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PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week debuts in Lahore

The rukhsati, Ali Xeeshan brings theatrics to his show

(Published in Dawn Images on Sunday, January 1, 2012)

A glamorous black carpet was rolled out in Lahore last week. Grandeur, opulence, excellence and theatrics came to mind as one walked upon it to witness the PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week (PLBW), a curtain raiser on Pakistan’s coveted bridal couture. Bridals are perceived as couture in Pakistan and as couture is customized, so would be the fashion week honouring it. It was here that fashion was to be elevated and twelve designers would be anointed to higher status of couturiers, possibly the best in Pakistan. Subsequently, expectations ran high.

Amongst the highly anticipated were HSY, Karma, Nida Azwer, Umar Sayeed, Fahad Hussayn and Ali Xeeshan. Nabila’s style segment and her interpretation of tradition conjured up just as much interest. There was also a lot of curiosity as to how the three jewellery collections by Kiran Fine Jewellery, Raema Malik and Damas would be conceptualized. The remaining six shows – Sonia Azhar, Sara Rohale Asghar, Rouge, Maria B, Asifa Nabeel and Emran Rajput – held some surprises and also some shocks. As expected with any debut, not all names on the list were deserving.

Meesha Shafi, the face of fashion week, models Umar Sayeed’s collection

Umar Sayeed and Nida Azwer easily walked away with being the strongest names at PLBW. Sayeed for his intricate and almost intimate detailing that felt flawless when it comes to aesthetics that a bridal ensemble should exhibit. This is what he does best. Azwer was more creative, as she took liberties with craft without compromising on the basics of a strong bridal.

Karma made a very strong comeback with a collection that puts Maheen Kardar Ali back on the radar. Like Umar Sayeed, bridals are Karma’s forte and bridal week served an important purpose of giving her a platform to prove that. Ditto for HSY who not only proved his prowess but also tweaked it by having fun and introducing bridal separates. These designers were in their element.

Younger designers Fahad Hussayn and Ali Xeeshan pulled out the stops in their shows. Hussayn’s ‘Raat Rakh’ was a collection reviving ancient crafts in an almost Gothic avatar; with that the designer remained committed to his ethos. Similarly Xeeshan’s ‘Pahalgam’ seeped in with the spirit of Kashmir: beautiful, ethereal and as always, dramatic.

The upcoming Sara Rohale Asghar impressed with her collection as well as show by bringing in Josh

While most collections shown at PLBW were aesthetically pleasant, they fell out of favour for lack of innovation. Critical acclaim is very different from commercial success and that is what the remaining six designers struggled to understand. They were subservient to commercialism by way of stereotypical silhouettes, multifarious layering and what I like to call ‘death by dabka’! Fortunately excellence is not measured in the weight of the jora, not even when it comes to bridals.

Designers at bridal weeks need to serve two very strong purposes: tweaking tradition via innovation and reviving ancient crafts of the region and making them cohesive with the aesthetic of a new generation. Bridal week needs to raise the bar for bridal excellence.

That said, Asifa & Nabeel, Sonia Azhar and the young and thus surprisingly sound Sara Rohale Asghar, at least leveled an acceptable standard.

Additionally, Zaheer Abbas who created capsule collections for Nabila’s style segment and Raema Malik’s jewelry show was quite impressive in his first bridal collection. He certainly will be a name to look out for as should be Yasmin Shaikh who designed the very strong collection of solids for Kiran Aman.

Jewellery was introduced as a second and vital dimension to bridal fashion. It is difficult to display jewellery in a fashion show, which is why these types of shows always need creative vision to ride on. Aman impressed with her strong theme “Sceptres of Beauty’ and brought the iconic Naheed Siddiqui to the runway. Damas was showcased to Meesha Shafi singing a cover of ’Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, live. Both shows were impressive.

Nida Azwer, who designs for men and children as well, brought out the full spectrum of her work

It has to be said that PLBW felt the absence of bridal greats. Fashion weeks are essentially a platform uniting designers to showcase the best face of an industry. Couture weeks (as opposed to prêt weeks) are where legends rise not where newcomers are given opportunity to arrive. Paris Couture Week, for example, would be incomplete without Christian Dior, Chanel, Valentino, Armani, Azzedine Alaia, Gaultier and McQueen amongst other fashion greats. Similarly this bridal week felt the acute shortage of Pakistan’s bridal greats like Sana Safinaz, Shamaeel, Bunto Kazmi, Faiza Samee, Rizwan Beyg and Nilofer Shahid to begin with.

The timing was also wrong – bridal week should have been held in September/October and not peak wedding season. Mistiming was one reason why certain designers like Kamiar Rokni and Sublime could not participate. Mistiming also affected the attendance, which in turn affected the overall buzz.

The first PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week was a good initiative but one that needs to consciously evolve to acquire the status of greatness. With visionaries in the driving seat, one has confidence that it will.

All photography by Faisal Farooqui @ Dragonfly

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