Fashion in Pakistan emerged from public oblivion when the fashion weeks kicked off with veteran designers (Maheen Khan, Deepak Perwani, and Rizwan Beyg) debuting in Milan in 2009.
Two years later, eight of what PFDC’s French fashion consultant Alexandra Senes sees as the country’s finest, have been chosen to head to Paris next month. The list addressed as the ‘Super Eight’ by Senes, includes Pakistan’s most innovative and lauded talents such as Feeha Jamshed (TeeJays) and Kamiar Rokni, along with Adnan Pardesy, Zaheer Abbas, Muse, Shamoon Sultan (Khaadi), HSY, and Nikki Nina.
“Pret a Porter is the biggest women’s fair in Europe,” explains Senes in a nutshell of this regular fashion fair that hosts special trade shows for different markets. The Pret a Porter is scheduled from September 3 to September 6, out of which Senes has secured a Sunday 4 pm slot for an exclusive Pakistani exhibit.
Senes has been a regular guest at the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) fashion week shows and has seen a whole body of work that these designers have had to offer over the last two years. She candidly admits that the selection of designers has been made on the basis of who excites her the most fashion-wise. Senes was seen sporting a Kami ensemble (“He is someone I really like and support”) and an Elan toga at Lahore fashion week in March (which makes Elan’s absence from the list rather curious given the brand’s very Euro chic sensibility).
Senes has also been very supportive of the younger brood; evident from the inclusion of Zaheer Abbas and Muse. “I really like Mohsin Ali also and wanted him to come, but he still needs time to get ready,” states Senes. However, the choice of HSY and Nikki Nina – both very ‘active’ brands at the PFDC – is a bit awry given their deeply traditional aesthetic, which is hardly avant-garde.
“Paris is also about learning,” says Senes, and hopes that after this debut at Pret a Porter, designers will be able to do this on their own every six months. Senes has also been promoting Pakistani brands consistently at parties and fashion events in Paris, so much so, that her friends now say ‘you’re Pakistani’.
“I have picked up people for their character and the personality that they bring to the fore,” says Senes, who is quite upset that Feeha Jamshed will not be able to attend the fair due to personal reasons. “Feeha breaks the stereotypes that we have here of brown-skinned Pakistani women. She looks very cosmopolitan and the manner in which she dresses, she could easily be from anywhere in the world,” she adds.
The final cut, however, includes a healthy mix of young and mature designers, western and eastern designs as well as a careful balance of Karachi and Lahore (so as not to accentuate the already brewing fashion politics between the two cities). She is very apprehensive though; “Just three more weeks to go and nobody’s ready!” she cries. The fashion consultant adds that she does not know the response Pakistani designers will receive. “Even though nobody really sells the first time around, I haven’t seen anything they are bringing so I can’t assure you if they can sell,” she says.
Senes designer friend Isabella Ballu, had been guiding the designers on how to fine tune their goods for the Parisian market. Adnan Pardesy, for instance, had to reduce the grammage on his denim designs and Kamiar Rokni, who already has an agent in France and has shown in Paris, has realised that “the West appreciates our embroideries but they don’t wear it.”
Despite how disorganised designers’ business structures are, Milan gave Pakistan the fashion week culture; so let’s see what Paris has to offer.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2011.