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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FASHIONWEEK: Hitting Lahore in style

As a trade event, the fashion week held in Lahore had its vital statistics in place: there were buyers in the front rows and a hustle bustle of media all over the place. The four days scheduled 32 collections — some great and some not so great — with the sole purpose of generating business and building a professional profile for Pakistan’s fashion industry, something only fashion weeks can do.

Pakistan’s Karachi Fashion Week took place in Karachi in 2007 and it was government supported. It also returned last month. The second, however, won Karachi over as Fashion Pakistan Week (under the aegis of Pakistan’s other fashion council) last year in November. Therefore this one was only the next in an exhausting series, though the first fashion week in Lahore.

It must be said that it was the most organised Pakistan has seen so far.

An ensemble of separate spaces

Hosted at the Royal Palm Country Club, the fashion week featured a smart marquee with a straight white ramp and photographer’s pit, a VIP Lounge for buyers and select members of the press, a registration booth and media centre for everyone. The swanky Palmer’s CafĂ© came alive after hours for post-show parties and an entire food and beverage kiosk was set up for service during show time.

Though all these units were inconveniently spaced out, it is merely a matter of time and finances that an area exclusive to fashion week can be developed. It just needs to keep happening consistently, which it will thanks to the two-year contract PSFD has signed with the sponsors. Also, while collections were displayed a day later at the PFDC Boulevard, they must instead be featured at the venue as stalls for the buyers’ and media’s convenience.

Collections make a fashion week spin

The event logistics, follow-up and back-end work and administration managed by Catwalk, Lotus PR and members of the PFDC and Unilever can only help facilitate an already sailing ship. And as that ship, a fashion week can sail only on the steam set off by designers and their collections.

Out of the collections shown, the ones with incredible energy were Kamiar Rokni, Body Focus, Sublime, Khaadi, Nomi Ansari, Ammar Belal and Sadaf Malaterre. Feeha Jamshed’s collection was brilliant had it not been so similar to what she had shown at Fashion Pakistan Week last November. The similarities diluted the impact. Following closely were Tazeen Hasan, YBQ, Yahsir Waheed. Together they were a multi-facted, diverse face of Pakistani fashion.

In the immensely popular bridal ‘couture’ pool, Elan was refreshingly eye-catching whereas HSY, Rehana Saigol, Asifa & Nabeel, Nida Azwer and Nickie Nina found their own niche following. It must be explained that while bridal couture has always been disregarded as a thing of studios and not catwalks, when you have buyers flying in from Dubai, there will be a market for bridals and that should be catered to. The criteria for impressive bridals, however, stand similar to those for ready-to-wear. It involves aesthetically sound, well-finished pieces that ideally tweak tradition one way or the other.

Karachi vs Lahore: the million-dollar question

The inevitable question on everyone’s mind was this: which fashion week was better? Unfortunately there is no singular answer.

Lahore’s strength, it must be said, primarily lies on the shoulders of one woman: Sehyr Saigol. Her clout pulled in the sponsors and she had the vision to put Catwalk and Lotus PR in places of strategic relevance. She was in the control seat all the time. Many people have vouched for the fact that nothing, not even the colour of the curtains, was approved without her consent.

The answer to everything now is an urgent need for one fashion week: a Pakistan Fashion Week. One fashion week will be able to profile Pakistan as a country that creates diverse fashion and this current divisiveness only creates loopholes. Foreign observers in Lahore don’t know who Deepak Perwani, Rizwan Beyg, Maheen Khan, Sonya Battla, Ismail Farid, Ather Hafeez or Nilofer Shahid are, and those who make it to Karachi will miss out on Kamiar Rokni, Sublime and Body Focus amongst others. Add Lahore’s best to Karachi’s best and you have an eye-popping lineup. Who’ll bring Karachi and Lahore together is anyone’s guess but there are several power players who are expected to intervene.

As for now, the foreign press will be interested in Pakistani fashion as long as the Taliban angle applies. It’s a stereotype but it has also raked out the publicity. These stories and this interest will fizzle out unless the fashion industry grows strong enough to sustain itself. The strength is in numbers. They have to add up.

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