The Guardian: Pakistan’s top fashion designers

Published in The Guardian, Friday 28 January 2011. Click here to read the original piece.

Islamabad’s first fashion week, IFW, kicked off yesterday, mixing couture shows with ready-to-wear collections in a bid to introduce Pakistani designers to the world. I asked Andleeb Rana Farhan, editor-in-chief of Pakistani fashion monthly Xpozé, for a run through of who’s who in the world of Pakistani fashion. Some of the designers will be appearing at IFW, some won’t – but all, says Farhan, are worth watching out for.

Nilofer Shahid

Nilofer Shahid’s collection, Meeras, has dressed Madonna, Jemima Khan, numerous Saudi princesses and even Princess Diana, and she will be showcasing her latest designs at IFW. “Each of her collections sum up royalty from the bygone sub-continental era. When I look at her pieces, I think of romantic princesses, Mughal architecture and poetry,” says Farhan, who has her fashion editor’s eye on Shahid’s jewel-toned velvet opera coats.

Sadaf Malaterre

Karachi-based Malaterre has brought a little bit of Parisian chic with her to Pakistan (she lived in Paris for years). Her designs are bright, slightly boho (think harem-pant jumpsuits) and never conventional in the Pakistani sense (no embroidery, ever). Apparently she’s also a bit of a character, too – all the more reason to expect her to make waves. “This lady knows how to cut a dress,” says Farhan. “Nobody in Pakistan does luxury ready-to-wear better than she does.”

Ammar Belal

Married to one of Pakistan’s supermodels, Amna Haq, Ammar Belal is the new kid on the block appearing at IFW this year. “His clothes are not for faint-hearted women” says Farhan – which is possibly why Sex and the City stylist Patricia Field went for them. Farhan says Belal’s clothes are “punky and theatrical” and a bit crazy sometimes, such as the jacket he created in homage to Michael Jackson.

House of Kamiar Rokni

This label, run by design duo and cousins Kamiar Rokni and Tia Noon, was at Paris fashion week last year and will be at IFW this year – not bad, considering it’s only been around for a few years. HKR loves playing with traditional Pakistani finishes and fabrics and combining them with western cuts. “It’s desi-chic”, explains Farhan (“desi” meaning “native” in Urdu). Their spring/summer collection for this year is called Folkistan, and is full of kitsch, folksy embroidery.

Faiza Samee

Regal, elegant, traditional with a fun twist – that’s Faiza Samee. Her clothes are exquisite. “She just simply never disappoints,” sighs Farhan, who is lusting over Samee’s patchwork Afghan tunics. Samee’s pieces have been shown at the V&A museum, and she also designed Benazir Bhutto’s wedding dress.

HSY

One of the best-known Pakistani designers, both inside Pakistan and out, HSY Studio by Hassan Sheheryar Yasin is haute, haute, haute couture and already very renowned for bridalwear. Farhan says, “He’s a total success story and it’s always a delight to watch HSY on the ramp. Always very well thought-out, with sleek choreography.”

Sana Safinaz

Sana and Safinaz are best friends and sisters-in-law, and are behind one of the most sought-after brands at the moment. At a recent bridal exhibition, ambulances had to be called in because fights between well-heeled ladies broke out over the Sana Safinaz collection, according to Farhan. “We’re talking cat fights!” she says. Still, a look at the clothes sort of explains why. Simply stunning.

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