Uncompromised levels of detailing, traditional techniques reimagined through a contemporary lens and an undertone of fun come to define the current fashion scape of Pakistan. Even though traditional silhouettes of shararas, kurtas, and lehengas are the focus there are select few of designers who are creating a visual narrative that appeals to the discerning eye. Contemporary fashion in Pakistan is not just about merging the famous mirror-work with gara work, creating heavy bridal wear or just repeating stitching techniques but an overall craft revival of sorts. Be it Faraz Manan’s maximal applique work, Khadijah Shah’s floor-length jackets layered over suits or Zara Shahjahan’s dupattas that can also double as works of art, a good reason why Pakistan’s fashion scene has been gaining attention world over. Here is our edit of top 5 Pakistani fashion designers we think are acing their game, season after season.
Intricate embroideries, artisanal embellishments, and body-flattering silhouettes come to define ÉLAN’s fresh aesthetic. Even though rooted in tradition, this Pakistan based brand launched by Khadijah Shah is pushing boundaries and stands at the forefront of the modern design scape of the country. Shah inherited a passion for design from her mother Aneela who ran a small atelier before her daughter launched ÉLAN in 2006. From lightweight kaftans, draped saris, trenches to the traditional kurtas, Shah’s ability to experiment with the silhouette shines bright in whatever she creates. Recently fashion entrepreneur Pernia Qureshi opted for a pastel-hued, heavily embroidered kurta-lehenga set for her wedding. Shah, as an extension to her brand, launched ÉLAN Lawn, a collection of printed fabric in 2012.
Just when you thought minimalism is synonymous with taste, Faraz Manan’s creations speak out in all their glory. Think edgy cuts, detailing of thread work, delicate embellishments, and heavy applique work, Manan’s ability to tame drama makes him one of a kind. Launched in 2003, his eponymous label has not only garnered rave reviews in Pakistan but Bollywood has also embraced his creations. He counts Kareena Kapoor Khan among his fans. That’s not all, his ready-to-wear pieces spell class; tones of cream, pastels, and beige, sharply tailored kurtas paired with trousers make for a winning look.
What makes Maria B a force among Pakistani fashion designers is her expansive approach to fashion. She is not just about exquisite womenswear pieces. Maria B as a brand today retails out of 25 outlets in Pakistan and exports to India, UK, the USA, Bangladesh, UAE, and Qatar. Imagine beautifully stitched angrakhas paired with shararas, velvet kurtas and a range of pieces for all occasions wedding there is hardly a dearth of options when it comes to Maria B. She is one of the few Pakistani designers who also specializes in kidswear. Her game extends beyond fashion, she has released two popular perfumes as a part of her label.
In case you are on a lookout for authentic Gara embroidery pieces, Zara Shahjahan might have some answers. Known for her love for everything vintage, Shahjahan believes in wearing one’s history and culture. The same translates in her choice of silhouettes, a wide spectrum of embroideries and gotta patti work she employes and the colours she loops in. Soothing tones of pastels, rust, bronze, maroon, and beige define her pieces coupled with hand-stitched embellishments. Even though she dabbles into genres such as bridal and couture but her specialization is luxury pret. If you are on a lookout for a perfect cocktail sari, Shahjahan is is the one to approach.
A perfect dupatta can completely transform your look, one look at Nida Azwer’s dupattas in raw silk, featuring miniature paintings will completely lure you. Besides this, her experiments with the traditional Pakistani ‘Tanka’ work on fine organza and silk set Azwer apart. Her work is a fine blend of art and fashion; with long shirts, saris and shararas featuring architectural motifs, floral patterns and a wide range of geometric designs. Since the launch of her label in 2005, Azer’s focus has been the traditional crafts of Pakistan’s Sindh region.