In its fourth instalment of the fashion week, it has become clear that the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) means business.
Consistency, efficiency and a clear trajectory of success have made it a formidable fashion force to reckon it. In its inaugural fashion week, the PFDC provided a platform for collaboration of the fashion houses like Labels in Pakistan and Studio 8 in Dubai to take place. Soon after, a steady stream of international media could be spotted at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week with a number of foreign buyers as well. And, few would argue that getting Britain’s acclaimed fashion authority Hilary Alexander down from London was a coup in, and of, itself. The constant attention that Pakistan and fashion received, at the time, was incredible not only with diligent formal reporting that appeared in The Guardian but with evocative tweets that recreated a dynamic vision of Lahore for Alexander’s global fashion following. Also with its links with Paris fashion consultant Alexendra Senes, the PFDC was able to send a handful of its talent to the city of lights last month for an exclusive show.
With extreme excitement and buzz always accompanying the PFDC shows, its fourth showcase appeared a bit bland with a lack of fancifully dressed foreign fashion media. Additionally, the shows lacked their characteristic theatrics as well. Designer Rana Noman, who helped with coordination backstage, forlornly stated, “There’s nothing left for us to do. Everything now works with such precision. The models know how to walk. The make-up artist is efficient with make-up changes. There’s no chaos and hungama that made fashion week fun.” A super model, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also complained that, “There’s no excitement any more.” With so many fashion weeks lined up and Karachi already hosting an exhaustive fashion week earlier, the model is stating what many in the fraternity already feel: PFDC should stay in their home town Lahore. “Who ever heard of a fashion week travelling cities?” complained a veteran designer.
Yet, despite the outcry of having chosen the ‘unglamourous’ Expo Centre as the venue and lack of foreign media, the PFDC did well to cement its claims about seriousness of its purpose by running the event in tandem with the annual trade expo. At its fourth and recently concluded fashion week PFDC, instead of inviting an eclectic fashion media, the council chose to collaborate with the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). The mere thought of government collaboration elicits shudders, but with politicians like Amin Fahim, who attended one of the days of the fashion week, it sends an encouraging message: fashion is not frivolity but serious business.
“The buyers were floored!” exclaimed Mehreen Ilahi, fashion consultant at TDAP. “There were buyers from France, Sweden, China, Japan and Mauritius who got to experience firsthand what Pakistan has to offer. The buyers got ideas of fabrics and accessories. A Czech buyer placed an order of 2,000 pouches at the Expo for instance.
Split the shows
For the local audience and press, a mix of both pret and couture shows (and Spring/Summer shown with Autumn/Winter) was a source of annoyance. With four successful seasons behind it, the PFDC would now do well to insist upon their designers to follow seasons and split their collections into pret and couture shows. Creating these binaries is now even more crucial for the council, which is set to launch its bridal week by the end of the year. With only a handful of designers, it is critical to demarcate to prevent fashion ennui, which is already setting in as a by-product of the plethora of fashion events in the country. On the flip side, however, it is this odd mix that propelled TDAP to cancel its own fashion show and recruit PFDC instead to do the job for them.
The TDAP has also been funding the Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design (PIFD) which has already established links with Paris, but after its fourth fashion week, Ilahi states that links with schools in Mauritius and Sweden are also a possibility. “An MoU has been with PIFD and Mauritius which has also requested that a show of this calibre be taken there. A Sweden mission also wants a tie-up as well as a show,” informs Ilahi.
Apart from this, PFDC spokesperson HSY proudly announced at the conclusion of the fashion week, the council and its designers will head to the fashion capital of the world, Milan. The Milan Fashion Week played host to three of the most senior designers in the country two years ago when Deepak Perwani, Maheen Khan and Rizwan Beyg graced the ramp. The culture of fashion weeks was a tangible manifestation of that epic fashion victory spearheaded by the Fashion Pakistan Council, colloquially referred to as the Karachi faction. But what PFDC CEO Saad Ali wants is a bigger slice of the pie. “We are looking for a reciprocal participation with the Milan Fashion Chamber whereby opening both markets for business partnerships in the design industry. To this end we have involved the Italian embassy and the foreign ministry and are hoping to host the Milan Fashion Chamber President in Lahore for our fashion week in March 2012,” stated Ali.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2011.