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Nabila pushes the unconventional in a hair show marking L’Oreal Professionnel’s trends for Spring/Summer 2012.

(Dawn Images March 25, 2012)

Nabila snipping Iraj’s hair as part of the performance. Passage of rites?

The image of a silken strand of hair weaving through a needle said it all: Nabila’s hair show for L’Oreal titled Somptueux (which translates to lavish and plump in French) would interlace fashion with beauty.

The intriguing invite

Sure enough, the show drew an analogy between couture and hair that is just as opulent and indulgent. Hair trends envisioned chocolate brown, magenta red and blonde as colours for summer 2012 and costumes, designed impeccably by Zaheer Abbas stuck to the same palette while dressing three pairs of two-headed models. They were two-headed, joint at the hip like Siamese twins and alluding to a split personality, a dark and mysterious side. It almost hinted as beauty as the flip side of fashion or vice versa.

Embellished by live music courtesy E-mix featuring Ustaad Nafees Ahmed, Alycia Dias and Shallum Xavier, Somptueux was an appropriately delicious treat for the senses.

A fashion atelier was conceptualized within the courtyards of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and artisans (students) were placed to show different stages of garment construction. They simultaneously revealed how the same techniques of dying, cutting, weaving and texturing applied to hair when it was treated with just as much attention. One student was dying thread along with hair extensions, while one sitting in front of a loom wove yarn just as another was braiding hair. The school pond was furnished with sculpted busts and an elaborate Victorian gown was framed within a derelict elevator, suspended for impact.

Couture’s construction site

Nabila’s strength is and has always been to go that extra mile to introduce innovative and often, shocking concepts. Like any true artist she doesn’t fear experimentation and works beyond the comfort zone. While the conventional may reject her ideas as unacceptable and often garish, these are ideas that push the creative envelop and must be encouraged. They help take the industry forward. To muzzle models’ faces with net and create features over it an exaggerated way (Lux Style Awards), to display a gallery of images juxtaposing the folk side of desi music with the most avant garde of fashion (Rock n Folk) and then this. It isn’t everyday that you see a net skirt sown together and decorated with extensions of (shampooed and ironed) real hair. Fashion, in its truest form must make unapologetic statements, and that’s exactly what this show did.

While a slow start may have been bothersome for many in the audience hoping to catch the tail end of the Pakistan versus India cricket match (thus compelling Pakistan to victory?), the show that followed more than made up for lost time. A live band serenaded the audience as the two-headed models (two girls in one costume each) laboured their way down to the stage. Not an easy task as their costumes were no less a challenge than the elaborate hairdos they sported. And their heels were high. The finale saw Iraj saunter in and perform a mime as Nabila actually came on stage and snipped off her hair. A passage of rites? More shock value.

Ironically, a hair raising show!

 The show did edge towards the uncomfortable for many, after all an image of Siamese twins dressed in human hair hardly makes for a bedtime story. But conceptually it made its mark, as would a Jean Paul Gaultier advertisement (watch the Diet Coke ad) or a savage Alexander McQueen installation. It was a bit macabre in its setting – the water logged heads, tiny caged mannequins and then the hair snipping ritual – but had a grim fairy tale like quality that leaned towards Timothy Burton rather than Hans Christian Andersen. For fans of the dark, which one believes most of the youth to be, this setting was idyllic in its inspirations.

We talk about dark horses and black sheep but one would easily label Nabila as fashion’s black swan, someone who likes to indulge in the unexplored. She effortlessly takes the road less traveled, even if it means going down a slightly darker and dangerous route.

Photography by Faisal Farooqui @ Dragonfly

A star is born

Alycia Dias and Emu

An unexpectedly deep voice serenaded over Somptueux as 19-year old Alycia Dias made her onstage debut. As a 17 year old she had participated and won acclaim in the LG Awaaz Banaey Star two years ago but was busy completing her studies since then. It’s unlikely that she’ll be allowed to retreat into oblivion this time.

This time, Alycia Dias is here to stay; the audience’s applaud more than ensured that. Performing with seasoned musicians Emu, Shallum Xavier and Ustaad Nafees Ahmed this young girl took over and personalized Louis Armstrong’s version of La Vie En Rose, rendered Voltare in perfection and extended her natural vocals to narrating Dimitri’s I’m a very stylish girl. As the jazzy lounge music set the perfect mood for a class act, Alycia Dias came through as a star in her own.

Despite having no professional training, Dias is no stranger to music. She has been performing at the homegrown Club 777 in Karachi and though her training is limited to vocal exercises, her father has over 30 years of experience as a musician. Music aficionados know Maxwell Dias and remember him for playing with Zoe Viccaji.

“Ali Tim recommended me to Nabila and Emu,” Alycia spoke to Dawn Images a day after the show. “We had a few days to rehearse before the show and I was nervous at the night of the performance, though I tried to control my nerves to make sure it didn’t effect my voice. I always wanted to become a singer and this was like a dream come true.”

Pakistan’s music industry can certainly do with more female vocalists and one hopes that a star brought out by Nabila will be given more opportunities to shine.


And an extra two images from the event, taken courtesy my iPhone (therefore the terrible results!)

Murtaza Chaudhry & the cool BNN gang (like Cool & The Gang) at Somptueux.

Safinaz and Mubashir Khan at the show…Tapu in the background

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