The eclectic audience of prominent socialites, pretty young things and dignified grande dames that gathered to cheer on the debut of ingénue fashion designer Misha Lakhani on Thursday evening instantly reflected the cross-generational versatility of her designs.
Misha’s pre-Fall 2012 capsule collection was launched at the spacious, still-under-renovation Misha Lakhani boutique on the buzzing E-Street that has become a home to popular eateries. Dressed in a long digital printed dress herself, the wide-eyed 29-year-old said that her aesthetic sense is influenced by her mother’s experimental tastes but equally buoyed by her father’s innate classicism. Other inspirations could be culled by perusing Misha’s mood-board available for view on the designer’s official Facebook page: Former Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld fashioned as the eccentric Marchesa Luisa Casati and shot by Karl Lagerfeld; John Galliano’s flapper looks for Christian Dior Fall 2009; an old tea-coloured vintage photograph of the Maharani Rajmata Gayatri Devi of Jaipur; fern and floral-embellished Mogul awnings; a pre-Raphaelite painting of a scarlet-dressed Salome gazing dispassionately at the beheaded face of John the Baptist; an independent cross-armed woman striding confidently in a long navy pea-coat, billowing slit skirt and serious dominatrix heels; details of a matador’s paseo bolero and a striking multi-textured and dazzling-hued lizard.
The theme of the debut collection was colonial transgression, modernising the ebullience of old India by juxtaposing it with the context of well-travelled international élan. Misha used a myriad of traditional embroidery techniques, including resham, vasli, gota, marori and copper-based tilla — which feels has “a more worn-in, old world feel” — fused with a medley of fabrics like flowing georgettes and chiffons; sheer satins, sumptuous velvet and eye-catching karandi in a kaleidoscope of fall hues such as ivory melding into citron, muted olive, rust, burnt sienna and rich Bordeaux. Stand-outs included an ivory Grecian one shoulder painterly abstract digital-printed belted sheath dress with delicate gold fern embroidery; a traditional teal velvet long shirt with a sheer net overlay embellished with gota and zardosi but modernised with risqué shredded edges; a short shirt worn with olive-gold satin palazzos and a relaxed cardigan; an ivory pleated tunic with silver detailing and modern caterpillar cuffs worn with a long skirt and finally the fuchsia high-waist pants worn with a simple ivory slip, a gota and resham-flourished long opera coat offset by a thin wisp of a luxury belt.
“For me, details speak volumes,” Misha said intently, explaining that she takes great pains to ensure that even the inside of her outfits are imbued with special lining in the same way that kundan jewellery is dovetailed with a corresponding polki outer-face.
The 14-piece capsule collection was showcased to the vibrant selection of DJs Herbie and Munizeh and a roster of young models that almost mirrored the young, pretty socialite friends who make up part of Misha’s clientele and support system. The girls walked onto a space in the atelier and stood momentarily on blocks to showcase the stunningly fresh collection. Eschewing jewellery — even shoes — and touched by light make-up and loose soignée hairstyles, the models had a fresh je ne sais quoi insouciance about them, as if they had just returned from an evening out and were lounging languorously in their spacious private cocoons, having stripped off their accouterments. “I wanted minimalist styling to reflect an air of just chilling out, being oneself and being effortlessly chic,” Misha said.
Amongst those wearing the Misha Lakhani label was Iman Pasha, senior stylist of women’s wear at Bloomingdale’s, Dubai who wore a bespoke soft gold digital printed one shoulder backless sheath dress and opined: “The piece I wore to the launch was ultimately versatile.”
“I could wear it to a wedding in Pakistan or a black-tie event or even a wedding abroad,” Iman enthused. “Misha is one of the only designers in Pakistan whose work meets international standards in terms of aesthetics, quality and professionalism but which also effortlessly embraces and merges with desi craftsmanship.”
“There was a lot of variety in the collection; something for everyone, whether for someone who wants to bare a little bit of skin or someone a little more conservative. There was a great cross-mix of versatile separates in fun bright colours and cuts which one might go to look for in India, but which one doesn’t ordinarily find in Pakistan.”
Like all fledgling supernova designers on the rise, Misha has not been immune to a spot of industry gossip. Prior to the launch, one of Misha’s “friends” had tweeted hyperbolically on Twitter that Misha was attempting to lure away Sana Safinaz’s production manager and that a “bidding war” had ensued. Misha’s diplomatic riposte is that she had indeed placed an advertisement in the paper and many kaarigars had applied, as they are typically wont to do, including Sana Safinaz’s production manager, which is beyond her control, adding that absolutely no bidding war took place and that the former S&S production manager was ultimately hired.
Controversy or no controversy, Misha’s quietly stunning debut collection heralds the advent of a designer in touch with her social milieu and the requirements of the modern woman who appreciates the charm of traditional old world techniques effortlessly dovetailed with contemporary whimsy.
After studying Broadcast Journalism at Columbia University, Misha enjoyed a stint at American magazine Condé Nast Traveler before undertaking an eight-month course at Central Saint Martins in basic pattern-making, pattern-cutting, draping and evening wear. She went on to do a five-month internship with Bunto Kazmi, the doyenne of old world bridal couture. The exposure to these polar galaxies is reflected in Misha’s easy transitional sartorial aesthetic: palpably time-honoured embellishments and textures juxtaposed onto often refreshingly unexpected contemporary cuts and silhouettes. There is a sense of a relaxed and timeless elegance in which the designer has struck a covetable balance between tradition and modernity, while challenging the Misha Lakhani woman to delve into her own innate personal style and mix pieces, using traditional separates in a contemporary way. “I like using opposites that complement one another in the form of elegant separates that transition effortlessly from day to night,” Misha says, adding that she believes that old is gold but is also a champion for modern silhouettes. “I like to create traditional pieces but posit them in a contemporary way so that they are versatile and whimsical. I encourage my clientele to experiment and use separates in a manner in which they want to; in essence to be playful.” Misha explains that she became a fashion designer because she could rarely find what she coveted. “I was often frustrated that my personal wardrobe consisted of pieces that I could only wear to a wedding but not to a private dinner and vice versa. In creating my collection, I wanted to bridge that gap. I wanted to render individual pieces more mileage in terms of wearability. Versatility is key for me,” Misha asserts.
Saira Lakhani looked stylish in a peach pink shirt with matching linen pants that she created herself. “Misha’s collection is a breath of fresh air,” she said. “Very nice and very original.”
Spotted at the event was leading fashion industry figure Bunto Kazmi, who stayed true to her personal classic style of a simple kurta played up with a printed scarf and a string of pearls. “The collection was fresh, innovative and reflected Misha’s creative sensibility,” she said.
Take a closer look at some of her ensembles here.
Misha Lakhani is a close relative of The Express Tribune publisher
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2012.