Exceptional detailing, traditional techniques reimagined through a contemporary lens, and an undertone of fun, are defining the current fashionscape of Pakistan. Even though traditional silhouettes — shararas, kurtas, and lehengas — are the focus, there are a select few designers who are creating a visual narrative that will appeal to the discerning eye. Here’s our edit of five Pakistani fashion designers who are acing their game, season after season.
Pakistan’s fashion scene has been gaining attention the world over. Contemporary fashion in the neighbouring country is no longer about merging the famous mirror-work with gara work, or creating heavy bridalwear or stitching techniques — it’s a 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 are akin to works of art, there’s good reason why Pakistani designers are commanding attention.
These are the top 5 Pakistani fashion designers who have our vote
Intricate embroideries, artisanal embellishments, and body-flattering silhouettes define ÉLAN’s fresh aesthetic. Even though rooted in tradition, designer Khadijah Shah is pushing boundaries and stands at the forefront of the country’s modern designscape. Shah inherited a passion for design from her mother Aneela, who ran a small atelier, and launched ÉLAN in 2006. From lightweight kaftans, draped saris, trenches to traditional kurtas, Shah’s ability to experiment with the silhouette shines bright in whatever she creates. In the past, fashion entrepreneur Pernia Qureshi has opted for ÉLAN’s heavily embroidered pastel kurta-lehenga set for her wedding. Further popularity proof: The brand’s 1.2 million Instagram following.
Just when you thought minimalism was synonymous with style, Faraz Manan’s creations come along. Think edgy cuts, intricate thread-work, delicate embellishments, and heavy applique work — Manan’s ability to tame drama makes him one of a kind. Launched in 2003, this eponymous label has not only garnered rave reviews in Pakistan but has also been embraced by Bollywood. While Rahul Khanna features in the brand’s latest campaign, Kareena Kapoor Khan is a patron. That’s not all — Manan’s ready-to-wear pieces spell class. Pick sharply tailored kurtas and trousers in tones of cream, pastels, and beige.
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What makes Maria B a force among Pakistani fashion designers is her expansive approach. She is not just about exquisite womenswear pieces but specialises in kidswear as well and has released two popular perfumes as a part of her label. Her work includes beautifully stitched angrakhas paired with shararas, velvet kurtas ,and a range of pieces for special occasions. Maria B as a brand today retails out of 25 outlets in Pakistan and exports to India, UK, the USA, Bangladesh, UAE, and Qatar.
If you are on the lookout for authentic Gara embroidery, Zara Shahjahan is the brand to turn to. Known for her love for everything vintage, Shahjahan believes in wearing one’s history and culture, and so in her work you will see a spectrum of traditional embroideries and gota-patti work. Soothing tones of pastels, rust, bronze, maroon, and beige define her pieces, and even though she dabbles in genres such as bridal and couture, her specialisation is luxury pret. If you are on the lookout for a perfect cocktail sari, Shahjahan is the one to approach.
A perfect dupatta can completely transform your look, and one look at Nida Azwer’s dupattas in raw silk, featuring miniature paintings, will seal the deal for 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, Azwer’s focus has been the traditional crafts of Pakistan’s Sindh region.