On February 18th 2017, the Freemason Hall played host to six collections that presented an eclectic range of Pakistani fashion as part of London Fashion Week. The Fashion DNA Project, in collaboration with the Fashion Scout and London Fashion Week, showcased Maheen Khan, Sonya Battla, Hamza Bokhari of Jeem, Zuriya Dor and The PinkTree Company. Each went through several mentoring sessions in person and on Skype with Toby Meadows, Safia Minney, Sury Benegal and Carri during a period of six months. The aim was to produce collections that break boundaries and create a global appeal for Pakistani fashion.
Fashion DNA Pakistan
Fashion DNA is a designer mentorship for emerging Pakistani designers organised by The British Council. The programme takes the format of a year-long intensive training, including face to face sessions, online sessions, UK catwalk shows and showcasing, Pakistani catwalk shows and showcasing. In addition to mentoring, desingers will be invited to apply their new skills through the production of a ready-to-wear collection with a clear brand position with a capsule collection presented at UK-based Fashion Scout during AW17 London Fashion Week and the full collection at Fashion Pakistan Week in Karachi in April 2017.
Following an open call process, the designers were chosen by a panel of industry experts, including Martyn Roberts, Director of Fashion Scout; Rebekah Roy, Fashion Stylist and Ayesha Mustafa, Founder of ethical ecommerce site Fashion Compassion. Mentorship has been delivered by UK experts Toby Meadows, fashion business consultant and author of international best-selling book ‘How to set up and run a Fashion Label’; Carri Munden, Stylist, Creative Director and Founder of cult label Cassette Playa; Safia Minney MBE; Founder of People Tree and Sury Bagenal, designer and sustainable fashion design consultant.
Gulabo – ‘The Hippie Trail’
Gulabo was founded in Karachi in 2007 and has since become one of Pakistan’s most coveted and individual young brands. Gulabo’s signature graphic and technicolor prints, inspired by traditional Pakistani folk truck art, create their instantly recognisable design identity. The AW 2017 collection was inspired by the hippy movement of the sixties and seventies and those travelling through the mountain trails of Pakistan. Gulabo recycled their fabric cuttings were collected and given to local charities to make patchwork quilts.
Jeem – ‘Songs of my Nation’
Hamza Bokhari, the designer behind Jeem graduated from the Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design in 2012 and has since become known for using traditional artisan techniques complement by unique silhouettes, colours detailing. ‘Songs of my Nation’ caters to women who do not follow fashion but embody it, women who appreciate art and have an eye for skilfully crafted pieces and modern tailoring. All pieces by Jeem have been crafted with a minimum of 96 hours of hand embellishment and all the fabrics have been ethically sourced.
Munib Nawaz –‘Sci- Piritual’
Munib Nawaz is a critically acclaimed fashion designer, innovator and creative. Specialising in men’s formal wear, he is well known both as a creative and TV personality and dresses some of the most stylish and modern men in Pakistan. The idea behind the AW 2017 was to infuse science into design. Key to the collection is the fabrications and processes – a handmade slub cotton tailored into a bomber jacket or over dyed soft denim shirting. Stand out pieces include a hand-embroidered leather biker jacket and a tailored jacket constructed entirely from traditional ‘Rilli’ patchwork.
The Pink Tree Company – Jahan (world). A world within a world
The Pink Tree company is home to a definitive lifestyle and speaks to individuals who value quality and creativity. Starting with women’s fashion as its first product line, the brand caters to all wardrobe solutions from ready to wear to pret-a-couture. AW2017 is made up of emerald greens, peacock blues and sun-kissed oranges; silks and hand woven organza. Alongside delicate digitalised hand painted repeat prints, a gold metal thread embroidery technique called ‘Zardozi’ has been used to embellish these garments. Forever inspired by literature, hand-written calligraphy has been translated into romantic embroidery such as ‘Joon-Am’ which is Farsi for ‘Love of My Life’.
The PinkTree sent ‘Jahan’ down the Fashion Scout ’17 catwalk at the Freemason Hall to the unforgettable songs crooned by the iconic Nazia Hassan.
“Jahan” is a glimpse to that Pakistan.
The name Pakistan usually brings images of terrorism, conflicts, political turmoil and poverty. Seldom the country is associated with vibrancy of cultures, beauty, diversity, elegance, vivaciousness and richness of heritage.Told through bright, rich colors, “Jahan” is the story that brings our heritage and culture to the world outside.
If intricate embroidery in gold called “zardozi” and with silk thread speaks volumes of highly skilled artisans, then part use of hand woven silks and sheer organza narrates tales of passion and dedication. Liberal use of select motifs such flowers, grape bunches, pomegranate, Dragonfly, butterfly, fish – separately or/and enticed in vines — symbolize life, diversity and a desire to keep creating beauty.
And then sprinkling of words in Urdu reflect The PinkTree’s passion for literature, arts and of course, view towards humanity. Urdu being one of the most lyrical languages, the chosen words visually lend musicality towards the collection. Urdu calligraphy is one of the age old respected arts.
If these elements work as expressions, then silhouettes becomes the voices in this story of passion, love and desires. From straight, structured short dresses to long, flowing capes, billowing trousers to fitted skirts, and sheer tops, different forms are packed in the collection signifying coexistence.
Given the apparent Pakistani socio-political context, “Jahan” may seem escapist, dream – like, but it’s our reality or as Diana Vreeland explained about her New York flat: My Garden in Hell. The Pakistani designer brigade received a thunderous applause while Nazia Hassan’s lovely voice enveloped the historic venue.
Sonya Battla – ‘ Weave – Indigo Infusion’
Sonya Battla has become a mark of high-end fashion since she opened the doors to her boutique in 1999. Using and creating the highest quality fabrics, each collection claims a uniqueness of style, created by colour, innovation and experimental drape. Ethnic embroideries feature as details in the design whilst always keeping the silhouettes modern and free. Battla’s AW2017 collection was inspired by the Sufi shrines of Pakistan and the world of Sufism. Beach town, Karachi, also inspired the colour palette which includes beautiful blue tonal dyes and washes. Sonya’s collection used locally source and hand woven fabrics, including hand-women Ikat.
Zuria Dor – ‘Tropical Romanticism’
Zuria Dor is both ready-to-wear and made-to-measure. co-founded by two young female Pakistanis with backgrounds in product design engineering and aerospace engineering. Zuria Dor is their entrepreneurial debut to bring Pakistan’s fashion sector into the global village by focusing on innovation, international outreach, technology-backed commerce and ethics. The vision is simple; to build a brand that is based locally but is recognised globally. The AW 2017 collection, ‘Tropical Romanticism’, is inspired by tropical tranquil colours found in nature; calming visual effects start with subtle, elusive tones which gradually get darker throughout the collection finishing with teal and midnight blue dresses. Zuria Dor has a vision of reinvesting in the workforce by providing technical and English language classes, extending health insurance to families and organising subsidised education for the children of its staff members.