My Instep Article: Islamabad’s Fashion Year

   My article about Islamabad’s Fashion Scenario was published in Instep Today, The News on 29, Dec 2011.  Here’s the article:


     It may be Pakistan’s capital, but Islamabad has little to boast as far as fashion activity goes, 2011 saw some major changes.

Usama Hamayun


   “15 miles outside Pakistan” is the expression often used to describe the capital city of Islamabad, which has always been channeled as the symbol of a thriving and modern Pakistan, the only administratively planned city of the country. But while Islamabad might be the epitome of administrative and organizational brilliance, the centres of activity and happenings, the social capitals of Pakistan are Lahore and Karachi.

The two bigwigs might be at heads against each other on the issues of fashion councils and compete as to which of the two stands out as the ultimate entertainment hub of Pakistan but yet are more congruous in principle when it comes to fashion activities and social bustle. Barring USA, from Paris and London to Delhi and Tokyo, the capitals are the respective centres of culture and entertainment of their countries, the very quality that Islamabad is bereft of.

Fashion activities are either nonexistent or limited to diplomatic and bureaucratic circles. While the rest of the sane world has accepted the global implication of fashion as a business, here the innate comprehension of fashion as being elitist still prevails.

Designer wear has a very limited availability; the only outlets stocking the reputed designers are based in posh bungalows of non-commercial areas that are isolated from commercial venues. In turn people have turned to retail ventures like Generation, Crossroads, Levi’s and Outfitters. The youth of the twin cities throng retail outlets to find the best quality Western wear in town, while for Eastern wear, tailors retail prêt are the ultimate option. Junaid Jamshed in particular has been a major beneficiary of the whole situation. His four outlets in Rawalpindi and Islamabad are rather popular. Men’s kurtas and sherwanis are his hottest selling items. JJ is consuming the market to its full capacity through effective marketing and utilization of the brand value attached to his name. His peculiar aesthetics and design is what one associates with an established mainstream designer and this exactly what makes his brand the phenomenon that it is among people of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. JJ doesn’t only provide a unique and stylish take on their popular Eastern menswear items but the brand is also catching up in the women wear department and has established a sizeable clientele in that market too.

While there is no match for an original bridal couture piece, one can find an acceptable alternative to a Nomi Ansari or HSY evening wear dress at any of the numerous boutiques in Jinnah Super. The dearth of available designer wear has fueled their sales, thanks to conceptual plagiarism and copycats, their creations are no less than a Karma creation in any aspect. In the midst of this fashion piracy, there are only two designers, Amir Adnan and Maria B, who have not only created a niche market for themselves but thanks to their commercially viable locations are leading from the front.

Naturally bridals are the primary market for both. Offering everything from affordable casual wear to relatively expensive party and evening wear, Maria B’s client base is vast ranging from Islamabad, Rawalpindi to as far as Gujjar Khan and Kashmir. Still for custom bridals, clients are always referred to the head office in Lahore.

On the other hand Amir Adnan is a status symbol when it comes to groomswear market in Islamabad. His Islamabad flagship store is one of the pioneer stores of menswear in Islamabad. However it is notable that both opened their flagship stores over 10-20 years ago and the credibility that they enjoy today has been earned over a significant period of time. Both designers plan to expand their brands in Islamabad through franchising in the near future.

Islamabad Fashion Week: 

Islamabad Fashion Week has been undoubtedly the biggest fashion event in the history of Islamabad fashion. Held earlier this year, the event was the first of its kind for this fashion activity devoid city. To summarize it, the event had celebrity stylist Tariq Amin at the helm of affairs, the man known for his intractable ways and his indomitable nature. However, his invaluable experience and three decade long involvement in fashion is undeniable, not to forget his styling prowess.

The event was circularized as a platform for Pakistani prêt. While the event was viewed by seasoned fashionistas of Lahore and Karachi as another contrivance to feed vested interests and gain favours in this uber-political fashion industry of ours, IFW managed to rope in established names such as Kamiar Rokhni, Ammar Belal, Rehana Saigol and Nilofer Shahid to add to a plethora of lesser known fashion designers and retail giants such as Lawrencepur and Bareeze. Three prêt shows in daytime were followed by a couture show each night.

Although Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design and Karachi School of Textile and Fashion are more reputable and widely known fashion schools of the country, IFW invited students from otherwise marginalized Iqra University and Gujranwala School of Fashion Technology to bring in the student perspective into fashion week. IFW turned out to be quite a success with the event generating a lot of buzz on national and international level. The response could be judged by the fact that the organizers plan to return next year to Islamabad with a second season of IFW.

While the event was very beneficial for the Islamabad fashion scene another perspective suggests that it ultimately results in further segregation of Pakistan’s fashion industry with the council politics involved and might be a bit too much to digest for a small industry that already hosts at least two fashion weeks per year. However looking at the brighter side, the event provides much needed dose of fashion to the city and stirs and shakes an otherwise stolid and monotonous city.


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