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26 Aug

Dressing the future

(Dawn Images, Aug 15, 2010)

An eclectic mix of designers is spinning into orbit as fashion’s new identity. Here’s to fashion’s next generation…

Welcome to the world of contemporary Pakistani fashion. It’s a world where high street clothing has one up on couture, where attitude gets you places that you imagined only your surname could and where conforming is the biggest sin. It’s a world where energy is fuel that spins a world vision from seeds of tradition, a fuel that aims to smash stereotypes. This is the world that defines Pakistani fashion as we will see it tomorrow and these are the people who drive it.

Adnan Pardesy is launching his pret label A.Parallel soon.

“I want to see Pakistani women take risks,” enthuses Adnan Pardesy, 30, who has designed everything from honeycomb dresses built out of paper to jackets constructed and quilted to look like the Guggenheim. Pardesy’s one desire as a designer is to encourage women “to stop looking like each other” and his biggest cahallenge has been to translate his vision for the extraordinary into everyday clothing.

His efforts so far have been guarded but with his uncompromising commitment to pattern and structure he has managed to build steady brand value for himself. And while he takes pride in his couture, Pardesy will be playing an integral part in today’s ready to wear evolution with his upcoming label, ‘A.Parallel’. Traveling to India before retailing in Pakistan, every single piece in this collection is designed to appeal to an individual, a confident woman who wants to stand out rather than blend in.

“I’m not interested in the west,” he says, adding that the unexplored market is big enough in Pakistan. This AIFD graduate, who hails from a textile family but took two years to strengthen his product before laying foot in the business, simply wants to use the rules laid out by the west to enhance the sartorial value of Pakistani fashion.

“Give me five years,” he says with newly found confidence, “And I’ll have a legacy to leave behind!”

Inheriting the Teejays legacy and breathing a fresh and confident identity into it is Feeha Jamshed, 26, who designed her first collection for her father’s brand 13 years ago! And if there’s one person who symbolizes the future of Pakistani fashion today, it’s her.

“I’m not an elitist designer,” she humbly slips into the conversation. “I’m just trying to give back to my country because I’m in love with it. I know my designs are very international and yet just as Pakistani. The idea is to make Pakistan international.”

Feeha paints the perfect picture with her persona. A traditional beauty, she has single handedly managed to retain modesty in fashion while upping the ante for style. It’s every Pakistani woman she wants to relate to and that woman is whom she designs her affordable range of cotton casuals for. Feeha refused an H&M deal two years ago (she would agree only to designing a ‘Teejays for H&M’ line) and is still contemplating a Saks 5th Avenue offer as we speak; her designs are that strong. So what if she dropped out of the PSFD one year into the program?

“I don’t believe in the education taught in our institutions,” she fearlessly states. “It’s horse-blinded and hey, if Bill Gates can drop out and make it big, so can I!”

Fahad Hussayn is all out to spread his wings with five different labels

Someone grateful for his degree, however, is Fahad Hussayn, 25 who has been designing for the last three years after graduating from the BNU. Fahad’s designs are unique as they reflect a dark, macabre take on fashion instead of the overtly ceremonious that we are used to. Entrenched in the literature of art history, his collections retain a fairy tale quality, a fetish for fantasy.

“I am a passion-driven person,” he says. And always dressed in a black shalwar kameez, the darkness of his persona comes with a passion for the Gothic, the kabbalan and the opulence of the Victorian era. Having the freedom to liberate the mind has always been important, which is why he moved out of his hometown Faisalabad, away from the influence of his political roots.

Rebellion proved constructive for him as today Hussayn’s label retails from four major stores nationwide and has managed to branch off into five distinctive lines.

“The market is the biggest obstruction to success,” Hussayn feels, contrary to Pardesy. “Not only is it saturated but the recession has made mediocrity desirable.”

Someone focused in upholding perfection in her craft is accessory designer Mahin Hussain, 31 who is as streamlined in her vision for fashion as Fahad Hussayn is elaborate. This London School of Fashion trained designer chose to take the path less traveled, designing handbags rather than the more lucrative choice of clothes. But the impact she’s made with her eponymous kaleidoscopic leather bags has been stronger than many a best selling designer.

“I always felt I was a bigger asset here where I would actually be a part of something dynamic and fluid,” she speaks of the growing fashion scene. “After three years in Pakistan, launching two to three collections a year, I finally feel I have reached the place I set out for. I am finally able to design collections that influence thoughts, that promote action and that allow me to express creativity without worrying about potential sales.”

Her latest ‘Independence’ collection narrates the role she has defined for herself as it aims to “reignite patriotic fever, spirit and enthusiasm in the younger generation.” But whether green and white or every colour of bright, Mahin’s bags are a must buy for any one of fashion’s seasons.

Just as evergreen on fashion’s radar is Rizwanullah, 24. Not often do you see a character so perfectly sketched for the coveted front rows of fashion shows but he’s always there, sporting an edgy hairdo and perpetually striking a pose for an unknown, wandering camera.

Rizwanullah has an eye on the past and a foot in the future.

Loving every bit of the limelight, Rizwanullah dropped out of fashion school and worked with best friend Feeha at Teejays before branching off to develop his own brand two years ago. And what a brand it has risen to be. Barely two collections old and stocking singularly at the Design Emporium in Lahore, he designs to make a statement. That statement could be anything from a skyline of a mosque set to an outline of a nude or details of hand-sketched henna on crisp muslin clothes. Impractical, perhaps, these fashion week collections were what drove the foreign media shutterbug mad.

This fashion creature is what fashion needs more of. He’s young blood, busy living the moment, whether it’s eating tissue paper to maintain a small size or washing his mane with beer to maintain it’s posture. Image is everything to him.

“My clothes are all about my personality,” he states. “I live for the reaction.”

A reaction is what he always gets and he hopes to change the future of fashion with it. His is that essential vision that keeps an eye on the past while wooing the future. And the future is where this industry is most definitely headed.

The other side of young

Pakistan is enjoying an unprecedented creative boom where fashion is concerned. There are designers like Kuki, Aly Xeeshan, Sanam Agha and Rana Noman who are working in their personal creative realms, establishing their own niche each. They have what it takes and just need to find a way of crossing the line over into success. What all young designers need is longevity; they need to inject their brands with something that will erase the dreadfully thin line between there being a future for them. Or not. That something could be funding, mentoring or national stability but it needs to come for a concrete existence. Stability within the fashion industry could do wonders too. What we need to do is to galvanize a future for them. – AHI

The Haute Team