PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week is not just generating business, it’s pushing the envelope, breaking barriers and creating a new culture in its wake
By Moayyed Jafri (with additional information by Rubia Moghees)
PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week 2013 was a whirlwind three days of fashion and society as everyone sprung to life and gathered under one roof. Much has been written about the nitty gritty: which collections shone brighter than others, who wore what, who sat in the front row and who was relegated to the back. But the fashion week exercise is so much more than that. While armchair analysts not connected to the fashion industry still comment on it being flaky and facetious, the fact is that they are not a part of the industry that works so hard to bring it all together. There is the business of fashion and then there is the socio-cultural aspect of it. As fashion weeks gain momentum in an increasingly media driven world, the most important function of the press is to pull fashion and its surrounding scene from the subject of social soirees in enclosed spaces into the public eye. When you look at the bigger picture, this is exactly what Pakistan needs at the moment, along with Coke Studio and Pakistan Idol. And this year PFDC outdid themselves with the calls they made from the get go.
The perfect venue
It was a heady three days for fashion with beautiful clothes and beautiful people in a beautiful city in a hotel that’s just been reclaimed from the dusty archives of history and restored to its former glory. Faletti’s was the chosen venue for PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week (PLBW) 2013 and it struck all the right notes bringing class, luxury and lending its timeless chic to the event. As one checked out the gorgeously resplendent crowd that turned up day after day, one could not help but feel the aura of the Faletti’s legacy. It was in the air, whispered by those centuries old trees with a million stories to tell.
Stories of the breathtakingly beautiful Ava Gardner when she strolled under them while she stayed at Faletti’s for over three months shooting Bhawani Junction in 1955. Far from the madding crowd, looking at the rush for the red carpet (or rather L’Oreal’s black) from a distance, the trees at Faletti’s hummed away nostalgic about the times Stewart Granger dined at this hotel. Others struck closer to home reminiscing Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a young lawyer when he read under one of them on a vacant Tuesday evening; he had come to Lahore to argue the appeal of Ghazi Ilm-ud-Din Shaheed before the Lahore High Court in July 1929. Some trees inclined to the West telling tales of the grandeur of The Godfather himself, Marlon Brando, when he stayed at Faletti’s. They whispered the romance weaved by George Cukor that inspired his classic 1936 Romeo & Juliet and the creativity that filled the atmosphere when he chose Faletti’s as his destination on his visit to Pakistan. And in hushed tones whisper who the revolutionary yet debonair Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto met within the 363,000 square foot vast book of secrets that this colonial white structure hold within its ancient bricks and mortar.
Over the years the grandeur of Faletti’s faded but now it’s back with a bang as the hotel is refurbished and the memories revived as the rooms these icons stayed in are now marked with their names. The “Ava Gardner Suite”, “Jinnah Suite”, “Marlon Brando Suite” are a reminder of the spirit in which Pakistan was created and what it once was. Hats off to the PFDC for bringing the spotlight back on the hotel and for creating a swinging scene in a void left by the sands of time.
The perfect scene
There is an importance to fashion. It’s an endless conversation of aesthetics through style statements and this time round PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week was stronger than ever with a contingent of the best of Karachi designers showing alongside Lahore’s finest. HSY began the show with a bang and set the mood for everyone else to follow. Elan enthralled, Sana Safinaz captivated, rising stars like Misha Lakhani and Ali Xeeshan shone brighter and Kamiar Rokni stole the show right at the very end. All clothes, hair and make-up – ‘what absolute facetiousness’ is what one may think – but there was a lot that the PFDC is doing right.
For example on the final day when the Libas anniversary cake was cut by Sehyr Saigol and Safinaz Muneer, it was such a statement of city solidarity. A sense of let’s put aside differences and get on with the show. Behind the scenes, HSY is putting in as much effort into the shows of Karachi and Lahore designers as he is into his own. The Bindras here from India representing their PFDC The Boulevard fell in love with Nomi Ansari’s collection and he’s reaping the benefit of it being a Karachi designer. When the ball of fashion starts rolling, it’s one big ball and the PFDC fashion week scene is well on the way to realizing that. And one thing I learned by attending PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week, fashion is about so much more than the show, it’s about the current that underlies everything.
All about Eve
At a time when Malala was making headlines around the world with her Nobel nomination and the euphoria it induced (in the educated, at least) one couldn’t help but notice the importance of women in the fashion industry. Sehyr Saigol, Safinaz Muneer, Frieha Altaf, Musharraf Hai who was absent but there in spirit – the fashion industry is a scene that is woman centric. One can see strong iconic women everywhere and even the men who are in the industry appreciate them.
It was interesting to see HSY’s show that was inspired by the women he considers his muses and who all became showstoppers for him. Film star and mover and shaker in her own right in the Lahore scene Reema, Pakistan’s first supermodel who changed the game Vaneeza Ahmed and Lahore’s reigning top model Mehreen Syed were resplendent in his bridal finery. None of them are blushing bride material and that is their beauty.
“In our country maybe more than any other, women play the most important roles, under the most challenging circumstances and all that too thanklessly majority of the times”, said HSY, as he explained his choices. “I am who I am because of the women who raised me, who guided me professionally and those who stood by me at times when no one else did and there are many; as a society we must now pay our debt of acknowledgement.”
HSY was of the opinion that it’s high time Pakistan as a nation celebrates its women with an opulence that cleanses out the inherently chauvinistic nativity. Fashion week is a vehicle tailor-made for that purpose and with every follower it creates an open-mindedness towards the second sex, or rather, the fairer sex.
As Juggan Kazim, looking like a gazillion dollars in a red Kamiar Rokni outfit, pointed out, “The fashion industry is maybe the only industry in Pakistan that most robustly owns and promotes women from event to business management and celebrates their beauty and brilliance. With every fashion week that is held, our marginalizing social attitude is slowly but surely transforming.”
It’s very easy to scoff from the sidelines as many are wont to do, but to breathe in the rarefied air and look at what’s happening all around is ample evidence that the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.
People of influence cheer PLBW on
Noticeable in the audience was the wife of the late Governor Salmaan Taseer, the gorgeous Aamna Taseer with her son Shahbaz still missing is a prime example of grace under pressure. She acknowledged that thanks to such audacious initiatives at such a high level, our society is fighting hard to exhale the grime of female subjugation. “We as a society have turned the corner and I believe there is no reason to look back but only to take it to a level where it renders gender biases socially unacceptable.” She looks at the fashion week phenomenon as an extension of the signs of the time and is proud to attend them since many designers who are showing are among some of her close friends and she has a newspaper that covers it all. “It’s just what Malala has tried advocating to the whole world – that with education and exposure there is no reason why our women can’t compete with anyone in the world, and this fashion week is doing exactly that,” she tells Instep.
Also present at the PLBW former Finance Minister and economist Salman Shah who was there to support his daughter Khadijah Shah of Elan. “Our women are talented and competitive in all fields of life. Forcing a society to work without them is like trying to fight the battles of this global economy with one arm paralyzed”, said Salman Shah. “Events like this PFDC Bridal Week at such magnitude provide a massive platform for our own women to shine and are playing a significant role in revitalizing this essentially central element of our social build.”
It’s worth mentioning here that Khadijah Shah is carrying on from where her mother Aneela left off who was making bridals for years. These are not women who had to work, Salman Shah could easily have supported them. Nor does Sehyr Saigol have to do what she does, she just chooses to do it.
“The very fact that this fashion week is happening is an achievement as it challenges a mindset which believes in confinement of the female gender to its underutilized worst,” believes the Chairperson of the PFDC Executive Committee and the overseer of the label Libas and a patron of the PIFD, Sehyr Saigol. “We have come so far in such a small period of time, that PFDC has encouraged young vibrant and talented women like Deena Rehman and Misha Lakhani to express their creativity at a platform of such magnitude. “This is the most practical way of empowering women in mainstream. And we’ve come such a long way. It was totally thorny to get a single prêt show going when we started and now we have designers waiting in line to use this platform as they have understood the institutionalization of the fashion phenomenon.”
Again her comments came back to the girl who is right now the most prominent Pakistani in the world and the talk of whom was obviously making waves amongst the jet set. Sehyr Saigol cited Malala Yousufzai as “a testament to what Pakistani females are made of and what they can inspire not just locally but globally if given due acknowledgment and platform.”
Who says everything isn’t connected? The progressive liberals are rooting for young Malala even as they go about trying to create a scene worthy of the attention of global fashion in Pakistan.
The business of fashion
The PFDC has come a long way from their first fashion week held at Royal Palm so many years ago and as they go along the road, there is still a lot to be done. A chat with the business minded CEO of PFDC proves that.
“We have a couple of buyers from the US and a standalone store opening in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles is very much on the cards,” shares Saad Ali. “PFDC’s main aim is to bring in more buyers and the stockists will come on their own. Gulzeb Asif has come from the Middle East for a multibrand store. TDAP representing the Bangladesh office are setting up reciprocal formula with the designers. This give us a platform there and the next step is going to be the PFDC presence in Bangladesh to open up new opportunities. When initiatives like this materialize, only then will these platforms and fashion weeks start making sense.”
Saad Ali, husband of Maheen Kardar Ali and CEO of Karma is notoriously all-business in his managerial role for the PFDC, looking at the bigger picture rather than what is happening on the ground. For that there is PFDC spokesperson, the charming Sara Shahid of Sublime who defined the PFDC’s evolution thus. “This time we have many corporate partners. There’s a discipline and a team of people are striving hard to create professionalism and discipline. We have come to this day with three years of continuous holding of the bridal week. PLBW has introduced new talent, newness in terms of hair makeup, models and logistics. Our industry needs good talent so this is crucial. People look forward to PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week and we have a long waiting list that is cropped and chopped to finish in the final list of the participants. The idea is to provide an equal platform for the established and the debutantes.”
A chat with the Bindras shows the direction in which bridal week will be headed. The very conventional Mini Bindra from the PFDC Boulevard in Delhi cited HSY, Nomi Ansari, Elan and Asifa and Nabeel. Will she buy the collections? “We do not buy heavy bridals,” said Bindra. “They are pricey and we only concentrate on the formals and luxury prêt but we do invite bridal designers to India , hold an exhibition and the designer can meet up with the customers and form his/her clientele. It is then a one-on one relation between the designer and the client.”
PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week 2013 is obviously a show that will go on long after the dust has settled at Faletti’s.
The historical Faletti’s of Lahore rang loud with the busy buzz of PLBW that thrust it back into its rightful place… the spotlight… after years.