It was a disastrous weekend for fashion. Two shows, each boasting international affiliation and a line-up of well-known designer participants professed to bring Pakistani fashion onto the global map. They may have managed to do so, but for all the wrong reasons.
Runway Pakistan, orchestrated by Creative Jacket, who bought the rights of the show from the well-known UAE-based Runway Dubai entourage, was supposed to take place for three days, from the 21st to the 23rd of January. It only managed to put forward a one-day event.
And Fashion District Week, a supposed continuation of Fashion District events around the world and touted to be ultimately aired on FTV, was a two-day event that didn’t take place at all.
Some designers backed out, others were left in the lurch, befuddled. Choreographers and models threw fits, refusing to work until they were paid. Rehearsals and fittings were delayed, there were power shutdowns and backstage was reportedly swarming with oglers having a field day.
Power shutdowns, gross mismanagement and security concerns ensured that this past weekend's fashion events never really took off
Amidst it all, the inevitable security threats floated in from extremist quarters sealing the events’ fates as absolute messes – royal ones.
It’s certainly not the treatment that present day Pakistani fashion deserves. The industry has grown beyond shoddy fashion shows to a profit-yielding business with regular fashion weeks, a lineage of experienced veterans and a bevy of young, talented newcomers. Yet, here was Pakistani fashion once again, served up as entertainment rather than business and even failing to deliver upon the former.
The show that never was: Fashion District Week
“It was a nightmare!” exclaims Imran Kureishi, FDW’s unfortunate show director. “We were backstage and the Toni & Guy team headed by Shammal Qureshi already had the models ready. They were dressed for the first three showcases; by designers Huma Adnan, Amir Adnan and Asifa and Nabeel. At 9.30 p.m., with the audience already seated, the organizers suddenly went outside and we were left to wait until they gave us the go-ahead. An hour later, the electric power at the venue, the Royal Palm Golf Club, was shut down. The power was eventually restored but the designers had, by this time, gotten cold feet. The teams sent in by Amir Adnan, Huma Adnan, Asifa and Nabeel and Maria B. left, one after the other.”
The designers that were left could only wait for the organizers’ go-ahead, which came several hours later. “The show couldn’t really begin at midnight, could it?” points out Islamabad-based designer Nasia Zafar Koreshi. “The event was then cancelled altogether.”
Unlike established names in the line-up who were invited in as ‘guests’ and didn’t have to pay participation fees, Nasia claims to have paid US$2500 to the organizers. “I don’t know if I will get my money back,” she admits. “I had been excited because FDW was going to be aired on FTV. Now I’ll think several times before becoming part of such a show.”
"Electric power at the venue, the Royal Palm Golf Club, was shut down," says Imran Kureishi, FDW’s unfortunate show director. "The power was eventually restored but the teams sent in by Amir Adnan, Huma Adnan, Asifa and Nabeel and Maria B. left, one after the other.”
What really happened at FDW? Journalist Zurain Imam, who was present at the event and was supposed to host it, observed that the organizers had not apparently paid certain excise duties and the authorities arrived to collect their dues at the eleventh hour.
“The show ended up getting delayed by several hours. I attended the event because I was curious about its affiliations with FTV but even at first glance I could tell that it wasn’t an upper-tier event. The crowd was lackluster, the runway was shoddy and there was extreme disorganization,” says Zurain.
Similar observations were made by other designers who were enlisted to be part of FDW but backed out at the last minute. “The event was cut down from two days to one due to some security threats but aside from this, the organizers very clearly didn’t know how to put out a show,” says designer Honey Waqar. “They didn’t provide model sizes or shoe sizes and they’d refuse to answer their phones when my team tried calling them.”
Designer Mehdi backed out of the event ahead of time because he felt it was ‘too shady’. The organizers were not available for comment, probably having slunk into the shadows until chatter abates.
Mehdi backed out when he felt that the event was ‘too shady’. “The organizers approached me some time ago and I agreed because, on paper, the event looked great. Three days prior to the show, my office reached out to the organizers and they had no clue about rehearsals, backstage passes and the models involved. I just decided that it wasn’t worth it.”
The organizers were not available for comment, probably having slunk into the shadows until chatter abates. “Things just aren’t done like this,” laments Imran Kureishi. “I ended up footing the bill for my return to Karachi, my hotel and my living expenses during the trip. Is this how you treat industry professionals? I have worked on shows around the world and never dealt with such utter disregard.”
Here today, gone tomorrow: Runway Pakistan
Similar horror stories followed Runway Pakistan, which concluded a day prior to FDW. The event, taking place at the Pearl Continental Hotel Lahore, got cut short from three days to one when security threats floated in. The rooftop of the Hotel was decked out and a suitably glamorous red carpet was rolled out. The first day’s line-up included interesting names like Ali Xeeshan and Fahad Hussayn. Backstage was another story.
“It was like a haphazard funfair where unknown people were roaming about just for fun,” recalls Asifa of Asifa and Nabeel. “We walked out within five minutes. Even earlier, we had had our doubts since the organizers didn’t confirm things with us till the very last day. Still, since we had committed, we decided to participate. But we simply couldn’t allow our brand to be represented on a platform like this.”
Runway Pakistan, which concluded a day prior to FDW, was also a disaster. The event was reduced to a one-day affair rather than a promised three-day shindig — models claimed to have been left unpaid, the choreographer refused to begin the show.
Asifa and Nabeel, incidentally, were in for a double whammy when a day later their collection festered backstage while Fashion District flailed. The Toni&Guy team, similarly, suffered through both events consecutively.
Syed Rizwanullah, having been flown in from Karachi for his showcase at Runway, was left marooned in Lahore. “On Day 1, the organizers told us at the very last minute to get the models ready,” he explains. “There was absolute panic. The choreographer, Hajira Ahmad, flown in from the UK, refused to begin the show since she had not been paid. The models threw up a fuss as well and it was only after they got paid that the show actually began. Toni&Guy were fabulous, managing to style the models within half an hour.”
“I was enlisted in the first day’s designer line-up but I like to have more time to prepare which is why I opted to reschedule for Day 2. The next morning I began preparing for my show even while I was unable to get through to backstage management. By afternoon, I knew something was wrong. Nobody was answering my phone. The models had left the hotel and from my hotel room window I could see people taking down the catwalk from the rooftop. Nobody bothered to tell me that the show wasn’t happening. I had no return air ticket for going back home, they hadn’t paid for my room and I had an entire collection that couldn’t be aired out on the runway.”
Model Nadia Hussain, who was also part of Runway, explains that the organizers just didn’t have the budget to proceed with the event.
Model Nadia Hussain, who was also part of Runway, explains that the organizers just didn’t have the budget to proceed with the event. “They had over-committed and didn’t have the finances to sustain the show. We took a stand and got paid for the first day but on the second day, when I got locked out of my hotel room because the organizers hadn’t paid for them, I chose to walk out. I paid for my own air-fare and left the event.”
Witnessing the fiasco was local media as well as a small international contingent; European, Russian and Egyptian models were flown in from abroad as were designers from India. “It all looked very promising. We never expected things to work out like this,” surmises Moiz Kazmi who was flown in from Karachi for backstage management.
Runway’s organizers have also become unreachable, barring a Facebook post from one individual who claims that designers will have their money returned to them if they spent on the event or paid to be included.
“It’s time fashion is taken more seriously rather than merely as a reason to leer at models or be entertained,” observes designer Maria B., who had backed out from being part of Fashion District.
However, shows like Runway and Fashion District persist. Fashion simply becomes a laughing-stock, ridiculing veteran names and dismissing the effort they have invested into the industry over the years.
Designers, be more discerning and stop working with just any show simply because you’re offered a freebie. One expects more respect for an industry that provides employment to a large workforce across the country and mints money for a wide range of entrepreneurs.