Sunsilk fashion week: Fashion loves drama

Published: April 3, 2011

Zarah Shahehan puts the spring in summer

PHOTO: IJAZ MAHMOOD PHOTO: IJAZ MAHMOOD PHOTO: IJAZ MAHMOOD PHOTO: IJAZ MAHMOOD Ali Xeeshan's line has some dramatic accessories Zarah Shahehan puts the spring in summer

The Sunsilk Fashion Week in Lahore was held at the Expo Centre. It was a spacious venue and ideal to promote the professionalism that is meant to accompany Fashion Week.

Attendees were a mix of industry professionals, local and foreign media, retail buyers, designers’ clients, families and friends, with appearances by local icons like US Consul General Carmela Conroy—resplendent in an HSY embroidered gown—Samina Peerzada, Tahira Syed and designers Umar Sayeed, Rizwan Beyg et all.

Happily, the number of sleazy uncles attending to check out models has reduced considerably from preceding years; perhaps this has something to do with the drive through jam-packed traffic to Jauhar Town, the several hours’ wait for the event to start, and the whopping ten fashion shows in a row which require a strong constitution.

Our local paparazzi consists of red carpet interviews for TV channels; people schmoozing up to photographers to get, yes, photographed; women hamming it up in their characteristic poses while insisting to see their photos in preview mode for approval; and the general in-your-face telephoto lens that transforms everyone who breathes into a local celebrity for just walking in.

The audience vibe

The audience enjoyed Ali Xeeshan’s glittery bridals and mehndi-inspired palette, Ammar Belal’s airy cheetah prints, Zara Shahjahan’s girly summer florals and pretty much every moment leading up to and comprising the HSY finalé show—the  motivation behind their determination to sit through some less spectacular shows.

There was interest in some of the other collections, including Adnan Pardesy’s structured look, Feeha Jamshed’s voluminous shalwars, gathered shirts and ghararas at TeeJays and the Malini-Ramani-esque designs at FnkAsia.

Judging from the women’s comments in the row behind me (and Mr Peerzada’s agonized expression in the front row!) a portion of the audience wasn’t too thrilled by Emraan Rajput’s sobmre black crow-like collection, which opened with a caped suit. Attendees’ excitement was generally reserved for glittering formal wear, new lawn prints that they hadn’t yet devoured at an exhibition, all things cheetah and familiar faces walking the runway for fellow designers (Hassan Shehreyar catwalked three times and several other designers went into runway-model mode for their friends).

  • The Verdict: Ammar Belal

Ammar Belal’s juxtaposition of exotic colonial African glamour, with contemporary references to Roberto Cavalli’s mismatched cheetah prints and Ralph Lauren’s safari chic, was definitely worth the wait. Complemented by worn leather luggage, hunting rifles (which must have been a security nightmare!), tawny makeup and glamorously frizzed hair, Belal’s superb Africanesque line showcased flowing animal-print chiffons, sexy tan hide, tailored white linen and his signature bedazzled rock star jeans—this time with leather patches.

Translation to overseas markets: A.

Wear-ability in Pakistan: A.

  • The Verdict: Ali Xeeshan

The celebratory drama of Ali Xeeshan featured adorably absurd birdcage accessories with ‘Nefertiti-meets-Marie-Antoinette-with-a-gharra’ headgear that added depth to his striking ethnic styles. The sheer floor-length veils that covered some of the models—flowing from striking headgear to sweeping train—evoked the ethereal magic that makes Elie Saab so popular with Middle Eastern royalty and Hollywood A-listers, though some adaptation would be necessary to relate to other markets.

Translation to overseas markets: B.

Wear-ability in Pakistan: A.

  • The Verdict: HSY

The prominence of the HSY über-label within Pakistani popular culture was demonstrated by live, throbbing music and a psychedelic-meets-patriotic Jinnah montage that served as a backdrop to well-cut gowns with a signature motif, along with his-and-hers lawn prints that debuted Yasin’s upcoming lawn collection.

Translation to overseas markets: A.

Wear-ability in Pakistan: A.

  • The Verdict: FnkAsia

FnkAsia’s collection looked uncomfortably reminiscent to Malini Rumani’s even funkier showing at the 2010 TRC Carnivale de Couture in Lahore. The vivid, chunky accessories did seem like a great retail offering—unless they’re only meant for the runway—but the jumpsuits and the overall boho look were a step or two behind international trends.

Translation to overseas markets: B.

Wear-ability in Pakistan: B.

  • The Verdict: Zarah Shahjahan

The wearable, carefree summer silhouettes at Zara Shahjahan featured flowing lawns with pretty lace and net detailing, ladylike pink florals, a snazzy black red-carpet outfit and an ode to the 60s in a sheer chiffon churidar, with a short tunic that featured button detailing in the back.

Translation to overseas markets: C.

Wear-ability in Pakistan: A.

  • The Verdict: TeeJay’s

As a high street every-day brand, an element of practicality is essential among statement pieces for the runway. One can picture college students wearing TeeJay’s voluminous cotton ghararas to classes, professionals wearing them to work and mothers wearing them on school runs. Yes, ghararas. Sigh.

Translation to overseas markets: C.

Wear-ability in Pakistan: C.

The swag was a drag

Pirate booty or promotional freebies given to celebrities and attendees of events, swags are an effective way to promote hot new consumer items among a targeted demographic. Okay, so we didn’t get complimentary iPads and Caribbean vacations like they do in Hollywood, but I got a long-stemmed red rose and perfume samples from Scentsations, a bottle of Pond’s moisturizer and some Adidas deodorant (yippee?), but didn’t get the coveted Balmain or HSY swag bags (I cheered up after discovering the one labeled “HSY prints” contained chocolate rather than lawn).

Swag score: a dismal 2/4.

Suggestions for next year:

1. Beef up the ushers or pre-allocate the seats:

You have to love fashion to endure the chaos of not getting your promised front row seat and sitting at someone’s feet on the stairs, standing next to the videographer or watching from atop a distant balcony. Either the ushers should be scary-looking aunties that people actually listen to (instead of meek little girls in black t-shirts) or tickets should contain pre-allocated seat numbers to prevent attendees from playing musical chairs every time there’s a break.  And the entire coveted front row should have the names of its intended occupants taped securely, so the signs aren’t floating around the floor.

2. Reduce speech time:

Another time saver—incorporate the lengthy ‘thank you’s and corporate messages into a screen presentation that can be shown during intervals and the two to three hours that audiences are waiting for the show to kick off. The finale should come rapidly after the other shows, not after a substantial narrative segment—unless you serve dinner during the finale, so audiences don’t faint from hunger; we’re not models, after all!


Laaleen Khan

An international columnist and media consultant who Tweets @laaleen

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.