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Style 360 in collaboration with J&S hosted a much-needed Bridal Couture Week in Lahore

(Dawn Images Dec 5, 2010)

Reema walks for HSY bridals

This is not the first time a stage for bridal fashion has been put up in Pakistan. India’s Bridal Asia was imported once and Bridal Waves upheld itself for two seasons before fizzling out. Veet’s regular ‘Celebration of Beauty’ shows border on bridal clothing too however Bridal Couture Week, held last weekend in Lahore, can be appreciated as the first event aimed to provide a cohesive, sustainable platform for Pakistan’s mammoth bridal industry. The three-day ‘week’ had teething problems, expectedly, but there was nothing that can’t be fixed with a little planning. The only question that may raise doubts in peoples’ minds is that has BCW been organized with a mission statement of fashion promotion or is it just another fashion show that’ll serve as programming for television? Another season or two will pave its exact path.

BCW strategically opened with its only acclaimed designer from Karachi, Nomi Ansari, it ended with Lahore’s indisputable queen of costume, Nilofer Shahid, and it featured one renowned designer from India – Muzaffar Ali – who graced the event with a treasure from his cove, Kotwara in Lucknow. BCW also featured upcoming and much appreciated names like Ali Xeeshan and Fahad Hussayn (black bridals may be the next big thing), while simultaneously extending the catwalk to new names like Amna Ajmal, Nargis Hafeez, Sehar Ali and Shazia Bridal Gallery. Asifa & Nabeel, Mehdi and Lajwanti presented collections that are best appreciated by a commercially safe clientele while the Men’s Store injected an essential quotient of international men’s clothing. Replete with contributions from jewelry designers the event encompassed many facets of a bridal trousseau.

The lesser said about Hoorain, the better. What this label showed is summed up in a few words whispered in the front rows of the PFDC Fashion Week, where Hoorain showed in February: “If these are Hoorain (Arabic for ‘Virgins of Paradise’), then send me to hell!”

HSY, on the other hand, in a grand retrospective proved why he is one of Pakistan’s most celebrated bridal couturiers. Each ensemble – “my personal favourites from ten years,” he said – depicted eastern opulence to their very best. One noticed innovation by way of a cancan built inside a sharara or an unconventional sepia and black colour palette. HSY’s workmanship was just as strong with the tinsel (gotta) craft being the most eye-catching. A show set to the beat of popular Bollywood tracks presented a befitting finale with the beautiful Reema, a true star!

HSY’s contributions to fashion, of course go beyond the sartorial. The amount of work he put into choreographing each of the 17 collections shown during BCW also cemented how integral he is to Pakistani fashion today.

Muzaffar Ali’s collection, world’s away from the extravagance (almost vulgarity) that we have become accustomed to in bridals, brought an old world and international charm to Lahore. The man who gave us the original Umrao Jaan still works from Lucknow and adheres to an ancient, almost gossamer thin aesthetic. His creations spun upon chiffon and organza as well as brocades woven at Kotwara (his studio) recreated nostalgic impressions of old crafts: zardozi, aari, kaamdani, chikankari brought together as chintz. The way colours and embroideries had been merged on various outfits created an altogether woven feeling, very surreal, almost Sufic as the husband and wife design duo Meera and Muzaffar Ali are. It was an honour to have them on Pakistan’s bridal platform.

Nilofer Shahid, it is needless to say, is unmatched in her understanding of couture. Her collection, which took inspirations from various historical periods, was a vision of craftsmanship. And it was as resplendent as the fireworks display that concluded the three-day event.

An entertainment TV channel and an event management company that also arranges high profile and expensive weddings organized bridal Couture Week. The biggest concern one would have regarding the organizers would be whether they will facilitate the business of fashion or their own. There is, however, no reason to doubt their integrity yet. BCW was just as well planned as any inaugural event this big is and it had just as many shortcomings.

Time delays, schedule unavailability, lack of stalls and exhibition area and similar limitations are not unknown to established fashion weeks. Some things were in fact better, like the commissioning of different stylists for different shows, allowing designers to chalk out their own guest lists etc. Show Producer, former supermodel Vaneeza Ahmad and Show Director and Choreographer Hassan Sheheryar Yasin brought the necessary fashion elements together. And the most productive outcome of Bridal Couture Week may be pulling bridal collections out of ready to wear weeks. This is where the begum brigade and Middle Eastern buyers – those only looking for shaadi and trousseau clothes – need to be invited.

BCW was a rather ambitious project to put together in as brief a time span as it did and kudos to the team for pulling it off. That said, bridal couture in Pakistan has to be about reviving and documenting ancient, indigenous traditions of this region. It has to be about creating awareness about bridal fashion, and the best of the best – brands like Bunto Kazmi, Faiza Samee, Sana Safinaz – must be made part of this process for its successful evolution. The good thing is that council politics do not affect this platform, which is open for everyone and anyone who is interested. The catch is, how will the organizers get them all interested? Time will tell.

Photographs courtesy J&S

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