Day 2 of TEXPO2023 comes to an end with “Pakistan Zindabad.”
You can’t say that Pakistan has no taste. Even if designers are too focused on making money and there aren’t as many fashion shows as there used to be, you can’t give up on fashion altogether. Not when there are sometimes groups that are interesting and exciting. A few of these designs were shown on the second and last day of the TEXPO 2023 fashion show, which was put on by the Trade Development Authority Pakistan (TDAP).
There were experienced designers who made a comeback, young designers who made interesting statements, and even a show that stood out because it was put together by students. On the other hand, some shows showed a clear lack of basic design skills, with generic clothes that didn’t fit well all over the runway. Some of the artists did a great job, but some were terrible.
So there were both good and bad times. Highs and lows have always been there. I used to write about the highs and lows of fashion weeks about fifteen years ago, when they were still in their early stages. The reviews still say the same things. Fashion may not be dead, but in terms of design, the industry as a whole hasn’t changed much, even though it has grown into a huge retail business.
Here are some of the good and bad ideas that were shown on the second day of TEXPO 2023.
Shamaeel Ansari has always done what she thought was right. It’s always been something people liked about her designs, and it’s what brings people to her studio. The fashion business as a whole may jump on whatever is popular at the moment, but Shamaeel will always make things that are true to her style.
Shamaeel’s show, which was the first of a long line of designers, showed what makes her work stand out: bold flower prints, unique embroidery patterns, and a mixing and blending of rich colors. There were dresses, edgy coords, shirts with fancy collars, coats, and a lot of Orientalism.
It was a strong way to start the day. It was fierce, lively, and stylish.
The feeling of power didn’t last long.
High-street brand MEME sent out models wearing clothes that were just taken off of store racks and put on the models. Style-wise, there didn’t seem to be any effort to make the clothes more interesting, which is strange since they were pretty plain and casual.
The cute little girls and boys who walked with the models might have been the only thing that people will remember about the show.
The Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS)
The IVS kids came and took over. With a number of well-thought-out, cutting-edge designs, they dispelled the idea that fashion school collections are only meant to be experimental and not always appealing.
Layering, remaking old jeans, playing with the fabric, and trying out different shapes were all used. The asymmetrical skirts, jackets, flowing capes, and easy-to-wear cowl shalwars were all new.
As a critic, the book made me breathe a sigh of relief for myself. One wants to help the young fashion designers who are just starting out, but it’s hard to do so when they show horrible collections on the catwalk. The IVS lineup showed off a wide range of skills and designs that made you want to buy them right away.
Almirah Almirah moved away from the simple, easy-to-wear kurta-shalwars that are typical of its high-street shops. Instead, it tried its hand at men’s Western suits and came up with new ways to wear the kurta-shalwar.
The waistcoats that were worn over the kurtas looked good and will sell well. But they didn’t stand out enough for the show. On the other hand, the stitching on the Western-wear was not very good, which is a must-have for clothing.
The best part of the show was when actors Jan Rambo and his son Ahsan Afzal Khan walked out as showstoppers, and Rambo did a little happy dance for the cameras. You have to like that guy. Even if the clothes aren’t that great, a famous person can help sell the show.
The Pink Tree Business
There was color and black and white, bursts of blingy embroidery and traditional gold and silver chhapa, clothes you’d wear on an island trip and others you’d twirl out on Eid.
Mahin Hussain’s happy prints were put on loose-fitting shirts and pants to start the Pink Tree Company collection. Next came pastels made with silver and gold, and then a range of party dresses with traditional resham, pearls, and dabka etching on unusual patterns. On the silk cloth, one could see a stork, an elephant, a reindeer, small whales, and funny butterflies.
Show-stopper Sarwat Gillani wore an outfit that was a mix of all three of the collection’s design styles. Still, I liked The Pink Tree Company’s bubbly take on design, but the collection didn’t have much of a theme. The fact that all of the clothes were really pretty made up for it.
We need to see Sanam Chaudhri on the runway a lot more. The high-fashion artist has a unique style and an easy eye for design. She changes the shapes and patterns of clothes and plays with colors with the kind of confidence that only comes from truly intuitive design. I’ve always liked the way Sanam lives her life in the photos she posts on social media, and it was even clearer on the catwalk.
These were styles that took you to a summer party, probably on a faraway island. Cotton and crepe in bright colors were used to make dresses and stylish tunics with a loose fit. The shape was the only thing that mattered, and clamping and resist dying were used to add effect. There were cowl-neck jumpsuits, dresses, sarong skirts, kaftans, loose thigh-high harems, and cowl pants with wide legs.
Even if you weren’t going to a summer party on an exotic island, you’d want to have these clothes in your closet. They didn’t have any embroidery on them and relied solely on expert tailoring.
Parishae Adnan, the daughter of designers Amir Adnan and Huma Adnan, is slowly but surely building her business as a designer with each show and collection she does. And as time goes on, people start to see that her fashion style is fierce and unapologetic.
These weren’t clothes for people who were shy. I liked the straight high collars, sleek pants, neatly cut top with tapered sari, and the way the shirt and pant sets showed that gender doesn’t have to be fixed. There were other designs that I didn’t think were as interesting, but I think Parishae’s strength is in how neat and well-thought-out her designs are. The collection was very well sewn. She may have learned this skill from her father, whose studio has always been known for its perfect cuts.
Not long after that, the stitching went wrong in the Diner’s show. The collection was mostly made up of Western-style clothes for guys, so it made sense that the pants would fit just right. In some of the clothes, it was very clear that they didn’t. And why were basic t-shirts and polos shown with pants?
What does this have to do with the catwalk? Even if you’re a high-street brand, you need to bring some drama to the runway if you want to be noticed.
TIP stands for Textile Institute of Pakistan.
If what is taught at the Textile Institute of Pakistan (TIP) is like this collection, then the future of Pakistani fashion is really not bright. There were gowns that were badly sewn and looked more like they were made by a darzigner (a tailor who wants to be a designer) than by a designer. There were jackets that didn’t fit right and dresses that stood out for the wrong reasons.
What do kids learn in school? And don’t they check out their collections before they say they’re good enough to be shown?
Finally, a popular name on the high street got the message about how to put on a show.
It helped that the sportswear made at Spartan Athletics was well-made, fit the models well, and had pops of bright color along with basic black and white. On top of sports bras and tight T-shirts were jackets and loose sweaters that were tied together. Models wore caps, sunshades, exercise bags, and headphones around their necks. These are all good accessories for a business that is about fitness.
The Spartan show was a great addition to the lineup because fitness is becoming more and more important as a way of life, and athleisure is becoming more and more popular in fashion businesses around the world. Shoaib Malik was the star of the show when he walked out at the end, but the collection was good even without him.
Ali Xeeshan shows have an undeniable energy, a natural joie de vivre that makes you want to see the clothes as soon as the first music starts to play on the stage. This has everything to do with the creator himself. Since I’ve known Ali, he’s always been interested in fashion and putting on a show on the stage. He will come up with new ways to accessorize and add drama, as well as new accessories and a story behind the line. In the end, you want to believe in him because he is so sure of everything he does.
On that aside, the hearts, stars, and cartoons on the clothes might have looked crazy if they were made by someone else, but Ali Xeeshan made them look like they were making a point. There was some activewear, a range of cool, easy-to-wear kurtas, jumpsuits, saris, and wedding dresses with a lot of embellishment. Ali’s signature big floral embroidery bumped shoulders with shiny gold and silver stars, hearts, lines that were not the same size, and a print that looked like a cartoon of Ali.
As a nod to Tinkoo, an organization that helps poor women in Baltistan get an education, the models held stuffed toys in their hands. Six percent of all the money made from selling the collection will be donated to the group.
Did the line-up have any sense of unity? Actually, no. Ali seems to have just brought clothes that he thought fit into the TEXPO story. The wedding clothes were embroidered samples that exporters could order. The knitwear and prints are all part of his brand, and most of them can be bought from his online store.
It wasn’t even close to the best Ali Xeeshan show I’ve ever seen. But because it had so much energy, it worked really well as the show’s end. Ali walked out with his show-stoppers, stylist Tariq Amin and director Adnan Qazi, carrying a blackboard that said “Pakistan Zindabad.” At the end of TEXPO2023, it was a great sight to see a designer and models wearing his collection, surrounded by gold and silver confetti, while holding up a chalk.
But at this point, can we also say “Fashion Zindabad” in Pakistan? I’m not really sure. Pakistan’s fashion world is led by some very talented designers, but there is also a large group of people who will probably never learn how to cut a neat pair of pants, sew a gown together, or understand how important neat finishing is.
When will they learn? Fashion isn’t dead, as I said at the beginning, but for how much longer?