The international gamut of fashion weeks is underway, with New York Fashion Week commencing on Thursday and London Fashion Week underway. Here in Pakistan weâ€™re all looking forward to the PFDC Lâ€™Oreal Bridal Week, taking place in Lahore between September 28 and 30, later this month. It is a little late for an event that aims to project season trends in wedding wear but pardon the clichÃ©, better late than never.
Organized by the Pakistan Fashion Design Council with Lâ€™Oreal Pakistan as title sponsor, the PFDC Lâ€™Oreal Bridal Week is one of many fashion weeks held in the country to project trends in bridal couture but it is undoubtedly the most credible and coveted. This is why itâ€™s difficult to qualify for a slot on the three-day schedule. Participation comes at a cost (the fee is PKR 300,000 at average) but not everyone who can pay can show. Designers are scrutinized by a committee headed by PFDC Chairperson Sehyr Saigol, whoâ€™s infamously fussy when it comes to quality checks. You canâ€™t show unless sheâ€™s impressed by what youâ€™ve got to show. That said the odd unsavory designer does wedge in every now and then to show a collection that is as ugly as sin.
This yearâ€™s line-up includes names like The House of Kamiar Rokni, Sania Maskatiya, Zara Shahjahan, Nomi Ansari and Mahgul amongst other regulars. Shamsha Hashwani will be making a debut and in an overturn of tradition, HSY will be opening the event on Day One (he usually closes) while Ali Xeeshan will be marking the grand finale on Day Three.
Showing at an event as credible as PLBW isnâ€™t merely a matter of pulling clothes out of the store and onto the runway. It requires several months of planning, designing and executing the designersâ€™ vision of what will work that season. An average wedding wear collection, manufactured especially for fashion week, will cost anything between 50 to 150 lakhs, depending on the label and the kind of workmanship itâ€™s known for. Clothes shown at fashion weeks are stocked at ateliers as sample pieces and are taken orders upon. It goes without saying that not every designer â€“ no matter how talented â€“ can afford to show each year. The numbers just do not add up.
The bigger and braver brands, however, are branching out into solo shows this year; weâ€™re seeing the industry evolve with this new trend that has undoubtedly been set into motion by Faraz Manan and his lavish bridal couture shows. Manan, who is catering to the Arab market from his atelier in Dubai, says he only wants to show internationally now. The fall-out he had with the PFDC a couple of years ago, after which he never showed on the platform, actually turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to him. He has set the winds of change into motion for everyone else.
Khadijah Shah, who heads one of Pakistanâ€™s biggest couture brands Elan, confirms that she too has traded her PLBW slot this year for a solo show in October. To have creative control of a couture show makes complete sense for a name as big as Elan and the additional cost that may go into organizing and executing a solo show befitting the labelâ€™s stature is pocket change.
Itâ€™s delightful to see the fashion industry in process of evolution. From showing every other year to showing regularly at fashion week and now flying solo, different phases will mark different levels of success for brands. It wonâ€™t be long before the mighty successful ones will be showing internationally.
Meanwhile Zara Shahjahan, seven months pregnant and balancing the success and demands of her ready to wear label with fashion week, puts things in perspective for the larger part of the growing industry.
â€œItâ€™s not just about showing at fashion week but about showing every season,â€ she says. â€œI feel itâ€™s just important for a designer to show a collection. Ideally we would like to show solo and compete with the magnitude and creativity of couture shows done abroad â€“ weâ€™ll have to eventually if we want to compete with the likes of Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Manish Malhotra – but right now that would be too expensive. Until we can, PLBW is the best we have.â€
This article was first featured in Instep on 17th September, 2016.