Fahad Hussayn is perhaps, one of the most under-rated designers in Pakistan. His over-the-top ramp styling always garners press coverage, but both press members and consumers are quick to dismiss him as a marvel of styling over substance. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A visit to Hussayn’s Lahore studio proves the depth of this talent. Those striking ramp outfits are even better up close; the level of detailing is extraordinary. His creations incorporate custom fabrics into silk and hand-woven cotton, intricate built-up embroideries and impeccable tailoring.
The sheer range of embroidery techniques that he employs in his work is remarkable. Each outfit comprises various elements that work in harmony, creating a luxe effect.
Hussayn is justly proud of the craftsmanship behind his creations. “I’m very quality conscious and have been known to have things re-made three times if they are not right. I have collected the best karigars (artisans) over the years and I hoard them carefully.”
Hussayn’s gorgeous embroidery should come as no surprise. His degree thesis was on embroidery techniques. His embroideries are delicate and immaculately finished, all the more laudable when many so-called designer outfits feature cheap sequins and beads tacked onto them using machine embroidery.
Hussayn also puts a lot of thought and effort into the finishing of his outfits. “I have cotton zari fabrics woven specially for trimming my outfits. I use custom-made kora that is specially treated, so that it won’t go black.”
Hussayn may be held guilty of lacking a pragmatic, business mindset. He will create labour-intensive pieces that are not commercially viable – casting metal for embroidery or making custom felting for felted jackets. With the passion of a true artist, he concentrates on his creative vision rather than whether the custom detailing will be sellable.
At the end of the day, however, it’s the customer who benefits. Surprisingly, Hussayn’s collection is relatively affordable and good value for money. He puts in more detailing than many designers. Unlike some on MM Alam Road in Lahore, he is not going to charge tens of thousands for Liberty-market style embroidery.
Hussayn’s formals are not cheap by any means, but compare well with other designers in terms of quality. At heart, he is a true couturier and his outfits reflect artistry, which is the hallmark of authentic couture.
Hussayn’s prêt is also aesthetically pleasing. He drapes the outfits himself, refusing to teach anyone his techniques. He plays with concepts and comes up with innovative and stylish collections.
He stocks at a variety of stores across Pakistan, including Ensemble, L’Atelier and Fashion Central. Based on what is available at the Lahore studio, it would be wonderful if more of Hussayn’s collections made it to his stockists.
His draped tunics are wearable and versatile, but given his expertise in prints, embroidery and cuts, he can make it prêt line more diverse. The most successful designers are able to bring wearable versions of their ramp collections to stores and it would be wonderful to see Hussayn doing this more.
Other designers may be more business savvy, but Hussayn’s disregard for commercial considerations is what makes him a true artist. His perception of fashion as art is also evident from some of the dark, almost gothic ramp shows that he has done.
Hussayn is no dilettante though. While his work reflects a creative flight of fancy, he does realise that he is designing for clients at the end of the day.
“I have realised that customers are not generally interested in wildly experimental pieces. In Pakistan, couture is about taking a concept that customers are familiar with and giving it your own twist,” he says. And Hussayn certainly brings his twist to his work.
Fearsomely talented, he excels at draping, embroidery, cut and print. He is innovative, creative and versatile. He is also a perfectionist and by his own admission, difficult to work with because of it.
He opened a store on MM Alam Road and closed it down over a dispute with the landlord. Although his lawn was a success last year, he has chosen to launch his own limited edition lawn collection this year, so he can have the freedom to express himself with no restrictions.
Customers say that he is flexible – he will not cling to an artistic vision and refuse to take a client’s preferences into account. His bridal and formal outfits are custom made, tailored according to the client’s requirements.
For those who want to invest in a unique piece, he is sure to design intricate, fabulously detailed outfits. Gifted and imaginative, Hussayn is indeed a designer worth the name.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2014.