With the onslaught of fashion weeks finally over and with three solid years of consistent fashion activity, one can finally take stock of what has been accomplished.
While the fashion media has unanimously touted the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) as the most prestigious fashion platform in the country, one was hoping that the power balance would tip towards Fashion Pakistan Council (FPC) with its Fashion Pakistan Week, which finally managed to bounce back into action two weeks ago. Although it stepped up its game by introducing live streaming, FPW was still not as grand as one had hoped it to be. But as the doyenne of all fashion events Frieha Altaf puts it, “The whole idea was to put it back on, and we did!” So it’s perhaps a bit unfair to compare a fashion week that is six seasons old (PFDC) with one that is only three seasons old.
But while FPC will go through a teething period till it cements its position as an equally potent fashion force, Altaf, who is credited for kick-starting both events, feels that a single fashion week would be the ideal situation as opposed to the tale of two cities, which has been the norm in India with Delhi and Mumbai rivalling. “We aren’t as large as India plus sponsors and talent get split up,” asserts Altaf who wasn’t part of the latest instalment of PFDC. “I missed PFDC and I respect both councils and anyone who does anything for fashion. Perhaps it’s bad for my business to state that there should be one event, but we need to put Pakistan’s best foot forward.”
Tug of war
So what lends PFDC its edge? It’s the “Ss” that back up the council. Namely: Sunsilk as a core sponsor, Sehyr Saigol, who rules with perspicacity and an iron fist, Saad Ali, with a keen business acumen and the charming Sheroo aka HSY with his communication, creative and choreography skills. These four Ss make for a formidable and heady concoction that simply cannot go wrong. Fashion week is now a well-oiled machine for Lahore and with someone like Saad Ali, a Lums MBA graduate who roped in Levi’s to come to Pakistan and then transformed his wife’s brand Karma to the point that it now has four distinct divisions running simultaneously. At FPC, on the other hand, legalities kept frustrating members and a musical chairs of CEOs ensued with Ayesha Tammy Haq vacating the post for Amir Adnan who eventually left the daunting task of clearing up the paper work with Maheen Khan.
While the FPC has splintered with its collisions between its head members: Maheen Khan, Rizwan Beyg, Deepak Perwani, Amir Adnan and Shamaeel Ansari, who are all on the same level with none possessing the kind of clout and power as Mrs Saigol in Lahore, PFDC flourished simply because this power lady would keep everyone in check. Many will criticise Lahore for its ‘clannish’ mentality, but anyone who’s lived there will tell you that this dynamic works. And with PFDC, it works brilliantly.
Mrs Saigol has been instrumental in transforming the cultural landscape with her consistent patronage of the arts. She was also the first to launch an international style and fashion magazine with Libas and without a doubt has all the influence — financially and socially — to take on the role of fashion’s godmother.
Equally important is the fact that both the trunks and saplings of fashion in Lahore hail from the Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design that the PFDC patronises. Its initial batches produced the likes of HSY, Kamiar Rokni and Maheen Kardar — all designers with successful brand identities who have actively taken on managerial roles with the council. With such an inherent ownership to the city and their school, there is a very tangible sense of camaraderie and mentorship that is given to new sparks like Mohsin Ali, Akif Mahmood and Ali Xeeshan, also products of the school. One wonders what FPC would do if it managed to affiliate itself with either the Asian Institute of Fashion Design or Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture’s textile department, which of late has churned out promising new names like Sania Maskatiya, Wardha Saleem and Somal Halepoto.
So until FPC manages to get its own fashion star force ready with the right sponsors, talent and dream team, it’s going to be wishful thinking that they will manage to discern themselves over “content.”, as was claimed by council chairperson Shamaeel Ansari.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.