Deconstructing the red carpet

May 21, 2017

Pakistan’s relationship with the red carpet has fallen into an unsavory concoction of the distasteful and tasteless; here’s what needs to change

Deconstructing the red carpet

The path to an event can be long and winding or short and easy but it almost always begins on a red carpet surrounded by a coterie of photographers. It rose to its starry status earlier in the millennium when Frieha Altaf introduced it at the Lux Style Awards and since then this thin, long walkway has been the focal point of the media savvy. It’s a tried and tested PR formula that provides a platform for people to get photographed and journalists/bloggers to mingle and schmooze. A lawn launch, music album release or even a restaurant opening now sees this carpet rolled out, which is precisely why it is gradually losing its appeal. The red (or blue, green etc.) carpet’s sparkle diminishes when rolled out for something utterly ordinary and humdrum like the aforementioned. We wish it would be reserved for the truly worthy.

The past month saw two major style studded events unravel in the country: the Lux Style Awards and the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week, which are arguably the most glamorous events on the fashion calendar; events that have owned the right to a red carpet. They require the stars to pull out all the stops but the outcome has thus far, been a letdown.

As the red carpet culture has developed, the celebrities who dress for it are naturally not only expected to excel in their chosen occupations (the reason they are at the event to begin with) but they are also supposed to be style icons. These celebrities must realize that at a position like theirs a relationship with fashion is almost essential. In fact, a fashion moment can easily catapult a female actor’s career forward because if they make fashion a priority, they can get fashion designers fighting to dress them in their latest outfits. The fashion savvy can then get on major magazine covers that weren’t interested before and that brings awareness to industry decision-makers. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that stars do understand but most of them sadly do not know what to do about.

It’s obvious that actors and fashion (and in extension, red carpets) share a symbiotic relationship. It does, however remain a confused and muddled one. This fashion week alone if you tried for hours and gave up trying to mentally extract any semblance of "fashion" from the red carpet, you weren’t alone. There were almost no stand out, memorable looks that would go down in the hall of fame. No uniqueness and no individuality. We expect a little more experimentation at fashion weeks than award shows, an affinity with style that shows you understand it and own it. We’re seeing less and less of that over the years. The fashion week red carpet has merely been reduced to a platform to flaunt your favourite labels.

If you think about it, there’s actually no set formula to be the ‘best dressed’. The looks that go down in our mental best dressed lists are usually those that involve an actors’ willingness to break a mold and forgo the typical gown in favor of something that leaves the most powerful, lasting impression. Interesting silhouettes, daring colours, and the ability to rock a pantsuit better than the entire leading male category, that’s sartorial star power. However, our celebrities mostly choose to go the safe route, tiptoeing their way around social media backlash.

They avoid taking risks and the chance of appearing on worst dressed lists and god forbid, alienating huge conservative fan bases. This means that everyone just makes a whole lot of effort to look exactly the same, blending into a sea of passive dressing - the kind of dressing that evokes no emotion at all in the viewer or wearer. We, on the other hand encourage taking risks with fashion on the red carpet because at least there’s a point of view being conveyed. Sometimes it’s humorous, often it’s quirky and there is an unmistakable sense of charm linked to what is an honest expression of a person. That’s why we’ve always been fans of Ali Xeeshan’s quirky and perplexing appearances whether it’s his Chinese conical hat or his rooster-on-head situation. It requires self-assurance and makes one wonder, what was he thinking when he woke up this morning? That’s the emotion and character that has been largely absent from the red carpet.

What also becomes apparent when one sifts through red carpet photos is that at our core we are desi which often means when we think ‘dress up’, it leads to our very eastern sensibilities becoming obvious. And there’s nothing wrong with that but people often teeter to the wrong side of the fine line and end up in festive or shaadi wear. It’s either that or outfits by local designers attempting western cuts which mostly gets lost in translation. To ensure you don’t look like you got lost on your way to a wedding, do eastern wear but do it subtly with classic, toned down numbers.

If you are confused about where to start from, hire a professional – a stylist and work in tandem with them. The job of a stylist is to work on your look with you so your personal style must always shine through. If you’re not sure of what it is, develop one with the stylist. The celebrity should also try and work with the same stylist and/or designer and develop a long-term relationship so they understand their body type and personal style like Anoushey Ashraf has achieved with Amal Qadri or Mahira Khan has with Amar Faiz. This will make it easier to nail it and a designer might even design some things with the celebrity in mind, in colours that suit.  Stylists should also not push for the same designers each time, particularly those from their home town, but should aim to dress the celebrity in their own best possible look.

Amongst the gifted these days, we feel, is the fashion forward Kiran Malik, model and upcoming actor, who worked her fashion prowess to her advantage at the recent LSA’s. She stood out in her choice of pant suit, where most female actors played it safe in gowns. Meesha Shafi is another celebrity whose experimental sense of style is one we’re in eternal love with. Although she hasn’t graced a red carpet for a while we laud her for not being afraid of colour, layering and accessorizing like a pro and most importantly, always being comfortable in whatever she wears.

Deconstructing the red carpet