The Pakistani fashion designer Indians are talking about
Winning hearts on both sides of the border, Pakistani couturier Faraz Manan believes that the subcontinent is his strengthUpdated: May 03, 2020, 00:34 IST
Remember Kareena Kapoor Khan setting the ramp ablaze in a stunning off-shoulder pink ensemble at a popular awards do in Dubai? Or those photos of her in lawn suits that broke the Internet? Pakistani designer Faraz Manan has established himself as one of the favourites of timeless Bollywood beauties like Kareena Kapoor Khan, Madhuri Dixit Nene, Karisma Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Even Jacqueline Fernandez and Shraddha Kapoor have turned heads in his glamorous creations.
He has also become popular with Indian brides and guests at Indian weddings, the Al-Thani royal family of Qatar, and the families of Saudi Sheikhs. In his home country, Mahira Khan, amongst many others, carries his outfits with adaa, or elegance. But Kareena is Faraz Manan’s favourite, and India, he says, is his inspiration.
As a couturier from across the border, Faraz is excited by the sheer variety and volume of fabrics that are available in India. “They provide so much inspiration; the amount of crafts and fabrics in the country is a designer’s delight,” he gushes. “There are beautiful cuts and traditions, and if there is one word to sum up Indian fabrics, it’s ‘colour’! No one does colour better than Indian designers.”
His favourites are Lucknowi chikankari, Benarasi fabrics, Rajasthani gota work and even bandhani. Since his style leans towards modern fusion, he mostly uses zardozi, but Faraz wishes he could use all of India’s fabric crafts. “I also love jamavar and kimkhaab (brocade). There is nothing more timeless than kimkhaab,” he says wistfully. “It is handwoven, has sheen and yet is controlled. For casual wear, I love mulmul (pure cotton).”
- Light skin: Stick to mid- range hues like blush pink and powder blue. Avoid white, bright yellow, orange, and nudes.
- Medium skin: Ivory and tea pink work wonders.
- Dusky skin: Rose gold, blush pink and red are beautiful.
- Dark skin: All pastels look perfect, except grey.
Faraz visits India every year, and the food interests him just as much as the fabrics. “I am a big foodie and absolutely love the street food in Mumbai,” he laughs. “I love the chaat in Mumbai, and nihari and kebabs in Delhi.” His best Delhi food memories are of kulchas and nihari from Dilli Nihari and from a place near Jama Masjid. “I also love Haldiram’s chhole bhature!” he chuckles.
Though India’s two big cities are always on his travel list, Faraz confesses to being mesmerised by Rajasthan. “There is so much inspiration there, from the architecture, to the food, to the craftsmanship or jewels,” he says.
A timeless muse
Mostly though, what Faraz loves about India is Kareena Kapoor Khan, the woman he calls his muse. “Kareena and Karisma are like family,” he says. “I was friends with Karisma, who was my brand ambassador, and then it was a natural transition to Kareena. It’s never been a business relationship between us. We like each other’s crafts, but because we are friends, it’s been a natural process, rather than a typical commercial Bollywood brand association.”
It isn’t just brand shoots and fashion shows. Faraz and Kareena have several common interests. “We connect on family values, history and food,” he says. “That’s perhaps why she is my muse. But more than anything else, I think she truly represents the subcontinent. She is a modern working mother, and she and Saif (Ali Khan) are the kind of couple the entire region can look up to for the kind of philosophy they carry.”
As a designer, Faraz views the subcontinent as one whole, rather than as composed of several countries. “For instance, fashion in the north of India and Pakistan is similar,” he points out. “Our fashion is owned jointly by our history. The culture, traditions and craftsmanship belongs to the whole subcontinent.”
There are some differences, he adds, such as the use of colour – “generally, the style of Pakistani women is controlled and elegant, whereas Indian women are experimental and open to colour. Aesthetically the Indian side is more bold, bright and cheerful” – but by and large, the overall aesthetic is the same.
“Designers and buyers from the subcontinent should see our work as from the same area,” he says. “For instance, we don’t perceive fashion houses in Europe as French or Italian, we perceive them as European. In the same way, we should all perceive ourselves as subcontinental. I am great friends with Indian senior designers. They love my work, I love theirs, and we share a clientele whether it’s from India or Pakistan. So I’m in a happy spot.”
Given the political relations between India and Pakistan, his designs cannot be sold here at this time. “But I am still happy to be where I am as of now,” he says. “I am contributing to the growth of fashion from the subcontinent.”
Faraz’s interest in designing comes from the way his parents groomed themselves – both his mother, an artist, and his father, an economist, have always paid attention to what they wear. This inspired his design aesthetic – contemporary takes on classic designs. “I love fusion and working around anything that is classic,” he says. “This is my signature style. It could be a classic fusion of the east and West, old and new. A classic outfit can always be repeated. I have done red on red for the last three or four years, and emerald green with emerald green.” Balance is an important part of his aesthetic. “When I do colour, I like to let the colour speak for itself, rather than add on more gaudy bling. On pastels, I like to do gold and silver work,” explains Faraz.
His collections always tell a story that blends together two different cultures, time zones or eras. His line Alhambra, for instance, is inspired by the palace in Spain, is a fusion of the east and the West.
- Know your favourite colour and communicate your choices to a designer correctly.
- Less is more. Instead of 10, there should be two or three functions at best. Wear only one outfit per event and have fun in it.
- Avoid lots of jewellery on a heavy outfit. Too much ornamentation takes away from the bride’s personality. With a heavy outfit, just a pair of earrings can look really nice. Or, with a heavy choker, wear little solitaires or small earrings.
- Use soft make-up only. It enhances natural beauty.
Fusion really works, he says. “Europeans are now wearing my bridals done in ivory and with resham work or other subcontinental embroidery techniques,” says Faraz. “They love this fusion. The subcontinent’s embroideries are the best in the world. It is our strength, and I am playing on that.”
Faraz’s creations are high on peaches, ivories, powder blues, shades of dusty rose and onion pinks on flowy garments with fine details and ruffled sleeves or fringes.
“When I do bling or heavier work, I do it on pastels because I believe it complements the skin,” explains Faraz. “The weather of the subcontinent and Dubai is hot most of the year, making pastels easier on the eye. You can highlight them with jewellery or tone them down. There is scope for a lot of play and wearability, whereas strong colours can’t be worn often.”
He anticipates no change in his signature style for the future, and in fact, hopes to strengthen his case for classic fusion “Now let’s see how things go forward,” says Faraz.
From HT Brunch, May 3, 2020
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