Notably enough, logistics were quite well-managed with plenty of redundancies from previous seasons eliminated. The shows wrapped at a decent hour, the media was well-accommodated, the ticketing process was streamlined and the breaks in between shows were cut down to a mere five minutes bringing the audience a swift showcase with little monotony.
All these are steps well-taken on account of the Fashion Pakistan Council and Latitude executives who handled the PR, moving forward on a good note; they spelt out major improvements in a trade event that is susceptible to all the inefficiencies Pakistan remains beholden to.
Go global, not just local
However, what was glaringly missing was the presence of foreign media and buyers. While an increased participation and representation from designers and journalists from Lahore was noted, FPW was still absent in the international press.
The presence of international names would have brought much buzz and exposure to an event that currently seems to be geared towards serving the media, audience and buyers on a national level.
Nuscie Jamil, COO of Latitude, and her able team had lined up a solid array of journalists that were unable to attend either due to security concerns or scheduling conflicts.
With the exception of Time Magazine, among those missing were Namrata Zakariya, Shilpa Raina, Hilary Alexander, Jessica Bumpus and Monique Jaques; unfortunately, even local press from the Middle East was missing in action this season.
As far as the buyers are concerned, foreign buyers attending would be great for exposure and that’s it. Currently, our local designers are lacking the production capacity necessary for international export, explains Jamil.
“We still need to do more to encourage the business of fashion,” she says.
Taking this into consideration, the showcase remained fairly local. Aimed towards the local media and Pakistani buyers and clientele, the four days saw plenty of runway pieces gaining popularly on the red carpet by members of the media and the clientele alike.
As Sanam Chaudhri, Chairperson of Fashion Pakistan Council, put it, no matter the quality of collections on the runway, everyone is selling. She attributes this to the fact that every consumer has a different aesthetic.
Shehrnaz Husain, Creative Director of Ensemble Pakistan, puts it off to a mildly experimental market. No matter her personal aesthetic, she cannot stock conceptual pieces right off the runway. “The average Pakistani woman is not very experimental,” she claims, adding that “nor does she have the awareness to be”.
That said, the combined efforts of the FPW management and affiliates have brought the event smoothly into the digital realm, with #TFPW trending on Twitter since day one. Along with that, there was live digital broadcasting of the shows. Evidently, FPW has proven to be a strong presence in the slew of fashion weeks in Pakistan.
Nevertheless, the measure of a successful fashion week cannot be informed solely through digital impressions calculated or popularity on various social media platforms.
Are designers afraid to leave their comfort zones?
On the retail front, the collections appear to be thriving well, with most designers showing commercial but creative collections. But then one has to ask, is that an adequate enough benchmark allowing them to showcase on a national platform?
What of the truly inspired collections that one has come to expect at a fashion showcase; one which is thematically coherent, with inventive silhouettes, fabric and texture experimentation? And then of course the effort gone into the presentation of the collection itself, bringing the designers and their vision to a pinnacle?
After four days of red carpets, back-to-back showcases and post fashion week mingling and ruminating, show-goers, with the media and audiences alike, were mixed about their responses.
A fellow regular attendee and journalist (choosing to remain unnamed) feels uninspired. “The designers have become too comfortable showing just twice a year. I attend fashion week for the fashion and so far, I have seen more or less exactly what designers have already been putting out, with the exception of a select few,” the fellow said on the fourth day of FPW.
CEO of Catwalk Communications and fellow spectator Frieha Altaf too remained unmoved this season.
“It is very important for FPW to evolve and reinvent and I think the time has come for them to push their boundaries,” she said.
Those that were particularly unpopular with the audiences were Somal Halepoto, Abdul Samad, Caanchi & Lugari to name a few.
For some, the red carpet remained a more inspired realm in seeking out the fashion spectacle as attendees displayed tremendous ingenuity and quirk in their own outfits.
A successful fashion week takes into account the relevance and inventiveness of the collections that are being shown and consequently the commercial as well as the critical acclaim it garners. With a creative edge lacking from certain designers’ collections, leaving stellar shows to lend credence to those not quite matching up, what left audiences uninspired then was the disparity in the line-up.
The collections that were well-received — Body Focus Museum, Sonya Battla, Sania Maskatiya, Shamaeel and Nida Azwer — are also the ones being picked up immediately for retail.
Designer Wardha Saleem, serving as CEO of the FPC, cites the selection process as “selective”; with 31 designers picked out of 60 applicants and designs examined at the stage of initial sketches submitted and later the finished collections. However, looking at the discontent shown by the audience, it becomes clear that the filtering process for showcases needs to become more stringent. Perhaps, newer designers should be provided with more support from the council in order to make for stronger collections.
That being said, as the industry has evolved, the onslaught of fashion weeks has made not only designers more competitive, it has also made for a more discerning audience. The careful and meticulous planning that goes into the production of fashion weeks now is making for a more demanding audience. They know what they want and as a result are quick to judge and decide.
“There is still a great disconnect,” says Jamil. “For example, at the moment, some of the designers can’t even cut the threads off the clothes going on to the ramp and find finesse in their craft. How are they expected to streamline their production efforts and improve the quality of their collection in order to appeal to the market?”
It begs the question then of how to bring more depth and nuance to fashion weeks and to bridge the gap between ideas and execution that is keeping designers from showcases that are of excellent quality.
Jamil cites that filtering becomes difficult at a point where some designers or brands are willing to pay the required fee to participate whilst others are not or are just plain unwilling to show. This results in a mixed line-up.
Baby steps being taken to attain maximum potential
As far as the production value is concerned, show producer Hasan Shehryar Yasin, in his third season with FPW has no doubt upped the ante this season, with exceptionally well-calibrated shows. Coordination, timing and ambiance can no doubt be attributed to attention to detail and communicating closely with designers and their respective visions.
Yasin also reiterated the proliferation of social media to be able to engage in a dialogue where an audience can be identified more accurately. A soaring feat, as the narrative of inclusion is no doubt welcome. Appealing to more people and generally making itself heard in the cultural and digital realm definitely gives more credibility to the strides FPW is making each season.
While FPW has come a long way, there is still plenty of ground remaining to be paved. Where ample talent exists and shows commendably, a number of designers need financial and/or creative support and rearing. Lack of these hinders their efforts to showcase successfully or at all.
And while commercial acclaim is necessary for profitability and sustenance and survival of a fashion house, critical acclaim too should be a benchmark designers should be striving towards — making for inspired showcases and consequently a more robust and influential fashion week.
From ramp to retail
As Chaudhri puts it, evolving they surely are, with “baby steps” being taken towards standardising mechanisms.
For example on the retail front this season the council partnered with the multi-brand store Ensemble to bring FPW collections directly to the consumers mid-month. Husain says they will be carrying select collections for retail this month in the country and later on hopefully even in Dubai. They will be sticking to mainly those designers the store carries already and those that were well received at FPW, with the inclusion of newcomer Zaheer Abbas.
That said, Shehrnaz will be curating her selection/picks based not only on aesthetic but production quality and prices. “I can’t sell something that is badly finished,” she explains.
Creatively however, what the audience and media would like to see more of is further pushing the boundaries and to purge the runways of safe, uninspired collections. Granted each and every show is not expected to make the audience sit up and take note. Even so, there is a trajectory of not only a designer’s own collections but also of a platform like FPW.
This platform, albeit a strong one, further needs the bolstering and support of a stronger design community where critical acclaim is stolidly earned.
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The 68th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily