It’s a testament to Fahad Hussayn’s strength as a designer that this page could only feature pictures of his work and that would be enough, or perhaps not enough, never enough, because you will want to look at more.
Hussayn has been teasing his newly-released collection, Collateral Convention on his socials for about a month now, the experimental imagery both emotional and strange enough to be devastatingly beautiful. Perhaps it is emotional because it speaks of the various stages he and his label have gone through over the last decade and a half, and is built with much of what those 15 years left in their wake: silk, sequins, ideas, and lessons learnt.
In a previous conversation with Instep, when Collateral Convention was still under construction, Hussayn had spoken about how the collection meant to reintroduce all four of his brands under one umbrella, kind of a relaunch of Fahad Hussayn, if you will. The first of four stages of this process speaks about the art of fashion, what the designer refers to as ‘art couture’ and is built of the leftovers from the first run of his label, which he closed down a couple of years ago. The second nods to the social/media trolling he has faced, the third, the community of the fashion industry, and the last circles in Print Museum, one of his four labels.
On this day that Fahad Hussayn speaks about Collateral Convention, and his showcase at Bridal Couture Week (BCW) which concluded just two days prior, the day is chilly, tinged with blue, a little unforgivingly unoptimistic. On this day, Hussayn is unable to understand the all-round censure BCW faces from Pakistan’s fashion community at large.
If the community is looking for a Paris Fashion Week, he says, they can’t have it, because we don’t live in Paris. If they’re looking for a Lakme India Fashion week, no dice. They are getting a BCW, because that is what the buying market looks like in Pakistan, and it is the only avenue that has sustained over the years.
The third concern within Collateral Convention, that of the community that fashion provided those involved and the loss thereof.
“It’s the rejection of your own people of your own things,” he says. “Everything is becoming more - monetary? - and that’s great. But there has to be a better word to explain this. Fashion is art, some days, materialism just doesn’t work with art. You cannot be an artist and be materialistic [all the time] to be able to understand or support art in any form.
“Making a business out of it or living out of this is a right. I support that. But the fact that you would drive the market into a direction where everything becomes about what am I getting in return? Might just be the end of it all.”
Surprisingly, Fahad Hussayn has never won a local award. Or perhaps we should say, the local award. He shrugs it off. A trophy will not be his reward for the work he has done in the industry.
“I think the biggest reward was when people came to my help when I was falling apart. The biggest help was people helping me rebuild what I lost. You know, if you’ve left a mark in your life for different people, and in your bad times, there are so many people who want to help you out. I think that’s far better.”
This is when we learnt that the Fahad Hussayn label filed for bankruptcy and went out of business two years ago. From staff to craftsmen, everything was in disarray, and his brother told him he would have to shut the whole thing down at least once to reset and make it work again.
“I still ran it like that for a year,” says Hussayn.
But the messy bookkeeping, under-the-table dealings carried out by some staff, and botched deliveries took their toll, and Hussayn had to finally heed his brother’s advice, to close shop, re-shop, and reopen. This time, he feels things might just go better. But during the time he was out of the game, he found what and whom to keep in his life, and which bits - and people - to discard.
The one thing he has said before, and repeats now, is that forget the business of fashion, or the art of fashion, it is really the community of fashion that has disappeared.
“I’ve never even worked with that trigger [of having an award],” he says, “but I actually feel like this entire generation wants everything so quickly and effortlessly, and without doing anything. That’s just concerning to see as a person who has worked hard to be in this industry, or create what I have created [with my contribution to the industry]; to see all of that go down that drain, that is depressing for me.”
Hussayn’s disappointment with the industry at the present moment runs deep and wide. It isn’t just that the industry has become more business-like than it was in its adolescent stages, nor is it that there is only one fashion week - albeit one not favored by everyone, and it isn’t because the one awarding platform Pakistan has, has turned its back on its fashion origins, giving more space to more crowd-pleasing entertainment categories; it is all of it.
“When I wore that jacket that said Fashion Is Dead on the back, it was for the platform. Over the years fashion has been reduced to a couple of awarding categories. When the platform started, fashion was perhaps the most extensive, safe, and palatable categories for them to focus on.
“It is very cool that other categories within Pakistani lifestyle and entertainment have grown,” says Hussayn. “But if there wasn’t fashion, whom would you be photographing? Whom would you style? What would you wear, for that matter?”
Which brings us back to BCW, which is a platform that has Fahad Hussayn’s approval.
“So I actually decided this time I’m not going to cave under any kind of social pressure of doing a solo show on my own. Calling 200, 300 different kinds of people and putting up all kinds of things for, average amount of publicity, just to be honest. The mileage you get out of television is on another level, and I will take that over some momentary social media or press coverage,” says Hussayn.
“Besides which,” he continues, “this is literally the only calendar event left for fashion anymore.”
But of course, there was a lesson learnt too. “Half the industry that I had invited to show up to any of my random things did not come to BCW because, oh, BCW what’s that? Huh? You know, I don’t understand where you think you’re living? And who are all these people, who are we selling to, by the way? So, I don’t agree with this kind of cultural rejection, and I think it’s only hurting the industry further.”
What Fahad Hussayn hopes to see more of in his industry is, to sum it up, and perhaps overstate it, community. He recalls fondly how he found support from supermodels Vaneeza Ahmed and Aminah Haq who modeled for him simply because the latter liked his drapes, and the former engaged him to design her lawn prints. They had the counsel of seasoned designers, he says. They had support.
“And I am willing to pay it forward,” says Fahad Hussayn, “whenever needed.”
Photos by Asad Bin Javed/ Muhammad Husnain
“It’s the rejection of your own people of your own things,” says Hussayn. “Everything is becoming more - monetary?
- and that’s great. But fashion is art, and some days,
materialism just doesn’t work with art. You cannot be an artist and be materialistic [all the time] to be able to
understand or support art in any form. Making a business out of it or living out of this is a right. I support that.
But the fact that you would drive the market into a
direction where everything becomes about what am
I getting in return? Might just be the end of it all.”