Building up couture

November 27, 2022

With her label’s first collection, Un-gaze, receiving major applause, Parishae Adnan talks about how she arrived at this point, and where she plans to go next.

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new consciousness emerges with every generation, and with that, a new conscience too. You might argue that fashion is meant to be fun and lighthearted; an expression of the self, acknowledgment of the luxury of the time and resources to invest in that expression. Let’s agree to disagree. Fashion is fun, but it isn’t just an heirloom wedding dress, or a daring geometric gown. Fashion is also everything that led to the heirloom piece and the meticulously constructed outfit.

Every piece created in a designer’s studio has history. And in the case of Parishae Adnan’s work, it has a longer history than most. The 27-year-old designer isn’t just presenting the cumulation of picking material, shape, design – she is reclaiming older pieces, and turning them into ideas.

“None of the pieces I showed [at the showcase of the Un-gaze collection], can be recreated. Not the exact same piece; they were all one-offs,” says Adnan.

Un-gaze, while not Adnan’s first collection, is one that has now put firmer expectations in place of her, anything less than what we have seen with this collection would be unacceptable.

Adnan first showed her work for Amir Adnan’s Fashion Pakistan Week showcase in 2017. “That used upcycled materials too,” Adnan says. Then, right before the absolute event of the century, the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, she launched Awami, a very promising line of ready-to-wear that was well-constructed with very fleeting accents of the fierce intensity Adnan displays when talking about her work. But for such a promising start, Awami went nowhere. Adnan remains unperturbed. With her eponymous label, she will do things differently.

The very first thing she has done differently this time around is putting her name on the label. “Sometimes things happen in a person’s life that teach them they have to back up what they’re doing fully and own it.” With Awami, Adnan notes she wasn’t quite ready to become completely invested.

One of the biggest disappointments younger designers usually serve up is the lack of planning. What is showcased as a very well-fleshed-out and thoughtful collection ends right there. A lot of times we will find that there was no plan in place to accommodate orders for the same, no point of sale determined, whether physical or digital, and no forethought to how to raise and roll the capital that will keep the business running. You’ll see these designers either become very niche, catering to a very specific clientele within their social networks, or disappear completely.

Parishae Adnan is in the business of upcycled couture. The pieces shown as part of Un-gaze were once other items of clothing. A sherwani turned into a kurta. A turban was upcycled into a sari. “The red sari,” Adnan says, “was a turban. The history of the pieces used is important too. A turban is essentially an accessory for men, and it represents their honor, lineage – it is passed down from man to man to man. “I took a turban that was made in 2004, opened it up, and used the pleated part of it to cover the chest.” In Parishae Adnan’s world, every move is intentional; every stitch, drape, and cut tells a story.

Adnan believes that will not happen with her. “This is in my blood,” she says, referring to her parents who are both designers as well. “I have grown up around fabric and sewing and machines. Around the people whom I’m working with now. There’s no way out.”

The most incredible thing about Parishae Adnan though, is that she is actually approaching her trade like an artist. Yes, she has the benefits of available infrastructure, but the larger quality she brings to the table is her passion and intuition for design, specifically, design for women.

“For Un-gaze, I spent two weeks with all the women who walked for me,” she says. “I got to know them well, what they think and believe in and all of that informed the pieces I ended up making for them.

“When you come to me, you’re not ordering an outfit, you’re ordering an idea. We will work together to create something that speaks to you and for you.”

What Adnan is in the business of is upcycled couture. The pieces shown as part of Un-gaze were once other items of clothing. A sherwani turned into a kurta. A turban was upcycled into a sari.

“The red sari,” Adnan says, “was a turban. The history of the pieces used is important too. A turban is essentially an accessory for men, and it represents their honor, lineage – it is passed down from man to man to man.

“I took a turban that was made in 2004, opened it up, and used the pleated part of it to cover the chest.” In Parishae Adnan’s world, every move is intentional, every stitch, drape, and cut tells a story. One of the things she has spoken about on her personal social platforms is how designing for women is tricky. She is quick to point out that it is not about the gender of the designer, but the way they determine what is beautiful, or stylish, or desirable.

“Who decided that what women want is soft and delicate?” she asks. “It isn’t about whether the designer is a man or a woman; a woman can just as easily create clothes that sexualize the woman wearing them from the perspective of a man.”

Of course, the market for soft florals and delicate pastels exists, which is why they exist. What Adnan ultimately presents is strong on cut and drape, not so much on embellishment, and makes a statement. You could say that a Parishae Adnan is for stronger personalities, but given that the designer wants to create pieces that reflect the wearer, we’re certain her floral, pastel, delicately woven creations will be equally powerful.



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