Shamaeel Ansari, Chairperson Fashion Pakistan council, breaks the silence on the upcoming FPW3
Speculation is rife regarding Fashion Pakistan’s comeback after spending two years in the shadow of Lahore’s Pakistan Fashion Design Council. But the FP board is confident that now that logistics are under control they will take off exactly from where they left. They will be able to make up for lost time. Fashion Pakistan Week 3, scheduled to begin on April 6 in Karachi (though there there may be a change of date), will dispel many false rumours doing the rounds, FP’s new Chairperson Shamaeel feels.
Can you give us a brief recap of what took Fashion Pakistan (FP) two years to make a comeback?
FP had some stalling time due to the fact that our paperwork was not aligned. It is a Section 42 company that needed certain papers and systems to run. I’m afraid the last board had not given it due time and consideration. I felt that whatever was in arrears really needed to be put in order first. I wanted to put time to it and get it all sorted. Our operations would have been meaningless without this and we couldn’t have had operated without putting it in order. That’s why we lost a lot of time.
Why did this happen in the first place?
I am not saying that these things just happened. They happened because a board that was not used to corporate systems found itself in problem. It’s not that they did it deliberately but it’s because they didn’t know how to do it.
What expectations do you think people have from FPW3 now that you are announcing April 6 to 9 as scheduled dates?
I think people are waiting although we have been criticized for not having consistency (and I’ve explained the reasons for that). People have been saying that FP is defunct and this and that but at the same time people are anticipating FPW to happen and they keep asking about it. They expect content to come in it. They expect a difference.
What difference are they expecting?
The difference is the content. People have seen the first two FP shows and they have seen the PFDC shows. Everyone says FP had content. We have the senior designers and remember that this is the council that launched the new, big names. This is the council that launched Feeha Jamshed, Rizwanullah and Adnan Pardesy in FPW1 and FPW2. Sania Maskatiya made a debut in FPW 2. FP stands for a symbol of quality. It stands for launching young talent and it also has the old guard.
Do you think it’s going to be easy to retain this symbol (of quality) as PFDC has managed to establish content and standard in two years?
How much content do you see? I’ve spoken to many people who all think that PFDC still does not have too much content. Many of our young designers would not have gone there had FPW continued. But we launched them and launching a young person is not easy. We had to sit down with them and give them that level of confidence.
And what was our entry fee? 50,00 rupees. All youngsters can afford that money. What is even 3 lacs that people are paying as entry fee for bridal couture? People can afford participation but they need to be identified and convinced about their talent. FP even identified Shakeel Saigol. He had something different. It is the job of a council to rekey talent and FP did rekey all these names. Where are the new people now? There is Akif and there is Mohsin but where are the rest?
FP has also been accused of nepotism where senior members have advantages that younger ones don’t, like participation in Milan Fashion Week, for example.
I was not on the board at that time and I didn’t go to Milan. But yes, it could have happened and if the youngsters feel that there was preferential treatment to senior members then they have a right to complain. This issue was brought up by members and it was addressed by the board.
But also try to understand that senior members tap personal contacts to take a council somewhere. Fashion Pakistan Week council goes to Singapore on a huge exhibition twice a year. I showed at FP1 and was not contacted for Milan. But I was asked to come for the Audi Fashion Festival. They sent me a letter with scanned images of my miniature collection and they asked me to be part of the Asian flavor. So I got an individual invitation and was not asked by Deepak or Maheen or Rizwan or anybody else. Maybe there was a clique in the council but I was not part of it.
How are you going to counter that clique now?
I think that clique has been countered. Nomi Ansari didn’t even show at FP2 but was contacted independently by the Audi Fashion Festival in Singapore.
If it’s a coincidence that your best designers – who are profiled and noticed internationally – are members of FP then that’s just a fact we can’t do anything about. Your mature design body – that has been supplying abroad for years – will inevitably have more visibility. These names have gotten around and have been around for years and years. Fashion events, weeks and festivals are not planned overnight, they are organized a year in advance and only designers who are consistently around will get noticed.
There is no cliquishness now. FP youngsters like Sanam Chaudhri and Wardha Saleem and other new names have been going and/or participating in this Singapore exhibition.
What is the strength of your upcoming fashion week?
We’re working on the line up and have names like Maheen, Nomi Ansari, Deepak, Sana Safinaz, Bunto Kazmi (who is opening the show), Wardha Saleem, Shehla Chatoor, myself and a lot of new, young designers who we are reviewing. We’ve got two days of lineup and are working on a third day now. We will be giving a list out at the press conference. We are also contemplating giving one day to trade developers like mass retailers chains. Their product has to be high street and fashion oriented so we’re going through that right now.
Every fashion week in the world has a unique characteristic. What would you say is FPW’s flavour?
The umbrella for us is Pakistani fashion. Our aim will be to represent and show fashion in Pakistan for the local and regional market. We took Zahir Rahimtoola and Zeba Husain as advisors and looked into what sells most here. We’re asking youngsters to create what pushes the business of fashion in Pakistan. What is high street fashion in Pakistan? We don’t want to do dresses and skirts. We want to build glamour and pizzaz around Pakistani fashion. If a designer is making and selling prêt then let him show prêt. If Bunto is making and selling beautiful couture then that is what she’ll show.
Will you be inviting regional buyers as well?
Yes. Buyers from India and buyers are confirmed and some foreign journalists have confirmed too. But the local buyers are most important to us. We are working out the logistics. TDAP will hopefully be helping us.
Do you plan to continue on a six-month basis?
We hope to do that. And we’ll do a two-day couture show once we work around budget restrictions.
Rumour has it that a functional council merger was offered to FP by PFDC but you were not interested?
I think the boot is on the other leg. I have personally spoken to PFDC and Maheen has personally spoken to PFDC and we know that in the end the vision should be of one council. But now that two independent units have evolved it will not be easy to merge them. Merging two Section 42 companies is not easy, legally. The best thing is to start functioning together and we have asked PFDC but have not gotten a reply. We are vehemently pro it.
Rizwan Beyg and Ayesha Tammy Haq were monumental in bringing Fashion Week together. What caused the fall-out?
Rizwan is important to us as a designer not a choreographer. He hasn’t stalled us in any way and is very cooperative but if he refuses to show then that’s a question he has to answer, not me. Everybody has a choice and we will not force anyone. That’s his decision entirely.
Stylists have complained that they are being charged to style FPW3 shows. How can a council justify that?
I have not received any cheques. We have not chosen any stylists yet so this is just a rumour. A lot of senior people have offered to do it gratis. But how can I answer a question like that when no choice has been made?