Note to self: You’re going to Lahore for the Literary Festival, not fashion week
Note to self: You’re going to Lahore for the Literary Festival, not fashion week. It’s okay to pack light. In fact, try to pack light; go for the deep, brooding intelligent look. Literature, books, authors … that’s a lot of grey matter. Perhaps try to incorporate some grey in your wardrobe. Oh but wait, that would be too literal. Plus, LLF is doing Fifty Shades of Feminism, not Fifty Shades of Grey. Sigh. Despite having a Post Graduate degree in English Literature and being on the Dean’s List, I had lost my love for Alexander Pope to Alexander McQueen. And I had two hours till I got to Lahore to allow my love for words to overtake the parallel life I been living in the seams of fashion.
Lahore, how do I love thee!
As grey clouds rumbled into dark, wet and wild action on Friday morning, most of Lahore’s social butterflies went into panic mode. ‘My blow dry!’, ‘My Louboutins!’, ‘My Birkin!’… the weather had thrown a wet blanket on all and any fashionable aspirations. But as the skies cleared up and the sun let her bright blond hair down on a glossy Lahore, the glamour shifted from wardrobes to the Literature Festival. “Glamour?” you might ask. Well, yes. It was a sexy affair, with all and sundry turning out. It was, after all, the place to be seen last weekend.
“Are you in Lahore for the Telenor Fashion Weekend?” a lady (who shall not be named) asked and then seeing my shake of head quickly added, “you’ll probably see more style here anyway!” Meow. Fashion week or literary gathering, there’s always a catty comment around the corner. But she wasn’t altogether wrong.
As intellectually stimulating, literary sessions panned out in five different halls at LLF, the outdoors was dedicated to its lighter and dare I say, elitist, side. Bright yellow benches clad in silk paid homage to the festival of Basant, the unfortunate landmark of the month of February, which has succumbed to injuries caused by misdirected government policies. Colourful balloons framed the red brick walls of the historic Alhamra and dozens of young and sprightly ushers – clad in distinct white tees – wore portraits of Mehdi Hassan, Manto and Qurat ul Ain Haider proudly on their shirts.
I bumped into Zara Peerzada right at the entrance; she is an ‘intelligent model’ amongst the city’s more common, tutti fruity types. Zara’s very hip crop top, flaunting an oversized scroll of Iqbal and Ghalib’s poetry, was designed by Eman Suleman for the label Punjab. This is the kind of label one would like to see more of. A casually clad Kamiar Rokni and Sara Shahid were spotted in some serious sessions and one bumped into a very regally dressed up Rehan Bashir, who seemed to have strolled out of Emperor Akbar’s courtly session of the Nau-Ratan.
A runway of writers, novelists, artists and architects was seen preening the gardens of the Alhamra Complex of buildings. I don’t feel one bit guilty observing their sense of style because fashion may not be their brand but style definitely is. Creativity, no matter what genre it adapts to, will always stand out. And so Bilal Tanvir’s crisp white kurta, Mina Hasan and Nazia Ejaz’s heirlooms from Noor Jahan’s wardrobe, Najam Sethi’s red muffler (with matching red socks) and Hina Rabbani Khar’s two-tone Chanel shoes did stand out.
Diversity did the rounds in a multitude of hats and headgear; there were boots on display as were the proverbial scratchy styles that many upcoming writers like to adapt in order to convey a sense of seriousness. As if well-dressed people can’t be serious; case in point: Shobhaa De. She personifies gorgeousness. Beyond the troupe of true artistes, the proverbial la-dee-dahs and tik tik types did some solemn session hopping in attempt to look interested. It all added to the essence of the Lahore Literary Festival, which at the end of the day was primarily defined by imaginative and mentally stimulating discussions. It was only between these sessions would you find people bonding over a scoop of gelato.
Conclusively, a note on Allama Iqbal. While the stunted statuette in the centre-court did the iconic poet no favours, it did serve as the Lahore Literature Festival’s official ‘selfie point’. As Shekhar Gupta pointed out in a session arguing the possible peace process between India and Pakistan: “this is a selfish, no, ‘selfie’ generation we’re dealing with.” Yes, we noticed.