(Published Sunday, 03 Jan, 2010)
‘It’s simply because there are two fashion councils led by ego, as opposed to logic.’
Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world that has two fashion councils. Many countries have several fashion weeks, but only one fashion council. The United States of America has the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the United Kingdom has the British Fashion Council and nearer to home, India has the Fashion Design Council of India. Fashion Councils are usually non-profit organisations, working towards the growth of the industry and fashion weeks are part of the resulting growth curve.
Pakistan’s two fashion councils can be seen as two influential cartels: the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC or Lahore Council) under their Chairperson Sehyr Saigol and Fashion Pakistan (FP or Karachi Council) under the leadership of Maheen Khan. Both councils have several important designers on their board and they both have been making tall claims of taking the fashion industry to new heights. Unfortunately this flight has been more fantasy than reality.
That said, the PFDC has held several prominent fashion shows since its inception and has also managed to open the hugely-successful PFDC Boulevard in Lahore and Karachi. If rumours are to believed, a third branch of The Boulevard is to open in India soon. The PFDC will be hosting the fashion week in Lahore next month.
“Our council, the PFDC is working strongly on the element of retail,” said PFDC-spokesperson Hassan Sheheryar Yasin (HSY). “But we congratulate FP on holding Fashion Pakistan Week and we invite them to be part of our platform. We have sent them an official letter and are still waiting for them to get back to us. In fact, we will not decide the title of our fashion week until they do because we want it to be ‘PFDC and FP presents Pakistan Fashion Week’. We are making sincere efforts to join hands and we will be going out of our way to assist them if they do decide to merge. We have even decided to have the next season in Karachi to make it more convenient for designers there to participate.”
He added that “I’m in Dubai talking to buyers right now; we are in talks with individuals in the Middle East and Qatar. I will be in New York next week to talk to buyers. We want to do a fashion week that benefits the entire country. Forget about the politics of it. Think about the business of it. No designer would want to ignore the huge markets of either Punjab or Karachi. Not only are we a financially viable council, we are a powerful council and we want to support every single designer. Pakistan’s talent put together is tremendous but one council needs to give up its ego to bring designers together. We will be that council.”
Karachi’s council, Fashion Pakistan recently hosted FPW, Pakistan’s first fashion week, which was covered widely all over the world. The next season has been scheduled for March though no formal announcements have been made yet.
“Fashion Pakistan has received their letter just as they received ours but we have not come to a formal decision yet,” says FP-spokesperson Deepak Perwani on whether his council will accept the invitation to show in Lahore. “However, I find it juvenile that another fashion week is being organised while one already exists. Lahore should have joined hands with us when we offered them to. Ideally there should be one fashion week in Pakistan but all I’ll say is that the process has started and we don’t need controversy and confusion at this time. Members of both councils are on friendly terms and continue to show together all the time. The success of a fashion week depends on the content, meaning the collections shown. Designers should focus on their collections and councils need to make sure that the business of fashion is being mobilised. Time will tell which platform is better. I will of course show at FPW.”
Both fashion councils – the PFDC and FP – now stand on fashion week crossroads and the divide will undoubtedly affect the progress of the entire industry. Blame it on the scuffles between chairpersons, members or the competitive rivalries that have divided both cities, it doesn’t appear that anything is about to get resolved soon. But the reassuring thing is that on principal, most members and even non-members wish to see the fashion weeks merge and work towards building one strong platform for growth and development.