It’s been three seasons since the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) launched its fashion week.
In the two years since they’ve been in action, they have managed to establish themselves as the most credible fashion platform in the country. A marked achievement, particularly in light of the avalanche of fashion weeks over the previous two years, and even more so at a time when the equally credible Fashion Pakistan week has floundered.
“We will be back in action and hold our fashion week in the second half of the year any time between July and December. Some pending paper work is holding us back,” said Amir Adnan, CEO of the Fashion Pakistan council whose retail brand FnkAsia showed at the recent leg of the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week. “A council is not anyone’s private property,” defended Adnan, saying that there’s no need for pettiness and one can and should show at other fashion weeks. “The purpose is to promote fashion and not a council,” he concluded.
From their inception, fashion weeks in the country have been touted as trade and business events even though the initial start was rather bumpy on the financial front. In terms of business the last PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week got 17 designers under the retail brand Labels to open their doors to well-heeled clientele at Dubai’s Studio 8. There were also announcements of designers stocking across 42 Hang Ten stores, the absurdity of which the council probably realised soon enough and the matter was shelved. This year however, the PFDC managed to secure the Expo Centre, a venue that spells trade, to signify the seriousness of their intent to promote the business of fashion. An exhibition hall was situated right next to the show area and in an effort to make linkages with local textile empires, voile shows were held in the afternoon where big guns like Bonanza and Bareeze participated.
Yet the handful of local fashion buyers that the country has were perplexingly absent. While Zahir Rahimtoola of Labels, the largest fashion retailer in the country completely stayed clear of the event, Asad Tareen of the Designers, Zeba and Shehernaz Husain of Ensemble and Zara Raza of L’atlier showed up briefly and that too to support their designer friends. “All the fashion weeks in the country at the moment are geared towards image building and press mileage. There’s a lot of theatrics on the ramp and a rethink is required on the business front to bring ramp wear to the level of street wear in the country,” said Rahimtoola.
With marginal foreign buyers at each season, the need of the hour is to strengthen the position of loyal buyers by creating hype for them about the designer’s collections with a clear flow of business information and feedback and a space for them to interact with designers. Pakistan is still viewed largely as a basket of embroideries and embellishments by the international fashion community, buyers and media alike. The core purpose of venturing into the indigenous market is to assess what crafts can be lifted and merged with foreign market demands. While at the PFDC’s showcase in November, Nalini Aubeeluck, a Mauritian designer and retailer, although bowled away by the rich embroideries that she felt were “so detailed and beautifully accomplished”, felt that they wouldn’t work in Mauritius as “people in my country don’t wear such clothes. The designers that could possibly work are Sara Shahid of Sublime, Zaheer Abbas and Sadaf Malatere, if their prices are flexible enough”.
Moreover, showcasing talent that does not have the production capacity to meet demands is further damaging to the cause of business of fashion. Brands such as TeeJays that have met with well-rounded applause from local and foreign attendees are nowhere to be seen after the shows. Without even a press kit or a business card, it is a futile attempt to present clothes that buyers would flock towards but can have virtually no access to. Sure, talent needs to be nurtured and encouraged, but a fashion week platform if not utilized properly is a waste of time and resources for all parties involved.
If the PFDC intends to use the fashion week as a platform for cultural exchange and a reflection of Pakistan’s soft power, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t. But if that is an important concern, then it is time to deliver conceptual shows rather than the usual run of the mill catwalk to thumping music. The one show that people will remember, including Britain’s greatest fashion authority Hilary Alexander, from this round of the PFDC is Karma’s, for its frothy dreamlike enchantment depicted the mother daughter relationship in all its sweetness and finery. The man who brought the dream to life, Hamza Tarrar, is an interior designer par excellence who was responsible for creating a chic retro lounge for the media and designers to mingle over cocktails and sushi. Here is a man that understands glamour and his creative insight into fashion will only add to the grandeur of the game.
And it’s not just Tarrar. There’s Zain Mustafa who works exclusively with Nabila and would have to be coaxed into fashion and the incredibly talented Athar Ali Hafeez who mentors and is friends with many young designers. From amongst their own, PFDC has a powerful tool in HSY who is a personification of the quintessential showman. From choreography and styling, to the general mechanics of a show, HSY knows how to deliver a class act and render a memorable performance. Perhaps it is time for HSY the designer to step back and HSY the visionary and brand-maker to step up. With his brand now working with the precision of a well oiled machine despite his perennial absence due to his constant globetrotting, there is no man better suited than the veritable HSY to give an image make over to many designers who, although established business wise, need image make over’s. “I feel my vision works and if others egos are strong enough to get under our label then we are launching HSY Management Services soon to lend support to designers who want to become as big as us.”
Given that this season we saw a host of designers walking for each other such as Khadija Shah of Elan for Ali Xeeshan and Nikki Nina for Rizwanullah, if this camaraderie can be translated in a more tangible way, as challenging and ambitious as it may sound, then PFDC can be a powerful unified force.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2011