Can Pakistani fashion designers make it big internationally?

Islamabad – Despite all the hype in the country, no big name in the Pakistani fashion scene has received recognition internationally. Why is that? Is it lack of experimentation or no PR at international level to showcase their work? What could be the reason of them not making big internationally, let’s find out!

In the 80’s, there was hardly any concept of brands. There were a few boutiques in major cities of Pakistan but none that were selling clothes. Towards late 90’s, a few brands sprouted on the national scene. People got an idea of how convenient it could be to walk into a shop and walk out with the clothes you want instead of taking them to a tailor and pleading him to return the suit well in time before an important occasion. These brands produced quality clothes and were also affordable to the middle class of the country so the idea clicked.

 Then “Sabun” Style Awards functions started giving these fashion designers more hype. The 1st generation of Pakistani fashion designers was glorified by the local publications in a way that they were portrayed as the “Giorgio Armani” and “Coco Chanel” of Pakistan. As a result, they captured the whole market. The progression stopped, creativity disappeared. The focus was diverted to parties; vacationing in Dubai or Thailand and selling more franchises across the country.

There is a new talent but these young fashion designers are not selling just because they don’t have any promotion. Majority of the large circulated publications only give space to those whom they know or who pays them. They are promoting their favourites in a way that their audience goes after the names, not the work!

They have made it seem like the more expensive an outfit it is, the better. However that is certainly not the case. To save money, big brands often end up using fabric which is not the best quality.

I discussed the issue of Pakistani fashion designers not gaining international recognition with two experts on fashion. A graduate of Pakistan Institute of Fashion & Design Shahroz Tariq and CEO of a PR Company for Fashion & Events maintains, “Our brands are looking forward to hashtag trends on Instagram instead of pressing hard for the international exposure.  Some of our leading designers have tried their luck abroad but haven’t got any recognition. Until our designers get international exposure, not much will happen”.

The tenders coming from International fashion events reach a ‘selected’ few. There is no open invite. “Favoritism” is the name of the game when you talk about fashion industry in Pakistan.

These big names with support of their friends in media have put buyers in a complex. We have people doing better stuff at a low price but not getting any recognition.”

A fashion consultant from the last 18 years and a post graduate in fashion designing from Middlesex University, UK, Rashid Hashmi says, “It’s not enough to create a good product, it’s equally important to launch and market the brand internationally as well. Technically, Pakistani stuff is good but the designs are not up to the mark.

Another reason is that none among the big Pakistani names is ready to break the barriers. They don’t experiment with cuts. Just take wedding dresses for example, they all remain traditional. At least, they can be presented in a different way. Less is more. It’s not important to fill the dress up with ‘salmasitarey’. There is clear lack of research and creativity.

Children’s wear also remains a neglected area. Firstly, it’s really expensive and not flexible. Kids wear should be more comfortable than what is being produced here. I am a part of Pakistan Fashion Week, London. In the last few years, we have taken it to Prague and Geneva too. This year it’s our 13th season. In PFW 13, we will present best emerging and established designers over two days in London.

 These designers will reach out to millions of Asians and non-Asians living in the UK and Europe as besides the independent buyers, stockists and fashion journalists would attend Pakistan Fashion Week, London.”

It is good to see an initiative of this magnitude being taken in Pakistan’s fashion scene, and I wish Adnan Ansari, Co-Founder/Creative Director of Pakistan Fashion Week, London and all his team are successful in taking Pakistan fashion designers to the global arena.

–The writer is a performing artist, motivational speaker and social activist. He could be followed at https://twitter.com/BasitSubhani

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