TFPW SS2015: Day 2

No beating around the bush or sugar coating, I have to say it like I saw it. The second day at TFPW was not great. If we were looking for some missing oomph yesterday, then all efforts were completely brushed under the rug today. At one point the collections had become so mundane that Abdul Samad’s runway gimmickry brought a moment of (misguided) thrill. As least it was entertaining.

Unfortunately I do not love fashion week for its entertainment value but for its fashion forwardness, for the new and unexpected trends it promises to offer, for the mental notes it pushes one to make on what trends to adapt and what to wear. Fashion Week, so far, has not managed to elicit too many shrieks of excitement.

Amir Adnan opened the day with a collection dedicated to grooms. Thankfully there were no turbans or tried and tested groom’s wear formulas rather very well-constructed, mature garments. I may have found the use of brocade and jamevar a little overwhelming but the two-tiered kurtas, the layers and texturing and the bejeweled accents were interesting. I loved the richness of the gem tie.

Amir Adnan proved why he is master of his game.

Amir Adnan proved why he is master of his game.

Sanam Chaudhri followed with a luxury collection clearly created as luxury pret/ formal wear. While there were some immediate winners in the collection – the cutwork fabric, the wraparound trousers and the contrasting colours and fabrics that created an interesting 3D effect – it somehow did not impress as a whole. There were displaced elements like the tasseled belts that were more curtain tie backs. The palette wasn’t too exciting either. I miss the days when Sanam did that stunning Japanese collection in vivid red and blue. I hope she returns to cutting edge casual clothing soon.

Sanam clearly knows how to combine the elements of design but she missed a step every now and then.

Sanam clearly knows how to combine the elements of design but she missed a step every now and then.

Speaking of vivid, Jafferjees’ collection for Spring/Summer was absolutely stunning. It went dotty and fringy in its tone and ran with the idea of sporty and fun instead of classic and restrained. Jafferjees is a great example of how a high street accessory brand can place itself at fashion week and make a great impression.

Who would have thought that JafferJees would create the wow factor of the evening.

Who would have thought that JafferJees would create the wow factor of the evening.

Sadly, the Canchi and Lugari and Gul Ahmed shows made no such impression. More on that as well as thoughts on Abdul Samad, the verdict on whites i.e. Zaheer Abbas and why Fahad Hussayn is obsessed with dominatrices and must have a dead bird in his show.

Watch this space for updates tomorrow morning…

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TFPW: Nida Azwer’s French Trellis

This gallery contains 8 photos.

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Telenor Fashion Pakistan Week S/S2015: Day One

Oomph. Zing. The Wow Factor.

All that was missing in the collections shown at Day 1 of the Telenor Fashion Pakistan Week SS2015 but let’s not start on a negative note. There were positives of the evening that cannot be ignored.

How absolutely cool it was for fashion week to begin and end at a decent hour. At 10pm Mariam, Mehreen (my colleagues at Instep) and I were seated at the Noodle House, filing the daily story for Instep, which will be in print tomorrow morning. The fabulous timing made it possible for us to at least mention every collection and grab a meal after the show too. So proud of the council, Latitude and whoever it took to ensure this punctuality. I hope some of the discipline will rub off on the PFDC, which is infamous for burning our midnight oil.

So the footnotes at TFPW were all good. The vibe was good and the red carpet aura was young and fresh. The white runway looked fabulous and the front rows were smart. The footnotes were all good, but unfortunately the content was a little underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t unforgivably garish or ugly (at least most of it wasn’t) but it just wasn’t exciting enough. Predictable and forgettable is what I’d sum the day up as.

Sania Maskatiya, the strongest link

Sania Maskatiya's ode to the unsung heroes of garment wizardry - The Tailors.

Sania Maskatiya’s ode to the unsung heroes of garment wizardry – The Tailors. Photo: Manal Khan

As flamboyant and colourful as ever, Sania tapped into a cheerful summer spirit with Khayat – The Tailor, dedicated to the master craftsmen that often stay behind the scenes. Splashes of colour, spools of colourful thread and new silhouettes created a kaleidoscope of prints that will undoubtedly be celebrated through the season. The silhouettes may have tethered towards safe had it not been for a couple of experimental shapes, the strangest being the high backs, which at times looked odd but in one or two instances were…kick ass!

Nida Azwer goes 3D

Nida had some interesting, fresh techniques in her collection. Photo:iPhone

Nida had some interesting, fresh techniques in her collection. Photo:iPhone

French Trellis came in shades of beige, grey and punches of black. What was interesting about this collection was the delicate layering and the three-dimensional textured effects. It was essentially luxury pret for summer, summer weddings included, and that is Nida’s forte. What I loved were the all time favourite capes and the one short, cropped bolero that was quite striking.

Sadaf Malaterre’s déjà vu

Sadaf Malaterre, so  pretty but just as predictable.

Sadaf Malaterre, so pretty but just as predictable. Photo: iPhone

Sadaf Malaterre was strong on finish and sophistication; she does Boho chic so well. But again, from the crushed silhouettes to the tasseled dresses, from the palette to the delicate crystal sparkles, the collection was too predictable to excite. It made an impression in the absence of too many statements this evening. I bet that this collection would have impressed anyone seeing a Sadaf Malaterre show for the first time but for us, it was all too much déjà vu.

Madiha Raza must find her wings

Maheen Khan walked out in support of Madiha Raza who showed spark but was expected to fly higher.

Maheen Khan walked out in support of Madiha Raza who showed spark but was expected to fly higher. Photo: iPhone

I have been her biggest fan since this young textile graduate showed and won at the Millennial Show last year. She won a slot to show amongst the big names at this fashion week and the good thing is that she actually looked better than many veteran designers on the TFPW lineup. Her accessories had a winning streak and her colour palette was spring, summer and balanced. The intricate cut-outs that connected each outfit to the other were interesting elements. What the collection lacked, however, was structural finesse and innovation. It’s surprising because her last collection had it. Second showings are difficult, especially if one has to follow up a great collection so I can’t blame the young girl for getting overwhelmed. I only hope she can find her wings and fly higher with her ideas next season.

In retrospect, Day One looked like a flurry of nightwear. Aspired by a summery, Bohemian/Coachella spirit, I feel too many designers had indulged in long and breezy maxi dresses that turned out looking more like nightwear.

Lala Textiles' take on summer.

Lala Textiles’ take on summer. Photo: Manal Khan

Lala Textiles put their summer fabrics on display. Fortunately they avoided the paneled kurtas that must now die out; unfortunately it is very difficult to make lawn look exciting. FnkAsia strangely ditched their strength – which is traditional craft – to show a white and solid colour palette. The stand out was the one jacket Nadia Ali wore at the very end. The rest, very forgettable.

The strongest element in the FnkAsia collection was the embroidered jacket, that came right at the end.

The strongest element in the FnkAsia collection was the embroidered jacket, that came right at the end. Photo: iPhone

The Bank Alfalah Rising Talent show was the toughest to judge because it was too much graduate collection costume and too little garment. The purpose of slotting these young designers in a mainstream fashion week is to show their potential in transitioning from student to professional designer. These students were clearly not ready. They did manage to showcase their craft but not their vision for garments.

This young designer made a statement with her harnesses but it was unclear whether she it was a social or Fifty Shades of Grey one.

This young designer made a statement with her harnesses but it was unclear whether she it was a social or Fifty Shades of Grey one. Photo: Manal Khan

That wraps up Day One. There is gossip from behind the scenes, the most buzz being around ‘A New Model’ who came with “big lips” (overheard) and a political parchi. Talking of political parchis, Ayyan, of course, was missed. People continued to fight over front row seats, the second row being a fate worse than Central Jail.

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Paid content and the ethics of blogging in Pakistan

I’ve been offered money to write an article exactly 3 times in my 15 years as a fashion journalist. Let me rephrase that. In my years as a journalist, a total of 3 designers/brands have offered to pay me hefty money for writing and publishing an article about them. The compensation has varied from 60K to 1.2 million. As difficult as it was to say no (since I was making peanuts as a freelance journalist) I refused all three times. The ethics of journalism were very clear; accepting money and writing ‘paid content’ was equivalent to taking a bribe; it was professional suicide.

Unfortunately blogging trends in Pakistan have blurred the lines very effectively. It’s become acceptable to get paid for posting content, and both bloggers and brands are responsible for this landslide of ethics. Brands (most of them designers) are more than happy to pay up to 15,000 (the rate is much higher for lawn) for a review (one post), which needless to say is promotional if not necessarily and blatantly favourable. For brands it is easy advertising, as bloggers are prolific, tech savvy and the good ones have hundreds of thousands of followers. But what does that say about the blogs?

As far as I have read and learnt, the ethics of blogging are very similar to the ethics of journalism however, journalists are regulated by editorial boards whereas bloggers have no checks or balances, especially in Pakistan. The problem arises when they don’t have the better sense of judgement.

I’m only discussing fashion and lifestyle blogs here. Imagine the gravity of the situation if medical blogs, for example, started charging for promoting any (credible or shady) pharmaceutical company that was willing to pay. Generating awareness of new and misleading drugs could prove fatal for the blog’s followers because blogs, like published articles, are ideally meant to inform, entertain and educate the reader. Comparing a medical blog to a fashion blog is of course comparing apples to oranges but the principle stays the same.

I understand the importance of blogs and e-magazines in this day and age; most of the educated population is on the Internet all day and reads almost everything online. The kind of eyeballs blogs get, almost instantly, is an information revolution. It’s fantastic, which is why I decided to maintain a blog several years ago. I have neither the massive following nor the discipline that most dedicated bloggers have (as I have a full time job at a newspaper) but I’m very pleased that I have a decent number of subscribers and readers all over the world. Most importantly, with journalist training in my veins, I am proud to say I have never charged for publishing content. Even if I start accepting advertisements on my page tomorrow (which is clearly allowed), there will never be room for paid content.

I would urge both bloggers and brands in Pakistan to reconsider their practices. A blogger instantly loses credibility when paid content is posted, instagrammed and tweeted. Even if the post states ‘Sponsored’ on the blog (it usually doesn’t), there is no clarification on Twitter or Instagram. It misleads the reader into thinking that the post is worthy of his time and effort even if it may not be. Similarly, brands looking for short cuts to promotion should control their whims for instant visibility and do things the right way. Paid content will never make them credible.

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We saw the Ho Mann Jahaan teaser and Wow!

It isn’t the simplest film title to enunciate, understand or remember but Ho Mann Jahan, as director/producer Asim Raza said in the film’s introductory press conference tonight, has double meaning. It refers to a place where your heart is and it also refers to the heart as the universe, the ‘jahaan‘.

 

Shehryar Munawar, Mahira Khan and Adeel Hussain on the Ho Mann Jahaan red carpet.

Shehryar Munawar, Mahira Khan and Adeel Hussain on the Ho Mann Jahaan red carpet.

Mahira chose to wear a Mango tee with an Elan skirt to the red carpet.

Mahira chose to wear a Mango tee with an Elan skirt to the red carpet.

Held around the set of Ho Mann Jahan at Frere Hall, where a mehndi dance sequence has been filming these past few days, did Asim Raza host his press conference introducing the film and its cast to the media while revealing a teaser from the film. And how cool did the teaser look! I did an exclsuive interview with Asim last week, which was published in Instep this Sunday, so had most of the information that was disclosed. But I hadn’t seen the teaser, which was wow! A cool, contemporary and urban face of Pakistan is exactly what Pakistani films need right now and I can’t wait for the film to release.

Adeela and Shehryar, who play lead roles in Ho Mann Jahaan, probably get caught up in a love triangle. Who do you think should get the girl?

Adeela and Shehryar, who play lead roles in Ho Mann Jahaan, probably get caught up in a love triangle. Who do you think should get the girl?

It looks and promises to be a feel-good film. The cast is gorgeous – with Mahira Khan, Adeel Hussain and Sheheryar Munawar is lead roles and Sonya Jehan, Bushra Ansari, Munawar Siddiqui and Arshad Mahmood in significant roles. Hamza Ali Abbasi and Fawad Khan both have cameo appearances in the film, which has nine songs all of which are potential hits. You have Atif Aslam, Zeb Bangash, Faakhir, and many more of Asim’s favourites on the soundtrack. Did I mention that Shehryar Munawar has co-produced the film with Asim; that’s pretty amazing.

Mahira with Ayesha Omar, whose sexy teaser for the upcoming Karachi Se Lahore has set social media on fire.

Mahira with Ayesha Omar, whose sexy teaser for the upcoming Karachi Se Lahore has set social media on fire.

HMJ has been filmed in Karachi and is running on a pretty high budget; the cost of this set alone touched 10 million rupees, sources revealed. Umar Sayeed and Feeha Jamshed provided the look for Mahira. The men were dressed by Ismail Farid.

Leave your comments on what you expect from Ho Mann Jahan…

 

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Societe Diary: The Sana Safinaz lawn lunch

It was the first seriously hot, summer afternoon in Karachi and Safinaz Muneer turned the heat up with some seriously haute lawn action at the sun dappled, newly opened Mews. I wouldn’t normally use the term ‘haute’ for lawn but if you look at how Sadaf Jalil looked, you’d know that the word haute explains this Sana Safinaz collection best. Of course, it helps to look like Sadaf and to be built in those dimensions.

Sadaf Jalil in a gorgeous, yet risky, number. She actually looks better than the model (below). Are you willing to take the risk?

Sadaf Jalil in a gorgeous, yet risky, number. She actually looks better than the model (below). Are you willing to take the risk?

Sana Safi Sadaf print

The afternoon was extremely tasteful, there’s no denying that, but it was also just as intelligently planned. Instead of hiring models to parade the lawn collection, Safinaz had her society friends wear it to the lunch. They looked and did a much better job than most models would have. I know that all I did for the hour was make a mental note of which designs to purchase and yes, I have managed to spend 39,400 on six lawn suits, one of which is a birthday present for a friend.

Secret Closet's Faiza Lakhani with Safinaz

Secret Closet’s Faiza Lakhani with Safinaz

Back to yesterday afternoon, it was a dainty set-up, with a delightful rotating buffet instead of the regular sit-down. Doing the rounds were single servings of quinoa salad, cheese mac, chicken laksa, open faced salmon, prawn and chicken bruschetta, mini ground beef burgers and an array of flat pizzas. The desserts looked just as tempting but I just indulged in a miniature banoffee and savoured the taste for a long time.

So the Sana Safinaz lunch did have the who’s who of Karachi sashaying in and out, wearing the 2015 collection. I decided to wear a 2015 Sania Maskatiya print that I picked up from her store, just as I wore Sana Safinaz R2W to the Elan lawn launch. As a journalist I make it a point to not market and endorse/promote anyone at their events or shows. I appreciate those designers, like Sana Safinaz, who respect me enough to not even ask. Someone asked me on Twitter, and they made a genuine observation, that how can any journalist who accepts and flaunts a free jora be unbiased or fair when giving an opinion. I don’t think they can. It’s an oversight I may have made in my amateur years, ages ago but I am wiser to it now.

Shehla Chatoor always makes a fashionable appearance but as Maha Burney says, you say 'hello' to those Sophia Webster shoes, not her!

Shehla Chatoor always makes a fashionable appearance but as Maha Burney says, you say ‘hello’ to those Sophia Webster shoes, not her!

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From crystal meth to crystals

Rizwanullah recalls his perilous journey as he settles down to a crystalline new life at Fifth Element, the official distribution partner for Swarovski in Pakistan. 

He’s gone from heroin to being a crysal hero; Rizwanullah is confident that his upcoming collections will impress his critics.

He’s gone from heroin to being a crysal hero; Rizwanullah is confident that his upcoming collections will impress his critics.

“I started taking all these chemicals: heroin, LSD, hash, weed, ecstasy, ice, crystal meth…you name it. I thought I could stop whenever I wanted to but I was wrong. My life had started slipping away.”

Syed Mohammad Rizwanullah. It’s hardly the kind of name you associate with a fashion creature but that’s what he’s always been. The ten-inch Mohawk, spiked at the edges, and lace-up boots that said enfant terrible from the minute you set eyes on them. Give him a mirror and you’d see him preening; he was the proverbial peacock who reveled in the spotlight. He was the creative whiz that whipped up fascinating collections and then he’d prowl out to take a bow before disappearing in dark shadows until the next show. He was living the life, with lights, cameras and all sorts of action consuming his days and nights. That’s not all that was consuming him. Rizwanullah was on an uncontrollable path to self-destruction and he was addicted to everything that would ruin him. That was 2012 and his future looked bleak.

Three years later, things have taken a 180-degree turn. The young boy who confessed to washing his hair with beer and eating tissue to stay thin now sits, all cleaned up, in the sparkling new Swarovski studio on Zamzama as Creative Head. We meet over breakfast – something the old Rizwanullah would have happily traded for a cigarette had he been able to drag himself out of bed before noon – and he calls for coffee, cake and a sandwich from Espresso next door. He actually eats; a French fry has replaced the fag once stuck to his fingers. The transformation is unbelievable.

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“I’ve gone from heroin to being a crystal hero,” he smiles with his characteristically charming smile. Always courteous, even in his worst days, his manners are luckily the one thing he has carried forth. That and self-love; perhaps his obsession with himself has also been one of the saving graces in his life. The rest – all those destructive elements of a crisis – he says he has left behind.

“This office is my temple,” he said, referring to the pristine, almost clinical transparency of the studio surrounded by ethereal dots of shimmering crystals. “These people have become my family, my support system; there is ethics, cleanliness, clarity and so much quality here.”

What happened in the past three years, one wonders, and Rizwanullah is generous in sharing some details. Substance abuse and an equally damaging marriage was what crippled him; distancing himself from drugs and his wife is what salvaged him. There is bitterness under his calm façade but he is gentleman enough not to indulge and drag out the linen.

“No matter how good we looked together, we were killing each other,” is all he offers on his marriage. “You can never make the right decision under the influence, be that the influence of drugs or love.”

Back-page“The fashion industry is ruthless,” he added in retrospection, as if pulled back into time. “When someone falls there is a stampede. But there were people who cared – Deepak Perwani, Huma Adnan and Amir Adnan, who looked over me like a father and gave me a book with Holy Verses to read. It brought me peace.”

His addiction lasted for three tumultuous years, 2010 to 2013, during which time he got married as well as divorced. The divorce came with a wake up call, several months in rehab and then almost a year bound at home. In this one year he was allowed only to create.

“Mahira came to meet me in rehab,” he remembers fondly. Mahira Khan, Feeha Jamshed and Rizwanullah were inseparable until 2011, when they infamously fell out of his life after his marriage. “Feeha and I reconnected. I lost a wife but I got my best friend and sister back.”

Moving on with a new lease on life, the new Rizwanullah is breathing a very different kind of energy these days. Appointed and working as the Creative Head at Fifth Element, Swarovski’s official distributor in Pakistan, he has been put in charge of several different lines of clothing and accessories that Fifth Element will be launching soon. How does a self-confessed junkie land a high profile position such as this one? There’s no denying Rizwanullah’s immense talent; his collections were always innovative and edgy if nothing else. But he was never very stable; given what he was going through that’s hardly surprising. With this deal, he got extraordinarily lucky. Swarovski contacted him for sales promotion in December 2014. They left after a two-hour brainstorming session and returned with a contract in hand. Since then he has been working on four different lines for Fifth Element as well as his own label. He doesn’t reveal much detail, except for the fact that there will be red carpet glamour as well as an Islamic resort line.

Talking of fashion, one wonders why Fifth Element and Rizwanullah didn’t participate in the recently held Crystal Couturiers show in Lahore. His former distaste for the Lahore-based Pakistan Fashion Design Council is no secret – he had once called his experience of showing there “the worst of his life”, vowing to “never show in Lahore again”. That stance has changed now that he has sobered up.

“That’s why I say, never say never!” he laughed when asked. “I did say I would never show (at the PFDC-led fashion week) but I am not a solo artist here; I represent Swarovski. And if these guys are in collaboration with the PFDC then I have to be too. As for the Crystal Couturiers event, it was PFDC initiative and for a very good cause. We at Swarovski didn’t want to impose ourselves on the council.”

That said, he is all set to showcase at the upcoming FPW as well as the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week next month. One recently saw a teaser of what is to come when Rizwanullah put out a capsule collection at the TDAP showcase in Karachi. It wasn’t his best piece of work but pointed at better things to come, a reigniting of his passion for the craft. There is a sense of urgency in his attitude, as if he is eager to prove that he’s back in the game. And he has surrounded himself by the professional, pious people at Fifth Element, of which Rizwanullah is quick to mention Noman ul Haq, Yasir Fakhruddin and Omair Chhotani: “These guys have been my pillars, literally angels to me.” He’s eager to detox his body further and get rid of all the bad karma that had been accumulating within. As always, creativity and fashion act as his core strength.

“Fashion is my art of living,” he concluded with a philosophical twist. “I always say that you should do something like you have to do it; like you’d die if you didn’t. That’s how I feel about fashion.”

Rizwanullah’s creative timeline

2009: Showcased a mehndi inscribed collection titled Hereafter at Fashion Pakistan Week

2010: At FPW showcased Depression Chic, a collection notorious for its applique of nude female figures. This is also when his substance abuse began.

2011: Married fashion model Fayeza Ansari and debuted at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week, showing a collection that he calls “the absolutely worse of my life. It was nameless and totally aimless.”

2012: His substance abuse had turned into full-blown addiction.

2013: Showcased Love, Devotion and Separation at FPW. The yellow outfits symbolized heroin, red stood for love and the two black finale outfits represented separation and divorce. The couple divorced by the end of the year, after which he was admitted to rehab for several months.

2014: Back home, he was housebound for a year. Appointed Creative Head at Fifth Element, Swarovski Pakistan by the end of the year.

Rizwanullah’s portraits by Kashif Rashid

 

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