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Published in The Review, Dawn, April 4 2010

“Lawn is the true prêt of Pakistan,” Sana Hashwani said in her office several days before the insanely successful Sana Safinaz lawn exhibition was to open in Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad. This statement is something designers have been reflecting upon for years but not many have managed to execute the theory as neatly as SS have. The prêt or ready to wear game is in big numbers, in volume as opposed to exclusivity and high prices and in a country where women are barely getting used to the idea of ready to wear clothing, lawn is the next best bet. In this respect textile manufacturers have indeed given fashion it’s much needed piggyback. This teaming has happened with fashion designers creating lawn prints and a few, like Sana Safinaz, taking the plunge into manufacturing their own lawn.

How to wear your lawn:

Thanks to designers, the dynamics of how to wear lawn have changed drastically. Lawn is no longer restricted to the three-piece jora that women used to buy, limiting their options of what to wear as a shirt, a shalwar and a dupatta. That three-piece jora would end up as a suit stitched to look like ten others in the wardrobe, with a variation of colour, print, lace, ribbon or piping.

Lawn has evolved with a much more experimental fashion identity. The starched dupatta is almost a thing of the past. The dupatta has been converted to an accessory, like a scarf, and there is no need to trim it excessively anymore. Let it serve its purpose and stay in the background.

As for shirts, the fitted silhouette is still as obsolete as the Afro. Many trendsetting designers are gradually sowing the seeds of structure and form but it’ll take a year before it edges its way into Pakistani fashion. Women are enjoying the free flow too much to let it go just as yet.

Meanwhile, lawn must no longer look tight, stiff and starched. It must have fluidity and movement, which is why the chiffon dupatta or scarf is now considered a better and much more elegant option. Shirts are long, even longer than they were in winter but the asymmetrical hemline has been joined (not replaced) by kurtas with lots and lots of panels. You are encouraged to mix prints liberally; the experimentation can be a lot of fun!

Another almost obsolete part of the three-piece ensemble is the printed shalwar. Shalwars are mostly plain this season and are preferably white. And yes, the shalwars are acceptable as are churidaars and Gucci, or wide pants. Say bye bye to your capris. For the rare minority of the wild at heart, designers all over the world have given a royal nod to chiffon tights, also worn with extra pleating as chiffon churidaars. If you’re bored by your regular shalwars and trousers then go for tights in any shape, size and print. The snakeskin, especially python print, is most desirable this season. Find a lower that suits you.

As for finding the lawns that suit you, there are some names that are now associated with the must buy, high-end variety.

Who to buy your lawn from:

Yahsir Waheed, one of the longest standing pioneers of designer lawn fabric, returns every year with a range of interesting prints in fresh, summery colours. His prints almost always spell out optimism and spring time rejuvenation. At the price they sell at, they are an instant hit with fans and followers who want to indulge in a safe bet. If you’ve missed his exhibition, then YW is available at his retail outlet in Lahore. Verdict: perfect for women who can appreciate elegance and would rather be safe than sorry.

Much more experimental and returning for a second season this year is Sonya Battla. Her prints cover all bases, with a little something for everyone. There is light, sorbet bright daywear as well as an eclectic deeper palette; there are florals as well as the edgier pop art prints. Some prints incorporate jamevar borders whereas others are more subliminal for the minimalists at heart. As Sonya herself said at the exhibition, there is something for everyone in this range. Now that the exhibition is over, Sonya Battla lawn can be found at various lawn distributors around town, that too for a fabulous price. Verdict: fun prints, which are very strong on design but could improve on the quality of fabric and printing.

Sana and Safinaz lawn would undoubtedly be categorized as the most coveted this year and there’s good reason why. Not only are the prints beautiful but SS are responsible for changing the way lawn sells by including trimmings, printed add ons etc in the package. They introduced the polka dot satin sleeve and hemline last year and before you know it, polka dots were to be seen everywhere. This year they have set the trend for further experimentation. Expect to find different things to play around with in your lawn goody bag: some of the lawn is delicately sequined for a dressier look, the dupattas are mostly chiffon and shalwars white but then there are also various borders, prints and even embroidered neck or hemlines to play around with. As their brochure suggests, Sana and Safinaz urge you to find your own style and become your own designer this year. With a little help from the experts, of course. Verdict: Definitely the must-have lawn this year, though if you haven’t already bought, you’ll probably never get your hands on it now.

Honourable mentions: Sobia Nazir, for putting out very decent prints with embroidered gara-esque borders this year. Pricey yet pretty and perfect for luncheons and coffee mornings. Vaneeza lawn, that looks deliciously cool on the billboards and will undoubtedly rake in the crowds when the exhibition opens tomorrow (April 5)

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