London has always been a melting pot of South Asian culture and, over the years, has played host to Pakistani fashion as it has picked up on global glory. There are brands like Khaadi, Maheen Khan, Sana Safinaz and Shamaeel that have a huge market in London as well as the rest of the UK and the UK is a great platform to catapult the contemporary face of Pakistani fashion from. One remembers the fantastic 60 years of Pakistan celebrations at Trafalgar Square a decade ago; in 2017 things have been building up to celebrate the country’s 70th birthday in August.
Pakistan Fashion Week-London was held this year in collaboration with the High Commission of Pakistan to celebrate the country’s 70th anniversary. It brought together some of the biggest names of the fashion industry such as Shamaeel and Maheen Khan and gave them an international audience. Recapping the show and its purpose, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to London, Syed Abbas and Nabila, who styled the event, spoke to BBC Global’s Matthew Amroliwala on the country’s booming fashion industry and what it means for the growth of fashion in Pakistan.
As the interview began, the anchor immediately jumped to the topic of India, asking why generally speaking, people are able to find little difference between Pakistani and Indian art, music as well as fashion. “What is the difference between Indian and Pakistani fashion?” he asked Nabila, in order to create a distinction between the two. “Our fashion is very similar but if you look closely, you’ll find that our design sensibilities and the colours we choose are a little subtle compared to theirs,” she replied.
“Why do you think the Pakistani fashion industry is less known about?” he further probed. Thankfully, Nabila spoke our hearts and minds when answering the question. “I think that will change soon because we’re working very aggressively to show people what we’re made of. The image is very global, it’s very relevant and it’s very progressive and that’s the side of Pakistan not many people see because it does not sell so well.”
Speaking about Pakistan’s vision to increase textile export to the UK, High Commissioner Abbas said, “This was a good opportunity to showcase Pakistani talent so that more people are aware of the growth of this industry. Growth is inevitable because we’re exporting 60% of our textiles to the rest of the world. However, we’re only exporting 10% of it to the UK. We have a large diaspora here so we would like to see the numbers increase.”
The program was quite detailed, and even featured a model wearing a classic Maheen Khan outfit. However, we feel it would have made sense to have a designer like Shamaeel or Maheen Khan for instance, and Pakistan Fashion Week – London organizer Adnan Ansari on the program too.
We caught Nabila on the phone very early this morning, knowing she’d be awake at 6am (which she was). On her way to Milan, LA and then Dubai before she’ll head back to Karachi, she was optimistic about the way PFW – London had grown over the years. That said, she felt there was always room for improvement.
“The game changes when you go global,” she spoke to us. “There are a lot of eyeballs on Pakistan right now and it’s in our hands to brand and market it right. PFW has done a sincere job in putting Pakistani fashion on the map in London, but more big names and sponsors need to come on board to take it to the next level.”
- Watch this space for more details on Pakistan Fashion Week – London.