Fashion In Pakistan

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fashion; refers to the styles and customs prevalent at a given time. In its most common usage, "fashion" exemplifies the appearances of clothing, but the term encompasses more. Many fashions are popular in many cultures at any given time. Important is the idea that the course of design and fashion will change more rapidly than the culture as a whole. The terms "fashionable" and "unfashionable" were employed to describe whether someone or something fits in with the current or even not so current, popular mode of expression. The term "fashion" is frequently used in a positive sense, as a synonym for glamour, beauty and style. In this sense, fashions are a sort of communal art, through which a culture examines its notions of beauty and goodness. The term "fashion" is also sometimes used in a negative sense, as a synonym for fads and trends, and materialism. A number of cities are recognized as global fashion centers and are recognized for their fashion weeks, where designers exhibit their new clothing collections to audiences. These cities are Paris, Milan, New York, and London. Other cities, mainly Los Angeles, Berlin, Tokyo, Rome, Miami, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Madrid, Montreal, Mumbai, Vienna, Auckland, Moscow, New Delhi, San Juan, Stockholm, Turin and Dubai also hold fashion weeks and are better recognized every year.Dressed in a sharply tailored, slim-fit suit and even a narrower blunt-end tie, Simon P. Lock looks every bit the professional who is in tune with the latest fashion trends. Add the dark shades and he seems to have walked out of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. Tall and lean with a shaved head, he cuts a figure that screams serious business but he is in no ordinary business: Lock is the regional head of one of the world’s most prime fashion powerhouse IMG. Hence, being trendy is an inherent part of the package that oozes success and confidence.Lock’s career graph resembles Pakistan’s inflation curve — constantly on the rise. If he has ever slipped, than it has been while pursuing his love of skiing but as a level 3 ski instructor, those slips too have been few. In fact, Lock’s love for skiing saw him start a skiing business and then later a skiing school, both of which saw tremendous success. And it was precisely his deft manoeuvring skills that finally led him to a field far more dangerous and slippery than a skiing slope: fashion. Lock landed in Pakistan with a single point agenda: establishing.

Pakistan Fashion Week (PFW). “It was a great challenge to build a fashion week in Pakistan,” he says. The inherent PR skills take over and his tone becomes measured. “We began talking to both fashion councils (Pakistan Fashion Design Council and Fashion Pakistan). The industry was fractured initially. We stressed upon unity and dedication. We worked diligently with the players and witnessed some serious enthusiasm from the industry. We managed to establish a sense of unity and got corporation,” he explains. He hails the creation of the advisory board for PFW as a giant step that is necessary for a successful event. “It has representation from fashion councils, the media and the industry. I feel it’s a great start,” he says. But there must be something more about Pakistani fashion than a pool of talent that made him consider the prospects of a fashion week. “It’s a combination of many things. Pakistan has depth of talent in design, enough to sustain a fashion week,” he immediately replies. However, not satisfied with his answer, I repeat my question. This time details emerge. According to Lock, the west has shown certain level of interest in this region’s design. “Fashion is always looking for something new as it only survives on constant change. The world has started to understand colour, intricate fabrics and embellishments more. Pakistan has all of it and more to offer.”

This must sound like music to the ears of those who have always maintained that Pakistan must sell the world what it excels in: embellishment, textile and its unique colour palette.This brings us to the most important question: what will one get to see in PFW? Bridals? Especially since there are not many designers in Pakistan who can run merely on prêt-a-porter (ready to wear) lines. “Well, PFW is not anti-bridal because the bridal industry is the backbone of fashion in Pakistan and responsible for its growth. However, fashion weeks mainly showcase prêt collections. In PFW each collection will comprise at least 80 per cent of prêt, the rest is up to individual designers,” he declares.On the production side, IMG will import leading support professionals, especially production crews.

“Bringing international production professionals is very important for the growth of the event. With our expertise in organising fashion weeks, the local industry will also benefit as they will also be co-participants. From models to production crews, stylists to media and PR, a fashion week has a way of educating everyone involved,” he says.‘Fashion is always looking for something new as it only survives on constant change. The world has started to understand colour, intricate fabrics and embellishments more. Pakistan has all of it and more to offer,’ says the regional head of IMG, Simon P. Lock. PFW provides the local fashion industry and the country itself an opportunity to be a part of the global market place. In this aspect, Pakistani fashion has some good advantages: PFW will help to find new designers, and drawing upon IMG’s resources it can reach out to the world. PFW will be part of an impressive list including Milan, Berlin, New York and Sydney among others. This will provide opportunities to local stars to show in other fashion weeks. “Creating opportunities to network is our strength. This is how Marc Jacobs came to the attention of Bernard Arnault of Louis Vuitton conglomerate of luxury brands,” he claims.Pakistani designers will have to work hard to get noticed by international brands. They will have to learn the ropes of business of fashion. “Creativity, consistency and dedication are the necessary ingredients to becoming a success in the business of fashion. Designers have to be committed all the way. They cannot skip a year,” he warns. Given everything is followed to the tee, Lock gives a decade to Pakistani designers to make their mark on the international scene. However, even after 10 years of being a part of the global fashion circuit, Australian designers have not been able to achieve this kind of success. The chances then of an Indian or Pakistani heading a Parisian fashion house seem almost non-existent.“Image wise, Australian designers are not big enough like their European or American counterparts but in terms of exports they are big. In just decade (1996-2006) Australia’s fashion exports jumped from zero to approximately $200 million.” Lock gets a bit defensive. I press on. “Australian designers aren’t lacking anything. I think fashion is very Euro-centric. Bernard Arnault is only Paris. Almost all luxury and prêt houses started in Europe and conglomerates emerged. But things are changing,” he maintains.According to Lock, Asia Pacific is the new frontier of fashion. “We’re seeing it happen. Shanghai Tang is the best example of this emerging conglomerate culture. To support this revolution India, China and Pakistan are exploding with consumers and aesthete. And as they are becoming sophisticated, they are becoming more and more confident,” he adds.Lock maintains that creativity has no nationality or skin colour. You have to understand media and business fairly well. “Marc Jacobs has a persona. He is a star.

Fashion is entertainment. Along with creativity, you have to have a persona,” he says.It is almost blasphemous to liken fashion to entertainment. In Pakistan this controversial debate has been going on for ages. “It’s alright to treat fashion as entertainment as it has similar ingredients: beautiful models, glamour, red carpet, celebrities, corporate interests, business angle and others. It’s something people want to see and read about. It can catapult an unknown designer to dizzying heights of fame. Galliano is an example here,” he explains. I notice Lock’s reference points, too, are European.Back to Pakistan Fashion Week. IMG plans to market PFW to about 70 departmental stores and 350 exclusive boutiques around the world. Buyers from these retail places will be invited to Lahore this year. “There are consumers who want to look outside stores. Orders are smaller but their profile makes them highly exclusive, thus immensely influential. We want to keep building our portfolio so that we can go to stores and the media to offer diversity,” he reveals.IMG also intends to invite the international media to PFW. For New York Fashion Week, Lock has personally extended invitation to Hillary Alexander, The Independent’s revered fashion writer. “She is excited. She is coming with her photographer,” he discloses. My turn to show audacity. What about Suzie Menkes and Anna Wintour, American Vogue’s editor? “Oh! She and Anna haven’t come to Australia even after 13 years. Anna said to me: ‘I will come, Simon, when I have to come’. She meant that it’s not influential for American Vogue. It’s like the holy grail to me and it’s relevant to Pakistan, too,” Lock says.While PFW is hugely beneficial for the local industry for its growth, and absolutely imperative to transport it to the next level, it is also extremely advantageous for the country itself. At a time when Pakistan is suffering from a gigantic image problem because of a pseudo-democracy, human rights abuses, violence against women, reported links with terrorist organisations, rising Talibanisation and so forth, the country needs to project the creative, peaceful and progressive side to the world.“We are having difficulties in marketing PFW. Media outlets like CNN, BBC, New York Times, in short the international media, is always full of negative news coverage about Pakistan.


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