehreen Syed

Telegraph’s Fashion Director Hilary Alexander validates that Pakistani fashion’s Unique Selling Point to the world will be its hand craftsmanship.

What motivated you to come for a fashion week in Pakistan?

“Well I was supposed to come a couple of years ago for Pakistan Fashion Week but that never fell through. I think I was waiting for this to happen and I came because I was intrigued. It’s a new region and I was curious as to what it would present in terms of fashion.”

Now that you’ve seen several shows, do you think Pakistani fashion has a chance to compete in the global market?

“Pakistan definitely has a USP. Its ability with handcraft and textiles and beading and embroidery, its understanding of colour and print is really special. And this tremendous heritage – 1000, 2000 years – and more and more in the western world where fashion becomes increasingly mechanized and mass produced, people and seeking more and more to find something that has a different feel to it.

These two things: the handcrafting and that people are looking for something new is what makes Pakistan interesting.”

How likely do you think is a Pakistani designer to make it as big as Prabal Gurung (an international designer of Nepalese origin who is fashion’s newest buzzword)?

“There are two ways of going about it. One is to do what Prabal Gurung did, or even Manish Arora if you like. He showed in London, Paris, all over before he just got the job as Artistic Director of Paco Rabanne. To do that you burn your boats, head off abroad, make huge investments and in ten years you make it big if you’re lucky. It’s a huge risk. It won’t happen overnight. This is effectively the third fashion week in Pakistan, it’s been around for only a year and these things take time.”

Do you think it’s important for fashion designers to have a head for numbers as well?

“Oh yes. Or designers should have a partner who is handling the business side of things. You need someone who understands contracts, distribution, manufacturing and buying fabric because a designer cannot do all that and concentrate on the creative side. So it is quite tricky.”

How would you suggest Pakistani fashion be taken further?

“So many of Pakistan’s designers have, for so long, concentrated on the domesticate market which is not their fault; it’s just the way things are. But they are conditioned to producing the sort of things that they know the domestic audience will love.

What the PFDC should do, and I have suggested this to a couple of people, is perhaps build an alliance with London’s Central St Martins and send six of it’s best students across every year; students like Mohsin, who has a lot of talent, and also Zaheer Abbas who I thought was very, very, very good. He was using a Pakistani tradition in terms of the pleating. Those cloaks were beautiful.

And also Karma. The children’s wear was marvelous. It was emotional and very sweet. It’s difficult for me to be girly because I’m more of a tribalist but I was very moved by the bond between mothers and daughters and the pride. I know Lahori girls like bling but if you took away the decoration and made it look less like a Christmas tree, you’d have fun pieces that could be worn anywhere in the world.”


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