PSFW: Mohsin Ali for Libas

Mohsin Ali for Libas

Mohsin Ali for Libas

Using gentle pastels to create a multipurpose collection that could be taken apart and put back together in any variation, Mohsin Ali for Libas was a hit. So many trends were offered in this cornucopia of design, which took Mohsin Ali three months to work on with Sehyr Saigol. It was evident that the best of two different aesthetics came together. Loved the use of pastels (though I’m not a pastel person at all) perspex, neon ribboning, and loved the crystal sneakers, which brings me to my point. Collaborations

Collaborations need to happen at an industrial scale. It’s great that an established label like Libas should engage a young name like Mohsin and allow him the brand’s outreach (Libas has huge clientele) but the collaboration should not stop there.

According to Mohsin, the sneakers created for the show will be displayed at PFDC stores for retail but I feel that the business should not end there either. A brand like Bata or Service (where the sneakers were apparently bought from and embellished under the designer’s supervision) should step in and collaborate to produce a fashion week limited edition collection, available at stores nationwide. Women interested in fashion in Pakistan (there are more than you’d imagine) may not have access to the elite Libas label but they should be able to have some kind of access to design that they see and read about.

Servis Shoes for Everyone? Let’s make Servis Shoes by Mohsin Ali for everyone! Surely that would be better branding than putting their name on an Awards Show media wall.

Photography by Faisal Farooqui @ Dragonfly


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MK Nation by Maheen Kardar

MK Nation by Maheen Kardar

The collection was all about the prints, whether the icons (above), bugs and birds, flowers, fauna or the take on Generation X’s obsession with selfies. Fun? Yes. Funky? Yes. Wearable? Yes. Maheen Kardar offered several silhouettes to spend summer in, mostly western, which were the strong part of the ensemble because all those prints will probably diffuse into wearable tunics for stores. Slightly weak, however, was MK Nation’s take on tradition, which offered nothing new. As a Pakistani high street clothing brand, I did expect that to be stronger. That said, it’s needless to say that the sussi tunics and traditional wear is what will drive the sales.

Chen One Pareesa by Sahar Atif

Chen One Pareesa by Sahar Atif

To say that this love for florets needs to be nipped in the bus would be kind. As a demonstration of how to wear prints, this collection was all over the place and yet stuck in a place that one would rather forget. Designers and academics like Sahar Atif, who are an integral part of the industry and yet have failed to impress season after season, should accept that they may not have the chutzpah for the runway. It’s perfectly okay to sit back and enjoy commercial success without looking for fashion week glory.



The highlight of this show was Juggan Kazim and how gorgeous she looked despite what she was wearing. But this collection was not totally amiss. There were some rare (perhaps three) garments that one could have worked with: a white tunic, a juxtaposition of two prints formulated into a ghagra choli, and perhaps one shalwar (again worn by Juggan). Certainly not good enough for fashion week, which is a pity because this platform has the power to push trends and circulation and a strong lawn/high street show generates the numbers, which is where the power play begins. One would advise the people at Ittehad to collaborate with a seasoned/strong designer to add aesthetic balance to the commercial backbone that they obviously already have.

Photography: Faisal Farooqui and the team at Dragonfly

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Bashar Momin: a new take on Beauty and the Beast

Meet Bashar Momin: corrupt, uncouth, harsh and appalling in his dealings with those beneath him. And everyone is beneath him, which is why BM only talks in high decibel. Correction. He doesn’t talk, he shouts.


Faysal Qureshi does justice to his role as Bashar Momin

Faysal Qureshi does justice to his role as Bashar Momin

Now meet Rudaba: the young, pretty damsel in distress. If you thought girls didn’t faint anymore then think again. This one faints when she faces BM’s wrath. Her poor heart can’t take it. A bit Victorian? Well, yes.

Pretty and appropriately innocent looking, Ushna Shah isn't quite as convincing as Rudaba. Not yet.

Pretty and appropriately innocent looking, Ushna Shah has a hard time standing up to Faysal Qureshi when it comes to performances. But she certainly is pleasant.

As much as the play, airing on GEO TV these days, was publicized last month, I could not convince myself to writing about it because, well, it was just another play. But four episodes into Bashar Momin (the first three I watched on Dramas Online), I am hooked. No doubt, the drama has serious Beauty & the Beast undertones and it’s intriguing to see the beast soften in the presence of innocence and kindness = true love. Also, the eastern take and adaptation is interesting.

Let’s admit, we’re all a sucker for fairy tales. So now with Rudaba, engaged to a man she has never seen nor spoken to and now left at the mercy of her brother’s manipulative and wily wife (the equivalent of a step mother) as her father has just passed away, we want someone to save her. Will that someone be her fiancé, who just made a debut in the last episode or will BM be her true love, as we all know he has the heart of a marshmallow inside the prickly exterior.

What makes Bashar Momin tick:

1. Faysal Qureshi as Bashar Momin is the strongest character. His performance is convincing, powerful and his avatar (inclusive of the Ahmed Bham suits) projects Bashar Momin as a real and three-dimensional character.

2. The dialogues: a bilingual dialogue makes the drama very natural and easy.

3. Ushna Shah as Rudaba is effective in her role but I’m still not 100% convinced that she will be able to justify all the way now that her character is entering a complicated phase.

What ticks me off?

1. The cinematography, which is dark and tacky, certainly not worthy of the ‘most expensive play’ banner that Bashar Momin boasts. I know that the cheap bedspreads and ugly, ostentatious curtains in Bashar’s house are reflective of his nouveau riche status but it could’ve been more tasteful.

2. Yasir Mazhar (Adil, Rudaba’s brother) is essentially a good-looking guy but his personality leaves a lot to be desired. His hairstyle is as annoying as his constant reference to Rudaba as “beta”.

3. The boom-boom scene stallers. The way the background score booms in and out at the time of a climax is too reminiscent of Indian soaps. I wish these scenes were sped up.

What do you think?

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First Look at the PSFW 2014 lineup

PSFW 2014 courtesy Faisal Farooqui @ Dragonfly

PSFW 2014 courtesy Faisal Farooqui @ Dragonfly

In what has to be the best time for fashion in Pakistan, it’s PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW) time! Starting April 10, the four-day event held in Lahore is looking at almost 40 shows covering textiles (lawn), high street and high end fashion. Here’s a quick look at the lineup. It isn’t official, as no official announcement has been made yet, but it is pretty concrete if my sources are to be believed. And I think they are.

First the main shows:

1. Mohsin Ali for Libas: potentially a fantastic combination.

2. Nickie Nina: regulars and veterens, though one does still wait for another glimpse of the gorgeous first collection they showed at the first PSFW.

3. Sania Maskatiya: I wonder what kind of magic she’ll paint with her prints this time. And I hope she shows innovation in silhouette because she is a trendsetter.

4. Arsalan Iqbal: Essentially menswear and someone who launched his brand at FPW, Arsalan Iqbal has opened a flagship store in Lahore and what better way to cement his ground than an impressive showing on the country’s biggest fashion platform. But he will have to impress.

5. Ali Xeeshan: Theatrics and energy galore, AX will definitely entertain as well as impress. Finale?

6. Shehla Chatoor: We are expecting a full range of luxe, all the way from Karachi

7. Hina Butt: Big time power play with the MPA onboard.

8. Deepak Perwani: Unexpected, but will be great to see Frida flying off to Lahore this time.

9. Muse: a PSFW regular, Muse is a safe bet

10. Elan: Khadijah Shah will pull out the stops for Lahore’s social elite. Finale?

11. Fahad Hussayn: I wonder what dark and sinister theme he’s conjuring up this time.

12. Republic: After his sit out last season (due to an unfortunate accident) Omer Farooq’s return to PSFW is very welcome.

13. Body Focus: Always a winner, expectations remain to be high here.

14. Maria B: A front runner in fashion retail, Maria B is expected to strike a pleasant balance between what works commercially and what pushes the boundary.

15. Nida Azwer: Her white collection at FPW was beautiful; she needs to show another just as gorgeous.

16. Karma: A brand that has fun with fashion, Karma will certainly be worthy of the finale slot it has landed.

17. Rizwan Beyg: His show will undoubtedly be visually delightful but will it be ready for retail? Still haven’t managed to get my hands on last year’s truck art bags!

18. Zara Shahjehan: Pretty and well constructed, Zara has the capacity to surprise.

19. Khaadi: Pakistan’s biggest fashion brand, Khaadi’s show is as delightful to watch as the stores are pleasurable to shop at.

20. Akif: Super talented, I hope this time he manages to connect the dots with retail.

21. Saira & Shakira: the only debutant in the lineup, Saira & Shakira must have impressed Sehyr Saigol to have been given a golden ticket to show.

22. HSY: the grand finale, expect this one to be grander than ever as HSY celebrates 20 years in the industry.

Additionally, the four day PSFW will feature a showing by New Talent and interestingly, also a PFDC-United Nations collaboration, in which special tunics created by designers will be auctioned for a good cause. Details on arrival, I guess!

Watch this space for the high street and lawn shows tomorrow…


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The East End: a twist on fine dining

Tucked away in Clifton Block 8 is The East End, Karachi’s first ethnic fine dining experience. Or at least I think it’s the first; I haven’t seen any purely desi fine dining restaurants other than the ones in hotels. And I wouldn’t call them very fine! However, The East End – spearheaded by Fawad Arif, Muffi Halai and Adil Moosajee – offers a unique experience in terms of a five course meal featuring local cuisine. Popular amongst a quiet and perhaps niche clientele is an experience no one should miss; at least no one who can afford it (TEE will set you back a little over 2000 per person). Pricey? Yes! Worth it? Read on and decide for yourself…

I visited yesterday and I think it certainly is an experience to write home about. The very organic ambience has an element of refined distress, a quirky sophistication and the food is a derivative of the mood the place creates. You get to choose from any of the three main course segments: Highway Twist, Captain Charlie, and Bohra Exotic. All three offer serious carnivorous luxuries such as Slow Cooked Meat and Kidneys, Crabs in a Bucket, Raan Roast in Dry Red Baste and Creamy Badami Chicken but there’s also a Gharo Vegetarian’s Special for those who abstain.

The crabs in a bucket are heavenly.

The crabs in a bucket are heavenly.

I ordered The Keamari Crabs in a Bucket and they were heavenly. The curry was flavoursome without being overwhelming (it’ll take some time to wash the aroma off your fingers though) and the quantity was actually enough for two. When we sat down we were told that we’d be eating for the next 90 minutes and that was no exaggeration. The crabs came third in a series of five fine courses, starting with a delicate mirchi and ghatia (with a shot of imli and gurhh ka paani to balance the spices), masala aaloo, barbecued prawns with a shot of coconut cream to drink, the crabs and then a choice of either halwa or kulfi as dessert. Satisfying: absolutely!

Every meal starts with course 1: the mirchi and ghatia, served with a sugary guru ka paani to balance the spice.

Every meal starts with the first course: the mirchi and ghatia, served with a sugary guru ka paani to balance the spice.

The slow cooked raan was divine, a great balance to the hybrid daal chawal but the rather homey 'paleeda', a squash curry, may not be everyone's cup of tea.

The slow cooked raan was divine, a great balance to the hybrid daal chawal but the rather homey ‘paleeda’, a squash curry, may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Warning: I wouldn’t advise you get on the weighing scale until you’ve starved off the after effects of this meal!

I brought the menu home and I must say I am tempted to throw caution to the wind and return for a spot of Paaya with Soaked Naans and Chops, but I would also put in a suggestion or two. It’s great and novel and unique to create a fine dining experience but I did feel the need for an a ’la carte menu too. For example, I preferred the Aaloo Paapar with Imli Chutney that my nephew got as his second course to my Masala Aaloo. The prawns that I got were better than his cutlets. In a nutshell, it would have been nice to have the option to order more of some and less of the other.

The other gentle critique I would have for TEE would be replacing homespun items with slightly more innovative dishes. For example, potato cutlets is something we all frequently make at home, I wouldn’t want to sample them in a restaurant unless they were reinvented with a twist. A tweak here and there and TEE will rock even more than it currently does.

So, my verdict on whether it was worth it: it certainly was! And you should go and try it out too!





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LSA, LSA, where art thou?

It’s great that the HUM Awards unrolled with such fanfare and hoopla yesterday; the invites were decadent and I’m sure the event was star studded and sparkling too. But when it comes to award shows in Pakistan, one has been rooting for the Lux Style Awards for the past decade, as one of the most credible (despite regular controversies attached) and the most style savvy. As I always say, what would celebrity be without scandal or style!

The Lollywood tribal dance at the LSAs last year. Hopefully that was the last time we'll ever have to witness it.

The Lollywood tribal dance at the LSAs last year. Hopefully that was the last time we’ll ever have to witness it.

But three months into the year, with the global circuit of award shows over (it does end with the Oscars), we still hear nothing from the LSA office. It’s no secret that Fareshteh Aslam (formerly the Awards Manager for the LSAs) and several other experienced hands have moved on but where does this leave us with the award ceremony? So, I hear from various sources that the awards will be taking place this year. But when? No one knows for certain. There isn’t even a whisper about the jury or voting, the process hasn’t even begun. I haven’t even seen an ad inviting portfolios for nominations in the television category, voting for which precedes everything else.

It would be a pity if the LSAs decided to sit it out this year, not with several films (for a change) in the running. Television has seen a phenomenal year and fashion, of course, has also been as strong as ever. Music has seen new stars rising. We all thought that the tenth anniversary of the LSAs would set some mode of regularity and stability to the event but I guess not. They may happen, but they’re definitely travelling down a rocky road to get there.

ps. I was in China at the time of the LSAs last year (terrible timing, who schedules a high profile awards show smack in the middle of summer vacations?) but I wouldn’t like to miss another year. Can we please get a formal announcement of some sort, if anyone from Unilever is reading?

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One Step Forward…

Nomi Ansari grand finale

Nomi Ansari grand finale

Fashion Pakistan Week Summer 2014 may have taken the platform one step forward in terms of better content but the question is: will it grow hereon or (once again) fall two steps back?

Instep Review. Published: 2 March 2014

Google maps of Lyari on silk trousers. Monochrome patchwork on smart, rilli-crafted tunics, travelling the sartorial mile from rural Sindh to urban Karachi. Metallics that create gold and silver, mercurial illusions. And Parveen Shakir prints on postman satchels: imagine that! You actually needn’t bother with imagining because designers at Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) brought all these ideas, and more, to trend-setting Spring/Summer collections that’ll be widely available in retail stores soon. The content at fashion week: check.






Nida Azwer

Nida Azwer

Amongst the top five pret a porter collections at FPW S/S 2014, I would say, was Gulabo by Maheen Khan. Not only does this label have the markings of innovation and style, it has nationwide as well as online retail presence. The Gulabo e-Store, recently launched alongside fashion week, has ensured that the symbolic red rose be accessible to Gulabo lovers all over the world. Another impressive label, Shamaeel, introduced her Tughra brand of ready to wear at fashion week. Reflecting the designer’s plush, vintage ethos, the tunics are already available at multi-retail store Labels by this time. They will also be available in Lahore, Islamabad, Dubai and India. Nida Azwer stayed true to her signature with Arabesque, a collection of pure whites lifted by gold and silver accents. With flagship stores in Lahore and Karachi, Nida’s contemporary take on the shalwar and cutwork tunics will have an influence on the long summer up ahead.



I would easily add Kayseria to the top five ready to wear collections at fashion week, simply because of the label’s style strength combined with its influence on market trends. Kayseria revealed how easy it would be to transform lightweight lawn into cotton saris for summer. It also innovated new styles in wearing lawn: relaxed shirts, loosely belted at the waist will ensure style as well as smartness. Last and unconventionally on a list of garments would be accessory label, Mahin Hussain. Having a knack for colour and an effortless style confidence, Hussain’s collection of bags was supported by equally quirky Parveen Sakir prints, which will be available in the form of scarves, much to the delight of the late poet’s fans and followers.

Nomi Ansari

Nomi Ansari

Several heavier lines punctuated the line up at fashion week, out of which Nomi Ansari’s Gravity was undoubtedly the most superior. It was good to see the designer allow himself the freedom of having fun with technique, which he is a master of. Albeit theatrical more than practical, this collection was allowed glimpses of the diffusion it would experience when translated to wedding or trousseau wear.

It has to be said, as a post script on couture showings, that the council should consider a separate day for heavy clothing (if at all), as they not only cause interminable delays in the schedule (prep time is much longer) but they also break the tempo of fast-paced pret shows. Having to sit through slow-moving couture shows absolutely kills the momentum.

Back to the best, I would nominate Nauman Arfeen as the best menswear designer at fashion week. Executed to perfection and revealing the slightest of innovative twists in the flare of a jodhpur or a pouf on a sleeve, this designer has proven his mettle in traditional menswear and he should be given due credit for it.

Mahin Hussain

Mahin Hussain

FPW Builds Bridges…

FPW bridged the gap between pioneering veterans and youthful boomers. It brought Lahore to Karachi, with names like HSY, Ali Xeeshan, Fahad Hussayn, Mohsin Ali and Kamiar Rokni amongst others. It elevated small high street brands like Daaman and Sheep while also allowing mass-market giants like Kayseria and Jafferjees a (successful) hand at the fashion roulette. The biggest connection that the Fashion Pakistan Council may have made at this edition of fashion week could be its affiliation with the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan.

“Fashion Week is like the tip of a pyramid,” said Roberto Bre, director and partner at PrivateCollection&Co, an American company (with offices in Paris) that prepares brands for global expansion. A guest of the TDAP, Bre looks forward to mentor Pakistani fashion brands evolve beyond the fashion week hoopla. “Fashion week is the start of a process not the end of one,” he expressed before the shows on the last day, “and Pakistani designers need to think of spreading their wings now. They feel that catering to a local market is enough but it is not.”

It makes one wonder: was fashion week in Karachi realistically anything but a brand-building, marketing exercise? Was it enough? While marketing does play an integral role in the fashion week dynamic, the net result of the activity needs to be business generation. Business, for fashion in Pakistan, needs to grow beyond the ‘one rack in a multi-retail store’ existence. Unfortunately there was no means of designer-buyer interaction. There were no stalls or displays where the buyers could see collections up close. But then, were there any buyers at all? Buyer facilitation at fashion week: cross.


While FPW served us quite a few complete and cohesive collections, there were just as many capsules, which made one wonder how much time these designers needed to put a complete collection together, considering FPW last took place exactly one year ago. There were way too many guest appearances, which one refuses to critique on a matter of principle. It would be unfair to designers who have put in the time and effort to design full collections. Watching these capsules was like walking in to a cinema for a feature film and walking out having seen 15 trailers. Not quite as satisfying, you’d agree.

The Toni & Guy Hair Meet Wardrobe shows featured five glamorous outfits each from Shehla Chatoor, Maheen Karim and Sadaf Malaterre. Maybelline also put up an impressive show with Sanam Chaudhri, Sara Shahid and Sania Maskatiya. But these shows elevated hair and makeup styles and designers were mere accessories. To establish ‘looks’ is just as integral to fashion week as setting fashion trends and kudos to hair and makeup brands for allowing these synergies. But no credit goes to designers who should have showcased full collections instead of settling for capsules. Can you even imagine Chanel, Christian Dior or Armani settling for five outfits for a sponsored show at New York Fashion Week? Unfathomable.

Sponsored shows serve brands and not fashion designers. Sponsors look good hosting hospitality lounges, and the Toni & Guy lounge was quite gorgeous. They look good on red carpets (L’Oreal’s Black Carpet is always glamorous) and green rooms/backstage. Sponsors need to be affiliates of fashion in order to promote it but they must never influence the creative process. Hair Meet Wardrobe is essentially a hair show so works in style building but when a telecommunication brand hands out mobile sets for models to carry on the catwalk (as seen previously at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week) that branding becomes distasteful. When it comes to corporate co-branding the line separating the permitted and prohibited is very thin. A strong council must set the rules.

Fortunately, Bank Alfalah sponsored a Graduate Show and gave one example of collaboration done constructively. To sponsor a show for several talented design students and then (through voting) award one of them a 500,000 rupee cash prize was indeed a great idea. The only flaw is that instead of announcing the winner at fashion week, he or she will be announced a week later, during some morning show, that probably no one fashionable will even watch. A moment of fashion week glory would’ve been much more desirable.

In a nutshell, FPW S/S 2014 was a mixed bag. The lineup was a vast improvement on the B-grade lineups that FPW has been showcasing in recent years but then the media/buyer/designer PR and interaction was substandard at best. The red carpet and overall look of the event was snappy but then the lack of headline-grabbing elements like celebrity front-rowers, star appearances on the red carpet (that helps create a buzz) was amiss. While credit must be given to the new board for a breath of fresh air it brings in, it needs to be remembered that the board may be new but the council is not. One can discount the short-falls of this fashion week as long as the council continues taking steps forward without two steps back.

Photography by Tapu Javeri 



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