Fashion DNA takes Pakistan to London Fashion Week

 21 Feb 2016 - 10:53

Fashion DNA takes Pakistan to London Fashion Week
An earlier collection by Pakistani designer Zaheer Abbas. Photo credit: Facebook

ISLAMABAD: Kamiar Rokni says he immediately thinks minimalist when designing with the West in mind. He will be adding five more pieces and showing this 15-piece ‘Diffusion Pret’ collection at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week next month. Four designers from Pakistan will be showcasing at the UK-based Fashion Scout during A/W 2016 London Fashion Week.

Four designers from Pakistan - Wardha Saleem, The House of Kamiar Rokni, Zaheer Abbas and Akif Ilyas - have been part of the Fashion DNA mentorship programme, initiated in Pakistan by the British Council.

The programme was brought in with the aim to train designers to position their brands globally and the designers have been part of the programme for the past six months, working with global mentors to sharpen skills such as sustainability and ethics, business and production, market positioning, creating brand identity and digital positioning while internationalizing their brand.

They will be showcasing capsules at Fashion Scout, which is one of the largest platforms for new designers at London Fashion Week and will reveal their full collections at the two major fashion weeks in Pakistan - the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (March) and Fashion Pakistan Week (April).

“This programme has helped us understand and incorporate the core business of fashion strategy,” said Wardha Saleem, who (for this collection) has adapted her signature ethnic aesthetic to Western silhouettes for a global market.

“It’s about taking the right product to the right market at the right time, with effective costing and an ability to produce and deliver. I am thankful to all our mentors and The British Council who have worked closely with us.”

“We plan to create brand awareness through this showcase,” Wardha added, “and also build relationships with potential buyers and experts.”

Wardha, who is the CEO of Fashion Pakistan Council, and has been showing at fashion weeks consistently, is the designer who can benefit most by this programme.

She already has a standalone boutique in Karachi, an online store and a growing business in Pakistan. This initiative will help build her brand according to global guidelines.

“I think this may be the right time and initiative to get us back into ready to wear,” exclaimed Kamiar Rokni, whose label has been producing exquisite couture but has refrained from getting into the ready to wear side of fashion.

“The experience has allowed us to flex design muscle,” he added. “It’s literally been like going back to school. We’ve had Skype sessions and two workshops in Lahore and it’s all been very collaborative.

The sessions have helped sharpen up our skills. You tend to forget these things when you’re running a business and this was a fun exercise to create something for a new market without the pressure of what will sell.

I immediately restrain myself (as a designer) when doing Western; I become a minimalist and it’s been great to tap into that.”

Wardha Saleem will be showing an Autumn/Winter 2016 line incorporating her signature ethnicity while adapting it to a Western silhouette.

The designers, it was mentioned, have been working with UK mentors including Ruby Hoette (MA Fashion, Goldsmiths College), Toby Meadows (Author of How to Set Up and Run a Fashion Label), Malcolm Newbery (Malcolm Newbery Consulting) and Rebekah Roy (Stylist).

“Fashion DNA Pakistan aims to bring together UK and Pakistani fashion industries to help grow and strengthen our understandings of each other’s different design cultures, while supporting the development of emerging designers,” Kendall Robbins, Fashion Programme Manager at The British Council (London) wrote on BFC’s official website. Taking some time out for Instep during her extremely busy (LFW) schedule and informing us on the selection criteria, Robbins added, “We had some specific criteria, such as in business (5-8 years), which was to ensure we had a group who would benefit the most from the mentorship at this stage in their business.

We were also looking for designers who celebrate their Pakistani heritage in their work but who were interested in exploring connections with the UK market while maintaining this. And of course, we needed designers who were willing to commit to the programme.”

One can see how all four designers fit the description and how helpful this programme can be in assisting the growth of their businesses. That said, one does hope that this exercise will have resonance and impact on the growth of the designers and the way they evolve as an industry.