(column published in Instep Today last week)
London. When you say the word you realize what melting pot really means because that’s what London is. It’s a melting pot of cultures, history, fashion, development and everything that makes a city, well…everything that makes a city like London happen.
I’m writing my column after a long break and I’m writing from London, where I am on assignment for three days. An official franchise of Debenhams is opening up in Karachi this July, and I have been invited to preview the Autumn/Winter 2012 collection that will be making its way to Pakistan too. These are exciting times for Pakistani fashion, local designers are catering to their clientele in London with events like Pakistan Fashion Week UK and foreign brands are coming into the local market with some strong and healthy competition. Designers at Debenhams (that include the reputable Julian MacDonald, John Rocha, Jasper Conran etc) will be available in Pakistan and I do think they will push local brands into further and quicker evolution.
More on that later.
For now I am soaking in the essence of London, trying to relive as many childhood memories of the place as possible. I landed in London yesterday night and the drive from Heathrow to Oxford Street revealed nothing that I was eager to see. But a long walk down Oxford Street whetted the appetite. London is, and hopefully always will be, what it stands for: an appreciation for heritage, an eagerness to preserve history whilst effectively pushing into the future. It’s about absorbing as much of the world at the same time as retaining its own identity. And London is very much about fashion, culture, literature, the arts and the theatre.
It’s a quick fix of all that that took me to Palace Theatre to watch Singin’ in the Rain at 7:00 pm.
And then there was rain. Really. On the stage.
Singin’ in the Rain was an evening so well spent; two hours and forty minutes that began with a beaming smile as soon as a heavy voice introduced, “It’s 1927 and cell-phones have not yet been invented. So fer heaven’s sakes turn yers off!” The song and dance was impeccable, as one expected it to be on one of the best stages in London – Palace Theatre was built in 1891, originally as the Royal English Opera House – and it continued effortlessly, as if dancers were floating on air and were truly made for stage. It was a joy to witness this musical extravaganza that actually brought a downpour on a wooden stage. Front row tickets came with a warning of getting wet and happy exclaims revealed what a splash that must be making. I was up in the gallery and noticed that many kids around me were complaining that they weren’t getting wet!
It’s unfair to draw comparison but one couldn’t help compare Singin’ with all of Nida Butt’s musical productions in Karachi. Though there is no fair yard stick for measure I still felt so proud of Nida for pulling off what she does without the trained actors, professional dancers, orchestra, technical aides, acoustics and so much more that London’s threatres have been entrenched with for centuries. It may not compare but it does reflect on the incredible potential Pakistan would have had it not been marred by, well, everything that it has been marred by.
The evening ended with a walk up to Picaddily Square, that delightful space that was buzzing with life right beyond midnight. It was a space cheerfully celebrating the Queen’s upcoming Golden Jubilee, a space that seamlessly blended hundreds of men and women from all over the world as one people. It was a space that celebrated life and the more time I spent there, the more remorse I felt for that very right that was being taking away my people back home.
A right to live, a right to be happy and find solutions, to have choices and to allow others’ the space and right to live with theirs. Art, literature, history and yes, even fashion may seem very low on priority when your people are struggling for life but I do think the essence of what art and culture offers has got to be an integral part of life too.