Some of the most adventurous heads of hair that you can imagine to see, least of all in Pakistan, made their way across the catwalk Tuesday evening. As ‘Rebels’ by Call Me Karizma played in the background, out walked men and women sporting styles that belonged in avant-garde London, one of the most celebrated hubs of edgy street style in the world. They rolled out to celebrate ten years of Toni & Guy in Lahore, packaging a celebration that had the elements of a hit show. Bill Watson, Francesco Fontana and Gary France (creative directors of Toni & Guy UK and the Southern Hemisphere) had flown in to work with Shammal Qureshi, the visionary behind the brand’s northern leg, and together they conceptualized a show that broke the rules and made it look legit.
‘Raise some hell before we ghost
Break the rules, a
You know us
- ‘Rebels’, Call Me Karizma
The hair, of course, was the highlight of the show. Each style a head turner, the catwalk opened to looks controlled by trending cuts and colours, ranging from auburns to ashes. This was hair that belonged essentially to the club culture but it added a fifth dimension to the wardrobe, flown down from London, giving it a life of its own. One looked at each style and wondered, would women in Pakistan dare to step into such adventurous territory? Yes and no, depending on the particular style, but fashion would look a lot more exciting if they did.
It was a rebel’s fantasy. But was it every Pakistani girl and boy’s fantasy hair?
Toni & Guy is known for very cutting edge and avant-garde hair styling but how does that work in Pakistan, where women are more conservative with their looks, I asked Shammal Qureshi after the show.
“What Toni & Guy is known for is basically solving hair problems. Our focus is on the client,” he replied. “To showcase what we can do, yes we also do very cutting edge and avant-garde hairstyling, which we showcase to the world. In our salons, however, we respect every country’s hair culture as we’re a multi-cultural hair brand and we’re in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Sweden and all the European countries. So as an international brand we need to work with every kind of hair and respect every kind of culture. Having said that, however, there is a big youth culture in Pakistan where women and men want something different. We cut that hair on those people. All our models were Pakistani and we didn’t force haircuts on them; we just had a consultation and we did whatever they wanted. They were really happy and said no one had ever offered to style their hair this way. So yes, Toni & Guy does push the edge and we showcase those styles every year; however that doesn’t mean that’s all that we do in the salons.”
Back to the show, there were segments that were slightly more tame, showcasing hair that was definitely more adaptable to the desi palate. The idea was not just to offer trends for 2020 but to encourage the spirit of adventure, which is missing from fashion in Pakistan these days. Hair and beauty is such an important part of fashion, of self-expression, and these styles were motivating in the sense that they intended to nudge girls and boys out of their comfort zones. While experimentation may be limited in Pakistan when it comes to clothes – cultural values and the lack of street style kick in – there’s no stopping the youth from getting creative when it comes to hair, at least not in styles that are easily reversible.
The western leg of the wardrobe was quintessential London punk but the show also included two segments dedicated to local designers. The young design whiz Hussain Rehar dressed up one part of the show, in which almost all the models wore ghagra cholis (also seen as skirts and blouses) and had deliciously blown out hair. There was also a segment called ‘wedding’, in which the music turned traditional as six models walked out in wedding wear. Juju Haider, who manages the Toni & Guy edition in Islamabad, explained how bridal hairstyles had incorporated gota (tinsel) an essential element in all wedding clothes. While the hair, with its weaves and waves, was very interesting, one has to say that the clothes in this segment weighed the looks down. Designers for the night included HSY, Kamiar Rokni, Ali Xeeshan, Elan, Fahad Hussayn and Sadaf Fawad Khan but without any labeling or description, it was almost impossible to credit the outfit to the brand; they all looked the same. This segment could definitely have been managed better.
‘I don’t dance, I work
I don’t play, I slay
I don’t walk I strut, strut, strut and then sashay’
- ‘Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels’ by Todrick Hall
The lowest point, however, was the pool of models and their painfully apparent lack of swag when it came to moving with the beat. ‘Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels’ pelted out in the background and one wished the models had even the minutest of Todrick Hall’s energy. With the exception of a few names, most models couldn’t keep up with the tempo and walked without the attitude so desperately needed in the show. You needed the kind of attitude that comes with inbuilt confidence, from the likes of naturally stylish celebrities such as Meesha Shafi and Zara Peerzada, both of whom were in the audience. Having said that, it was a relief that celebrities were in the front row and not on the catwalk itself. There was heavy celebrity presence – Meesha Shafi, Hania Amir, Kubra Khan, Iqra Aziz, Yasir Hussain, Sheheryar Munawar, Maya Ali, Ali Rehman Khan, Aima Baig, Ahmed Ali Butt and others – but hair was the only head-turner, show-stopper that evening.
The models were the only dip in an otherwise very strong evening. The music, a trippy soundtrack of club beats, was perhaps one of the strongest points of the show and perfectly captured the vibe that Toni & Guy is known for. And the event had the kind of oomph you need to see associated with fashion, right from the red (rather blue) carpet to the after party. Uzair Jaswal stepped on the catwalk and brought a few of his biggest hits, hyping up the audience a little more. It was great energy and the finesse of everything put together then made one wonder why Toni & Guy wasn’t more actively involved in fashion weeks in Pakistan. They obviously had the chops for the job.
“Initially we were actively involved but we were a much smaller team then; it was about 8 to 10 years ago when they offered fashion week to me,” Shammal replied. “I only had a team of 16 people. Now we have a team of 280 people; I’ve been going for the past five years to London Fashion Week. We sent six people to shows in London this year and all the hair was done by them. So we’re now in a position where we have a whole team of makeup artists, a whole team of long hair specialists and this year we are sending three to four people, again to London for fashion week. In fact I might not even go. We are very confident and given the opportunity we would love to do fashion week. Fashion is obviously in our DNA; as a brand we’re known to link fashion with hairstyling.”