PLBW19: Looking at the highs & lows

October 6, 2019

PLBW19: Looking at the highs & lows

The PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Fashion Week in Lahore has established itself as the most credible platform for bridal couture in Pakistan and yet it suffered a bit of a declinethis year. Blame it on an increasingly tough economy and/or a sense of tedium setting over the fashion industry but the question is, what are we going to do about it?

Back to back shows featuring Pakistan’s fashion aristocracy, names that belong in the constellation and that present stellar collections to front row royalty. There was excitement on the red carpet that hustled and bustled with fashion creatures of all shapes and interesting sizes. There was thrill in the arena and an array of goody bags and gimmicks keeping things hospitable, hot and happening in the main show area. Lunches led to shows and shows led to after parties, creating a whirlwind of fashion activity, all coming together as the fashion week gamut. Fashion Week used to be exhausting and yet terribly exhilarating. That was, not is.

Things have been changing over the last few years, particularly because of an increasingly tough economy and/or a sense of tedium setting over the fashion industry, especially amongst veterans and misguided souls that feel investing in a high budget fashion shoot is as profitable as investing time, energy and creativity in fashion week. That was especially ostensible this year at the PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week that, despite putting all its efforts into creating a consistently growing and credible platform for fashion to shine on, could not glean more than half a dozen top names. There’s no denying the fact that fashion week does and must introduce new names to the lineup every year - the future belongs to the youth - but by no means should the future replace the past, especially when the past still commands a major part of the present.

So while the Aquafina Rising Talent Showcase, for example, was an integral and impressive part of the lineup, one missed the strength of fashion week heartthrobs like Nomi Ansari, Ali Xeeshan, Elan, Faraz Manan, Sana Safinaz, Zara Shahjahan, Karma and Shehla Chatoor; these are names that have shown over the years - albeit sporadically - and have now chosen to either not show or show solo. Their absence from the catwalk was a letdown.

But let’s talk about designers that did show and that continue to support and strengthen a platform that has, historically and globally, lead to the establishment of the fashion industry at large. There is a reason why big brands like Chanel, Dior, Gucci and Versace continue to show at fashion weeks, year after year, season after season, without fail. And there are names that will go down in the history of Pakistani fashion as brands that created fashion week history too.

The best thing is that top established names at the event, namely Kamiar Rokni, Mahgul, Nida Azwer, Sania Maskatiya, Misha Lakhani, HSY and even the relatively newer Hussain Rehar (also featured in our style pages this week) have strong retail presence and will hopefully benefit from the publicity their showcases created. Sania Maskatiya had a private showing of Dilara, her collection, in Lahore and Karachi within a day or two of her showcase and Mahgul brought her fabulous collection, Tales of Bijin, to Karachi this weekend. That is the way this process should unfold. It would certainly help to have a couture week forecasting trends in wedding wear a little earlier in the year but then, these clothes will dictate weddings for the next six months and more. Purpose served.

The best names at PLBW were the above-mentioned designers who did not need star power to excite the shutterbugs; their collections spoke for themselves. Celebrities, I believe, belong in the front row for designers they are loyal to. There was a time when Fawad Khan would be seen at all Republic shows and Ali Zafar would make the effort for Saira Shakira. Juggan Kazim and Zara Peerzada often made an appearance for Kamiar Rokni and so on. Stars take to the catwalk for the highest bidder, apparent in early shows featuring all of Sumbul Iqbal, Sara Khan, Mawra Hocane, Sara Loren, Mansha Pasha, Kubra Khan, Ayeza Khan, Imran Abbas, Maya Ali, Sheheryar Munawar and many more. It makes for sizzling social media content but then its life is as short as the Insta-story it appears on. I would challenge anyone to list which celebrity walked for whom in even a week’s time. It’s all utterly forgettable.

The second major high at PLBW was the pool of models; the council had thankfully decided against recruiting and flying in awkward albeit tall blond beings and settled for dark and dusky, equally stunning girls from across Pakistan. Mushk Kaleem, of course, is having a big year; her Lux Style Award for Best Emerging Talent in fashion led to her debut on the catwalks of Milan Fashion Week earlier this month and she carried that air of well earned fame and superstardom with grace and poise.

Sabeeka Imam, Fahmeen Ansari, Nooray Bhatti, Zara Abid and Farwa Kazmi came with experience but then relatively new names like Rabia Zahid, Aqsa Shah, Tayyaba Butt and Esha Asad caught the eye for being absolutely stunning. They’re not exactly debutantes but have definitely improved their presence over the years.

The hair and makeup, with Nabila’s team helmed by Tabesh Khoji this year, ensured a variety of well executed and slick trends in styling. One most prominently saw an array of romantic, loose braids, soft curls, flowers in the hair and a lot of gloss and shimmer on the face. This most certainly is a year for colour.

Speaking of beauty, PLBW is sponsored by L’Oreal Pakistan, which threw an extra spotlight on the ‘I am worth it’ experience by campaigning for women empowerment. Such messages are always welcome, especially at high profile platforms like fashion week. Earlier in the evening, one saw L’Oréal Spokesperson Mehreen Syed walk into the venue with an entire assembly of graduates from IFAP, her brainchild and an institute she has invested her time and energy in for the last few years.

The L’Oreal segment concluded with 50 IFAP graduates, who have received beauty training at the institute, walking alongside Mehreen Syed, their mentor. They all had stories to tell but the most important thing was that these women had risen from adversity to make a life worth living for themselves and for their children and families. The campaign also featured a bridal outfit from Sadaf Fawad Khan (SFK Bridals), which was displayed at the L’Oréal exhibition area on all three days of PLBW and will be auctioned off on the official Facebook page of L’Oréal Paris. The proceeds from the auction will be donated to IFAP.

Back to fashion week, despite these high moments, there were lows that included the lineup that primarily consisted of new names that failed to deliver. One cannot sit through one mediocre, over-embellished and poorly finished collection after the other, which is what happened at the beginning of Day Two. Over embellished and badly fitted clothes do not credible standards make. Secondly, insufferable delays in show timings combined with the discomfort of sitting on hard, backless benches added to one’s distress. One realizes that these benches have been inspired by international seating standards at fashion weeks but then internationally the audience sits for just one show before moving on. To have to endlessly sit on them, often cramped, was just not pleasurable or glamorous by any stretch of imagination. And while grassy runways and backdrops may be incorporated in international shows - the PFDC is big on global standards - they are usually created in live locales with corresponding themes and creative concepts; they are larger than life. The synthetic green grass runway with a very shaadi stage backdrop did not qualify as swanky fashion show setting.

At the end of the day this was fashion week, the one time when designers must put commercial aspirations on the back burner and turn to creativity and innovation. As has been said before, only those that manage to sell their creative vision and made a commercial success out of it are heralded as champions. We had several of them on the runways this year; we need to see more.

- Photography by Faisal Farooqui @Dragonfly

PLBW19: Looking at the highs & lows