India and Pakistan share more than history. With the changing times, music and Bollywood have helped in unifying the two nations and now, with fashion weeks in India giving designers all over the world an opportunity to showcase their talent, boundaries have blurred further. Pakistani designers Sania Maskatiya, Faiza Samee, Rizwan Beyg and Zara Shahjahan, who are showcasing their collection for the first time on Indian soil, open up about the evolution of fashion in Pakistan, the influence of Bollywood, their inspirations and views on the current crop of Indian designers.
Name: Sania Maskatiya
Hails from: Karachi
‘Bollywood largely influences Pakistani fashion’
Sania Maskatiya started designing in 2007, and now owns a eponymous luxury prêt label. Having a degree in textile design from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi, she always knew fashion was her calling. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I knew I would end up working with fabrics and textiles,” she says.
These Japanese prints will be translated into garments for the show
An established name in Pakistan for her unique fashion sense, Maskatiya is excited about her debut at the Lakme Fashion Week. “The collection I will showcase is called Sakura, which means cherry blossom in Japanese. The designs are inspired by Japanese culture, landscapes and treasure chests.
An interesting mix of incuts, geometrics, embroidery and texture, we hope we have succeeded in creating exciting garments for the event,” she adds.
Given our love-hate relationship, designers from Pakistan are bound to generate curiosity. “We share similar languages and aesthetics. However, I think Pakistan is conservative when it comes to its dressing culture while India is far more westernised,” believes the young designer. Elaborating further on the fashion styles in her country, the designer informs that Bollywood, too, plays a huge role in influencing fashion in Pakistan. “Youngsters want to dress up like Kareena Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone. In fact, Bollywood-style lehenga cholis are very popular here,” she says.
So what does Maskatiya feel about the current crop of Indian fashion designers? “I love Masaba Gupta’s work. As I do a lot of prints as well, I feel that her designs are very spunky and are extremely eye-catching,” says the designer.
Name: Faiza Samee
Hails from: Karachi
‘My garments always have a regional connect’
Faiza Samee started designing in 1981, when there were hardly any takers for fashion studies in Pakistan, let alone a degree in the subject. Her knowledge stems from reading about old textiles and visiting museums that showcase collections from Burma, Middle-East and Turkey. So how did fashion designing happen, we ask. “It was during my brother’s wedding, for which I took on the responsibility of designing the wedding outfits for family members. While working on it, I realised that the embroidery styles of 15-20 years ago had got lost along the way and their place had been taken over by brocade and polyester. Also, there were a lot of craftsmen in Pakistan who had worked with pre-partition Indian rajas and maharajas and knew their craft well. I felt the need to revive this style as we were losing a part of our traditional embroidery patterns. It all started from there,” she recalls.
Faiza’s collection Cruise 2015, is a take on the culture of nations along the Silk Route
For a designer who has witnessed the evolution of fashion in Pakistan, the changing scenario is sure to evoke many emotions. “I believe that the nations along the Silk Route (Central Asia, China and Turkey) have a versatile culture since the beginning all trade happened here and we got access to people from various backgrounds. Hence, our traditional motifs are multi-faceted. We must use it to our strength,” elaborates Samee. This, she believes, is also the reason why all her garments have a regional connect. “We are one of the few nations who can offer something contemporary, yet, stick to our roots,” she adds.
Getting a chance to showcase her work at Lakme Fashion Week is a huge opportunity for her. “Lakme Fashion Week serves as a global platform and helps countries understand each others’ cultures better through their clothes. My collection titled Cruise 2015 is a take on classical techniques. We have used Central Asian weaves and rich Turkish motifs and fused them with silks and velvets in rich jewel tones,” says the designer.
Fashion diva Sonam Kapoor is her top choice when it comes to her wishlist of dressing Bollywood beauties. But what are her immediate future plans? “Oh! Hopefully get this collection in our store. After that I shall get busy with the wedding season in Karachi,” she concludes.
Name: Rizwan Beyg
Hails from: Karachi
‘Being stuck in traffic inspired my collection’
Some friends bring out the best in you. Something similar happened to Rizwan Beyg, an architecture-degree holder, when his friend challenged him to create a collection for her. “I used to call her pretty, but poorly-dressed,” he laughs at the memory. But now, he can only thank her, as he’s not looked back at architecture ever since. Not having studied fashion, he did take training in the draping and styling to make himself aesthetically sound.
In fact, his first break was when he designed for Lady Diana in 1996. “I was a close friend of Jemima Khan, Imran Khan’s wife, and she asked me to design something special for her guest,” he says. With the upcoming Lakme Fashion Week just a few days away, Beyg’s confident of his designs. “My collection is inspired from truck art. You can never say when inspiration strikes you. I went from being irritated of being stuck in a traffic jam behind an ‘arty’ truck to wondering how can I translate this funky art into garments,” says the designer.
Beyg’s collection will also provide a glimpse into the culture and heritage of the country he belongs to. “I am not interested in drawing cross-cultural references,” he explains. And although the designer thinks highly of his Indian counterparts, he feels some of them could be more inspired from their own heritage, rather than cater to the Western audience. “Most designers think only in terms of western silhouettes. This makes their work generic, in my opinion,” he adds.
The collection, which includes funky jackets and trousers, speaks volumes of the art on trucks on Pakistan
Beyg elaborates, by citing the time when he designed for Lady Diana and made a traditional achkan and salwar for her. “She wore it with great pride. The point I’m making is that in the quest of aping the west, we are losing our identity. We need to understand that the Little Black Dresss (LBD) has no importance in this part of the world. It is an imported idea,” adds the designer.
Name: Zara Shahjahan
Hails from: Lahore
The designer calls herself a true Lahori, and is quick to admit that the Pakistani fashion scenario is conservative. “Our modern wear is our traditional shalwar kameez. So in Pakistan, a woman wearing shalwar kameez is considered as fashionable as her counterparts in India who wear jeans and tees,” says Shahjahan.
So how experimental has she been with her collection for the LFW? “Vintage English designs have always inspired me and for my collection titled ‘City of Gardens’, I have fused Old Lahore and vintage floral prints,” explains the designer.
India has become a huge market for fashion designers and such fashion weeks do play an important role in giving opportunities to people all over the world to showcase what their part of the world has to offer. “I think the strength of Indian fashion lies in the fact that designers there have managed to showcase contemporary collections but with tradition at its core. My collection portrays traditonal Pakistani designs with high-end fashion sensibilities,” she says.
Zara’a collection fuses florals with the nostalgia of old Lahore
So which Indian actress fits the bill of a Zara Shahjahan model? “Well, I admire both Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi. I would have loved for them to wear my collection. From the younger generation, I think both Sonam Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra are very stylish,” she says.
Though LFW is an important event for her, the designer already has a packed schedule until March next year. “We
have Lifestyle Pakistan coming up, which will be held in Mumbai on August 31, after which we are participating in the L’Oréal Bridal Week in Lahore. The later half of the year is the wedding season and we finally showcase at Luxury Prêt Week in March next year,” she concludes.