Karachi Fashion Week: A fragment called fashion week?
It was 1943, the Second World War was under way and in this turbulent time one woman — a publicist by the name of Elenour Lambert — took advantage of the wartime travel restrictions on Paris and organised Press Week, a united platform for American designers in New York. Her intentions were to encourage American journalists (primarily covering French fashion till then) to feature innovations in American design. Wealthy American buyers, who could no longer travel to Paris because of the War, were urged to invest in American fashion. Lambert was a visionary and her idea grew into the most important component of the 300 billion dollar industry that fashion has grown into today: fashion week.
Pakistan hasn’t been as fortunate when it comes to fashion. Even 70 years after Lambert’s revolution, there isn’t a single person in Pakistan who can converge its tiny fashion fraternity and bring it on one platform. The two councils — Pakistan Fashion Design Council and Fashion Pakistan — are at least attempting to unify the best designers in Lahore and Karachi, with several crossing over where it makes business sense to. Beyond these two official platforms, enthusiastic entrepreneurs set up independent fashion weeks to participate and profit from such lucrative ventures.
To be fair, Karachi Fashion Week was the first official fashion week to take place in Pakistan. The event held in 2008 was intriguing if not terribly impressive; it introduced Adnan Pardesy, featured Bibi Russell and showcased several of Pakistan’s established brands such as Maheen Khan and Deepak Perwani. It was valued for occurring at a time when no other fashion week was happening in the country.
But then it dissipated and after a three-year hiatus, the organisers returned with Islamabad Fashion Week in January 2011, followed by another edition of Karachi Fashion Week in October 2011. These two events materialised with Tariq Amin as CEO and they successfully announced collaboration with the World Fashion Organization. Several established names participated like Ammar Belal and Nilofer Shahid, and new talented names like Jazib Qamar emerged and others like Yousuf Bashir Qureshi, Nadya Mistry and Sanam Agha added much needed flair. Sanam Agha was even chosen by WFO consultant Margaret Rushe Farrell to showcase and retail in Australia.
IFW fell apart in 2012 and KFW returned without the World Fashion Organisation or Tariq Amin. This fragmentation was riddled with controversies relating to Triple-E’s alleged lack of professionalism, non-payments of dues and unwillingness of credible designers to participate. “We felt there was a saturation of fashion weeks in 2012 and therefore deliberately stepped aside,” Arshad Siddiqui, CEO, Triple-E explained to Images on Sunday on reasons for KFW’s inconsistency. “But we believe this is the right time and we will regularly be holding fashion weeks now. Alternately, Islamabad Fashion Week has been scheduled for September 2013.”
Fashion weeks in Pakistan have evolved with time and Triple-E will require much more disciple, democratization and professionalism to matter in the larger scheme of things. Considering the lineup of last week’s event which included just a sprinkling of big names such as Munib Nawaz, Usman Dittu and Gul Ahmed, and select showings by Maria B, Saadia Mirza, Khaadi, Ahsan Hussain, Asifa & Nabeel and Saba La Chantal, one feels Siddiqui will have to work harder if he wants to get back in the game. Foreign designers (Joseph Bayo Adegbe from Nigeria on Day One, Sharifah Kirana from Malaysia on Day Two and Karmaa from India on Day Three) may have added a foreign flavour to the lineup but is an exercise in futility unless they plan on opening shop or stocking in Pakistan.
Back to New York and what Elenour Lambert intended for fashion ‘press’ week to achieve were innovations in design, recognition of American designers in the media (Vogue was predominantly covering French fashion back then) and most of all, trade. Karachi Fashion Week, having the support of the Ministry of Textiles, has the potential of establishing itself as a trade event.
Nigerian fashion representative Lexy Mojo Eyes, in Karachi for the event, commented, “There is a potential market for Pakistani fashion in Nigeria.” That market should be explored and KFW should take the intelligent route and market itself as a trade show rather than a fashion week. There can be only one justification for having a third mainstream fashion week in an already fragmented industry and that would be if Karachi Fashion Week’s content is better and stronger.