KARACHI: It was a proud moment for the Pakistani dress designer Nauman Arfeen, 41, when he got a call from Buckingham Palace — headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom — to design a dress for Prince Willam, during his maiden visit to Pakistan.
The royal palace had hired another award-winning fashion designer Maheen Khan,75, to design dresses for his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, whose outfits caught headlines drawing comparisons with those worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, three decades ago.
In the Himalayan foothills, during their visit to Chitral district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), the Duchess of Cambridge echoed Princes Diana, when she put out a similar traditional Chitrali hat worn by her mother-in-law, when she visited the region in 1991.
She also put a similar blue floral pattern outfit Diana wore, when she met young cancer patients in a Lahore hospital in May 1997.
Attired in traditional outfits, the British royal couple, stepped out from a colourfully decorated rickshaw, to attend a reception in Islamabad.
Prince Willam was pictured wearing a teal sherwani and a green embellished Jenny Packham gown — the image that went viral on social media, triggering curiosity about the person behind the attire.
“It was a golden moment for me when I was contacted by the [Buckingham] Palace to design a sherwani for Prince William,” said Nauman Arfeen who is founder of Nushemian – a famous Pakistani Sherwani brand.
Sherwani is regarded as “gentleman dress” in Pakistan and India.
All top government officials in Pakistan, including President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, wear sherwani during official ceremonies.
Founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah was known to have been found of this dress, in his later years. His fondness has made it a sort of national dress of the country.
The Buckingham Palace officials had a chance to see Arfeen’s work at Chelsea store in London, before contacting him last month.
“Initially, the stylist who contacted me, could not explain as to what Prince William actually wanted. He was looking for something in green colour,” the designer said.
He perhaps wanted to match the dress to reflect colour of Pakistani national flag, which is predominantly green.
“But I got an idea from his conversation as royal dignitaries generally look for classy, elegant, and less-is-more [style] attires,” he said.
The designer said, he sat down, deliberated and then sent two samples. “One sample pertained to the choice of official, which he had vaguely explained to me, and the second one, I prepared undertaking a considerable research on royal outfits.”
“The prince chose the second one, but kept the first one as well,” said Arfeen with a sense of pride and stars twinkling in his eyes.
He said the palace officials were meticulous to thrive out finer and minute details about the religious, and cultural sensitivities, as they particularly asked him to make sure that there would be no calligraphy on the attire.
“This is a life time honour and dream of every designer,” said Arfeen.
Since the royals have gone around with his dresses, he is flooded with calls and appreciation. “I am truly enjoying attention and appreciation.”
Maheen Khan, a veteran Pakistani stylist who designed attires for the Duchess of Cambridge is equally excited.
“I am thrilled and have a reason to be. It is a rare chance to design clothes for royalty,” she said.
Like Princess Diana, Kate looked equally elegant, mingled with kindergarten children during a visit to a government school in Islamabad.
Maheen also designed the white trousers which Kate wore with an emerald green tunic by Catherine.
She was clicked wearing this dress, when the couple met Premier Imran Khan, a friend of her late mother-in-law.
The palace officials had also discovered her work in Chelsea store.
“They wanted something according to Pakistani culture and tradition. We initially discussed things but finally they left the job to me,” Maheen said.
She had also designed dresses for PM Imran’s estranged wife Jamaima Khan, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and other prominent figures.
“I wanted the Duchess to look elegant, and smart. And I am pound, that I accomplished the task,” said the jubilant designer, who has earlier designed costumes and embroidery for the films Sweeney Todd, The Phantom of the Opera and The Golden Age.