The Bank Alfalah Rising Talent Showcase has become a regular at fashion weeks across Pakistan, whether the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week, PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week or the Fashion Pakistan Week, held in Karachi. It’s a consistent investment of time and resources, made by Bank Alfalah to encourage and promote new talent in the field of fashion. The selection process isn’t so transparent and one always wonders how the finalists are shortlisted – as many times in the past they haven’t come up to standard – but needless to say it’s a worthy cause that should be supported and fine tuned. Other than sponsoring the showcase, Bank Alfalah also awards the winner with half a million rupees.
This year’s winner, Maryam Amjad, showcased a capsule titled Medusa, which captured the serenity of underwater life, especially focusing on the life cycle of jellyfish; it was undoubtedly the most talented of the three. Her win was expected and well deserved. A graduate of the Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design, Maryam had an interesting story to tell.
Born and raised in Muzafarabad, Azad Kashmir, Maryam’s family moved to Abbotabad after the devastating October 8 earthquake in 2005. She studied at Burns Hall in Abbotabad, while realizing the love she had for art and fashion. After exploring many options she enrolled at the PIFD and moved to Lahore in 2011. “I was apprehensive whether I could do it or not,” she remembers, as this was the first time she was away from home.
Maryam graduated with a major in Fashion Design in 2015 and since then has been working with Zara Shahjahan, first on luxury prêt and eventually on bridals.
“Working with Zara Shahjahan has been amazing,” she expressed. “I’m learning so much. I did my show on Day 1 and I helped with Zara’s show on Day 3. It was an amazing experience. I don’t think I would have learnt so much from anyone else.”
What was the selection process for the Bank Al-Falah Rising Talent Show, I asked her.
“I got an email from Bank Alfalah,” she replied. The PIFD had facilitated her nomination. “They had initially selected 15-20 young designers, which were eventually shortlisted to the three of us.”
Maryam’s collection was interesting and it displayed her strength in technique but it was a bit out of place on a bridal platform.
“Yes, this was the biggest confusion because people wondered why we had shown non-wedding clothing at a bridal week,” she responded. “We were selected by the Pakistan Fashion Design Council as rising talent and we were expected to show our thesis collection so that’s what I showed. This capsule was made from scratch by us. Every single stitch was completely handcrafted. Amina and I showed our thesis work whereas Sara Naqvi (who was not a student and was already running her small fashion business) made her collection specifically for fashion week.”
This is what Bank Alfalah needs to focus on and fine tune: the selection process. The kind of exposure and experience that comes with showing alongside established designers cannot be undermined and candidates selected must be totally worth it. One can’t say that they always are. Not much information is given regarding the young designers either; barring a press release with a collection outline, one didn’t know anything about the Rising Talent and that information is essential in order to give fair and well-informed critique.
Luckily, this time the deserving designer did win the prize and a quick conversation did help put things into perspective. Now what did Maryam plan to do with her prize money?
“I want to go for my Masters and refine myself,” she smiled. “I want to learn about the business and marketing side of fashion. The prize money will be invested in my own brand,” she said, adding that she would eventually want to start her own bridal label. “The experience has been amazing and I’m trying to make wise decisions,” she concluded.
This article was first published in Instep, 8th October 2016.