Fashion Week for dummies – Part 1

Some takeaway points from a first-timer

By Alice Peter-Bhagtaney

KARACHI: As expected, Fashion Week Pakistan 2018 is full of glitz and glamour. And as expected, I stand out like a sore thumb. Not because I don’t know anything about fashion. In fact, I like to think I’m pretty fashionable in a not-so-obvious way. But at FPW, you even have to be underdressed in style. I am underdressed not in style … or in the style of someone rushing there straight from a full day of work.

I make my way through Pearl Continental’s doors – doors that I’ve been in and out of many times in the past – and suddenly become conscious about how I look, in a way like never before. “WTF,” I mutter under my breath.

Even my Bareeze shalwar kamiz doesn’t cut it for what is arguably one of the most exclusive events of Pakistan’s fashion world. Attendees, ranging from all A-list models, television and film actors, designers, and photographers have shown up wearing exorbitant silk and satin. “Deep breaths,” I tell myself. “You are just a journalist here for a task.”

But even the voices in my head aren’t successful in overcoming the panic that has consumed me. Nevertheless, I keep my head up and walk into the marquee.

Inside, the red carpet is empty. But the photo booth is overflowing with people. Not surprised.

While I wait for celebrities to walk the red carpet, I loiter around. During the course of this aimless wandering, I try eavesdropping for some ‘overheard’ tweets. But no one is saying anything interesting enough.

Somehow, I find myself backstage. Now, this is a whole different world. The composure and confidence everyone was beaming with outside is running berserk in this space. The larger-than-life outfits that are to be worn and displayed on the ramp shortly are all lying here looking lifeless. But the people who are going to wear them appear livelier than they do onscreen or on the ramp. In this ‘restricted’ backstage area, these celebrities are human. They are regular people having bad hair days or are seemingly unhappy with their makeup.

I take my phone out and start asking around for interviews and shout outs. Everyone is really nice and agreeing without hesitation. Once I’m through, I feel a surge of confidence — like I knew what I was doing and everything this whole time.

Next on the agenda is covering the actual show and not just everybody’s showsha. I take a seat in the third row, which isn’t a good view now that I think about it. But I am happy to be here.

What is unfolding before my eyes is giving me major flashbacks from the Bollywood film Fashion. The front row seats are reserved for the baaps of the industry. And the third row is reserved for the likes of me.

Anyhow, FPW’18 kick starts with the country’s national anthem. Following which begins the collection showcases of Gulabo by Maheen Khan, FnkAsia by Huma Adnan, Gogi by Hasan Riaz, Yasmeen Jiwa and The Pink Tree Company. These displays are pretty regular and are no different than the ones Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut were seen doing in the movie. Not in terms of the clothes, obviously the clothes are different, but the vibe is similar. Models come marching out, staring into nothingness, and after they give that death stare they walk back in.

For me, the highlight of this whole experience is watching Cheena Chhapra’s spring/summer collection featuring ‘real women’. This is a moment no fashion film had ever prepped me for. The music goes from twisted trance to unapologetically cheerful. A folk Punjabi song is played and out come these stunning and graceful women who break into dance moves on the ramp. Their clothes, heavily embroidered and super traditional, are so vibrant they make everything and everyone look happy. The lineup makes everything look real to me too, and naturally I straighten my hunched shoulders and totally start feeling my ‘ordinary’ shalwar kameez.

Another standout collection is by Amir Adnan. It starts with a roundup of hearing-impaired models. Prior to them walking out on the ramp, the management announces the protocol to be followed: no applause or hooting but rather gesturing in sign language to express appreciation. So when a set of good looking men make it on the ramp, it is quite something to witness the audience wave their hands in the air. What a moment.

Although I’d expected to be sick by the end, how I’m feeling right now is on the contrary. I step out of my first FPW show feeling high-spirited. I was put out of my comfort zone and I had survived. And for that, I deserve a pat on the back if I may say so myself.

Here are a few pointers for first-timers at fashion week:

1) Google is your best friend (you know, when you see a famous person but can’t remember their name)

2) Listen carefully to all instructions

3) Talk to people around you, they don’t bite

4) Don’t hesitate in asking questions, no matter how dumb you may sound

5) Embrace the fact that you know very little

6) Look for handbooks and info around you as far as the lineups are concerned

7) Most importantly, have fun and get the job done

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