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International Fashion Showcase, Pakistan Chapter – London

Last month, The British Council and British Fashion Council collaborated for a second time on the International Fashion Showcase during London Fashion Week of February 2013, where 27 countries displayed the works of over a hundred burgeoning designers that best represent their respective country’s cultural and fashion ethos.
Making its debut at London’s International Fashion Showcase, Pakistan chose to be represented by four of its youngest and brightest: Moshin Ali, Akif Mahmood, Irfan Ali and Zonia Anwaar – each of whom was given one simple theme for their collections: to make Pakistan proud. And make Pakistan proud they did. With collections as colourful, elaborate and ethicized as one could possibly expect, each of the designer, it seemed, made a point to revisit their roots and pay homage thereon – and it worked perfectly.
The fashion event, organized by the Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design (PIFD), British Council and British Fashion Council, and held inside the environs of The High Commission for Pakistan in London left much to be desired, however. The invitation by H.E. Mr Wajid Shamsul Hasan and Begum Zarina Wajid Hasan (neither of whom showed up, mind you. They were apparently held up by the Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar who were visiting David Cameron the day before) and read 10am on a Wednesday morning, but when I reached the venue fifteen minutes late, I was surprised to find the day’s activities running about an hour and a half behind schedule. I was perhaps the third person, other than Akif, Mohsin, Irfan and the models, to get there. The models got their hair and makeup done on the third-floor staircase as the designers looked on, clearly tired from spending way too much time at the High Commission the previous day taking care of fittings and other last minute arrangements. With only a couple of members of staff doing rounds, and a few lost-looking guests who’d made the mistake of turning up on time for an event organized by Pakistanis, the whole thing had more of a family get-together feel to it than an international fashion showcase.
With a handful of important guests including the Deputy High Commissioner Syed Zulfiqar Gardezi, Sehyr Saigol and Julian Roberts of British Council in attendance, the shows finally kicked off around 11:30am, beginning with Zonia Anwaar’s collection of flowy shirts and dresses in a variety of earthy tones and fabrics, adorned beautifully with Kashmiri embroidery. Irfan Ali’s collection came next, hinting strongly at a fusion of Western and Eastern design that was both modern and ethnic – a perfect combo for the contemporary girl about town. Akif Mahmood showed an extension of his beautiful and very well-received Kalash collection while Mohsin Ali’s “Gul-e-Mun” collection, inspired in his own words by the boldly embroidered and sequined “razaaiyan” (duvets) from Hazara, closed the day.
The collections were displayed at the Pakistani High Commission until 22nd February, allowing buyers and retailers to closely examine the outfits and interact with the designers if they so desired. And even though the international media & buyer turnout this year wasn’t as impressive as one would have hoped, the International Fashion Showcase indeed shows some potential of evolving into an exciting new platform for capable Pakistani designers to showcase their fashion prowess to an international audience – if only the management will get its act together.

AKIF MAHMOOD:
“PIFD as a college is very responsible about their students. Today we’re here meeting with the British Fashion Council and it’s a great opportunity for all of us to be showcasing in front of people who organise such big events. I’m truly ecstatic to be one of the four designers chosen to showcase my collection in London. I feel really proud and happy that we’re representing Pakistani culture. Events like these can help change our image globally. We can let the world know that we’re actually good at arts and fashion design! Making a collection and traveling all the way to London to show it to a new audience is definitely very exciting. The collection I showed at the IFS is an extension of the collection that I’ve already shown. I redesigned my pieces to make them acceptable not only in London but the rest of the world also. It’s a global collection full of separates.
For some reason, we have a complex. We ourselves believe that we’re not good enough for the rest of the world. I say: Why? Why do we assume that we’re not good enough? Why can’t we do business on an international level as well? If we’re sure of our ideology, we can really do anything we set our minds to. Instead of trying to impress people by creating stuff that’s already being made in other parts of the world, we should focus on our strengths and show the world what we have. People don’t know what Pakistan is capable of.
Being in London is so inspiring. I’m especially inspired by places that have an influence of history, art and culture, and London’s the place where you find lots of multicultural people… and the buildings! You gotta love the buildings. They’re even more interesting for us because we’ve got the same architecture in Lahore as well. And then there’s so much fashion on the streets to help you get inspired also. In Pakistan, there are so many problems that we have to take care of that my mind just shuts down after a while and all my inspiration and creativity dies down… I feel like my mind can actually breathe here… I’m letting myself be inspired with an open mind!”
IRFAN ALI:
“I think the International Fashion Showcase is a great opportunity for emerging talent of Pakistan. It’s a good opportunity for us to promote Pakistan’s rich culture and fashion in London and ultimately the rest of the world as well.
I was very happy to be chosen as one of the four designers on merit to come to London. Unfortunately, things don’t work on merit in Pakistan, but it was nice to be chosen on merit by the British Fashion Council and PIFD. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself so far and think these events give a lot of exposure to designers like us. Pakistan has a very strong culture. In fact, it’s stronger than the Western culture. If we keep having these kinds of events, we will be able to show the world what we’re capable of. PFDC in Pakistan is an amazing platform for emerging talent… similarly; this could become a great opportunity for young Pakistani designers to showcase their work to the world. If you ask me, I think Pakistani fashion has definitely arrived! Everywhere you look- in magazines, TV channels etc., there’s Pakistani fashion. People are aware of us now. We have two fashion weeks in Pakistan and now we’ve made our way to London.”
MOHSIN ALI:
“It’s always nice to see a thing like this happen; it’s a way forward for young designers like us. There are a lot of amazing designers in Pakistan and being one of the chosen ones to represent Pakistani fashion in London is naturally a great feeling.
As far as this collection goes, I just love it! I have been wanting to create this collection for a long time but never really got a chance. When I got a call from them, I knew exactly what I’d show here! Of course there’s always room for improvement, but so far, I think this might actually be one of my personal best collection. It’s mature; to the point; well-edited, and yet it has everything that it should. I’m very happy with myself right now!
I always make it a point to go back home for inspiration. When I was a kid, I had a duvet that had those big red flowers on it. My collection is called “Gul-e-Mun” which literally means “my flower”. It’s like a flower that I’ve grown up with; it’s always been very close to my heart… and as a fashion designer, it’s amazing to be able to bring that flower to life. It’s almost like a dream come true.
We have a distinct colour palette and we use colour so differently from the rest of the world. A lot of people here take inspiration from us and use it in their designs, but they just can’t do it like us. If I talk about myself, I can strike the balance between East and West in a much more subtle, interesting way and I think that’s my strength as a designer which will set me apart.
I haven’t had a chance to see London yet and see a lot of fashion happening on the streets. It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to. One of the biggest reasons I was so happy to come to London was because I knew I’d get the opportunity to get inspired as well. The last time I was in Paris for 12 days, I went back home a different person! I want to take the time out and inspire myself in this beautiful city. You can say my next collection might be inspired by London in some way, but like I said, I can never forget my roots! “