Designer menswear: Still finding its feet

Despite designers recognising the importance of menswear, its growth has been slow and shaky.


Menswear fashion in Pakistan didn’t take off at the same projectile that womenswear did. Its growth has been slow and shaky; with a few promising names making brief appearances on runways and in press, and then vanishing into oblivion.

Don’t get me wrong. There is no dearth of trendy menswear designers but acute and inconsistent fashion week appearances and succumbing to market demands by going overly commercial and putting their own unique design aesthetic on backburner, you are left with a few names.

Earlier this year, organisation of a Men’s Fashion Week was announced at a press conference by Ramp Edge with names like Khawar Riaz and Munib Nawaz on board, but that plan never saw daylight. It was supposed to take place at the end of August earlier this year but was delayed due to unforeseen circumstance and that was the last we ever heard of it. With Munib Nawaz — who was initially announced as the spokesperson for the event — no longer attached with the project, the fate of Men’s Fashion Week still hangs in a limbo.

Meanwhile, menswear designers like Omar Farooq of Republic and Arsalan & Yahseer continue showing their collections at ready to wear fashion weeks held under auspices of Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) and Fashion Pakistan Council (FPC). These are people who mean business and have established quite a name for themselves with regular showings at fashion weeks and following the right business model.

But in most cases, menswear designers after a show or two have completely disappeared from fashion week lineups. From Munib Nawaz, Jazib Qamar and Ismail Farid, list of designers who vanished into oblivion after a few very well received and critically acclaimed shows is a long one and inconsistency has no place in the business of fashion. Ismail Farid made a forceful entry into the fashion arena by showing a ‘military inspired’ collection that received humungous critical appreciation at Fashion Pakistan Week in 2009. But that remains the only stint to date at a Fashion Week of the three time LSA winner.

Munib Nawaz cites involvement with business development as the reason behind this long absence: “We have been really busy with our brand development, managing our shops nationwide and procuring retail orders worldwide. We are committed to our customers first and it’s hard to manage a fashion week collection with so much on your plate.” However, even he doesn’t deny the importance of showing regularly at fashion weeks and considers it a stepping stone for establishment and image development of brand.

Lately, some designers such as Munib Nawaz and Jazib Qamar have turned to the Islamabad Fashion Week and showed there collection this April, but this holds little significance as Islamabad Fashion Week can’t boast of much credibility and can’t promise the same mileage as per say a PFDC organised event would bring to a label.

The more developed and established lot of menswear designer have been running menswear as a sideshow to their womenswear work. Ammar Belal started out as a luxury menswear designer but has delved deeper into womenswear over the recent years. Similarly, HSY and Fahad Hussayn inspite of showing menswear pieces in their collections, are quintessentially womenswear designers. On the other hand, six-pieces that Amir Adnan and Deepak Perwani showed on finale of the recently concluded Fashion Pakistan Week doesn’t even qualify to be called a collection.

Menswear is a smaller market in comparison to womenswear but one that hasn’t been explored to its potential yet. Menswear designers need to structure their business better, get consistent with fashion week showcases and make available to their customers what they show at fashion weeks. One could debate the limitedness of menswear as an argument but then there are names like Omar Farooq of Republic who have held onto their signature aesthetic and managed to strengthen their brand name solely on power of strong fashion week collections, good coverage and striking campaigns without going abyss.

But one thing designers need to realise is: showing futuristic ensembles, dapper military avatars at fashion weeks and selling sherwanis and kurtas at stores; you just can’t get away with that business policy anymore.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2013.

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