A fashion revolution is brewing up in Pakistan. Its fashion industry is not dominated by over-the-top bridal wear any more. While most Pak designers have diversified into prêt, making fashion accessible to all, couture is also seeing a lot of bold, contemporary cuts and silhouettes.
As Pakistani fashion took over the Capital during the four-day Lifestyle Pakistan Exhibition (April 12-15), we spoke to a few big names from Pakistan’s fashion world. The designers, who exhibited at the fair, talk about their love for everything Indian, the overwhelming response they got in India and the cultural shift taking place back home.
She’s called the couture queen of Pakistan. Psychedelic colours, liberal usage of gota, semi-precious stones, sequins, Swarovski crystals and antique zardozi mark her style. Imaginary characters, such as Maharani Kohinoor and Chand Begum, set her creative juices flowing. “I imagine exquisitely beautiful women, with a fairy-like quality, and design what would look nice on them,” says Waqar. She says there is a definite shift happening in the Pakistani society. “We may seem conservative, but it makes me happy when I see young Pakistani men being okay with their wives and girlfriends wearing strapless suits. But, we have retained the essence of our culture,” she adds.
Shireen Arshad Khan
This jewellery designer-turned-politician has been breaking stereotypes since a young age. Shireen, who is a Member of National Assembly (MNA), Pakistan, was married at the age of 18, and despite resistance from her husband, she took to jewellery designing. The Lahore-based designer is known for her subtle, contemporary designs. Shireen has also ventured into fashion designing, and has opened a boutique in partnership in Amritsar recently. “It’s only creativity that can wipe out hatred. India and Pakistan must work out ways to come closer using the language of art,” says the designer, who wants to request the Indian government to open a Pakistan stall at Dillli Haat.
Her collection is known for its lively colour combinations, intricate threadwork, vibrant block prints and exquisite embroideries. Her focus, she says, is depicting the rich heritage of the Indian sub-continent to the world. The designer had visited India in 1995, and is surprised at how different Indian cities look now. “The progress that India has made is laudable, but the malls give the feel of a foreign country. Being modern is fine, but Indian women must keep their beautiful culture alive,” she says. Faiza is delighted with the response her garments got in India. “People are loving our stuff. They see a lot of freshness in our designs, which are soft and unfussy,” she says.
Simple and elegant, her creations are meant for the “woman who knows what she wants from life”. The Karachi-based designer, who visited India for the first time, says it was an overwhelming experience. “There is so much fascination about everything related to Pakistan in India. Once we were stopped by a group of young women who asked us if we’ve got any Pakistani kajal with us,” she shares. Whatever free time she got, Noureen spent shopping for saris. “Women in Pakistan may not be wearing saris very often, but they just love the garment,” she says. What disappointed the designer was not seeing too many young women on Delhi streets wearing Indian attires.
This Lahore-based designer wanted to be an artist but became a designer by fate. Sahar says India manages to spell-bound her every time she visits the country. “What I love the most about India is its cultural diversity and acceptance to all,” she says. Her designs are contemporary, and strong in silhouette and cuts. For Sahar, there is nothing more fun than seeing an Indian women in a sari or a suit, gallivanting around on a scooter. “That to me is women’s liberation. Something so small, yet a bit unbelievable for Pakistan at the moment, but things are changing. Pakistani woman are becoming stronger everyday,” she says. She adds that Indian culture inspires her work.