The runway might have boarded up but Pakistan’s top models are all set to recreate the catwalk experience in their kitchens, gardens and living rooms for an evening to remember: Pakistan’s first (virtual) fashion show.
Former model and CEO of Catwalk Events, Frieha Altaf, has come up with a plan that may take the country’s fashion industry in a new direction. After London and Shanghai Fashion Week opted to go digital, Altaf, who is known for organising glamorous events such as Sunsilk PFDC fashion week and Lux Style Awards, is bringing the concept home and planning a virtual fashion week with the latest collection for Eid-ul-Fitr.
With Pakistan’s 20 ace designers, the show ‘Catwalk Cares’ will be showcasing about two to three outfits from each designer. The show will merge womenswear and menswear, following a recent trend for mixed shows from heavy-hitting brands including Burberry, Gucci and Jacquemus.
“Every designer will send three outfits to a model of their choice by TCS and then I will step in to give instructions with a pre-recorded video,” said Altaf while talking to SAMAA Digital.
She explained that in the video she will ask the models to find a less cluttered area at home and turn it into a runway. A separate video will be sent with details about the camera setting, angles and lights.
“I have already made a video on how to turn your corridor into a catwalk runway,” Altaf shared.
The models will be able to style themselves with the help of makeup guru Nabila, who will guide them via a Zoom call.
Makeup guru Nabila said that Altaf approached her with the idea and said that it was time to reinvent the fashion industry.
“Right now the idea is not about to making money but to help people and spread positivity,” she said talking to SAMAA Digital.
According to Nabila, she had spent her time in lockdown learning how to work through the digital medium.
“I am learning how to deal with technology. I am doing live videos to teach people how to cut and colour their hair at home,” she said. “Even Frieha called me up one day to help with her fringe.”
Before a fashion show, Nabila shared that she brainstorms with her daughter-in-law Sarah Shah about the designers’ lineup and inspiration before creating looks for the models.
I don’t think that working from home will be a problem, she said, adding that she had made a video on how to colour your own hair with a simple conditioner mixed with beetroot and coffee.
“We are looking forward to trends that can be pushed and be easily done at home,” she said. “If a designer wants a simple look, all you need is a black rubber band, a comb, some hair spray and a net. If you don’t have all of this stuff, we will send it to them through TCS.”
Nabila added that she will be sending out her zero makeup palette as well. “The palette is so convenient…you can create show stopper looks with your fingers,” she said, adding that she will make sketches to show models how to achieve the look.
“After finishing the look, the models can then ask their family members to make a video of them and send it to us,” explained Altaf.
The next step will be getting a video of the designers explaining their collection.
After this is done, Altaf’s team will merge all the videos together and add animations to bring the runway show together.
As for the fashion show, Altaf told SAMAA Digital that she had tried to get the best designers on-board. She shared that so far she had confirmation from Sania Maskatiya, HSY, Maheen Karim, Amir Adnan, Asim Jofa, Ali Xeeshan, Elan, Nomi Ansari, Shamaeel Ansari, Generations, Shehla Chatoor, Ismail Farid, Omer Farooq, Republic, Faraz Manan, and Khaadi.
“Apart from top designers, my team has managed to get all the best models on-board as well, so far we have Fouzia Aman, Mushk Kaleem, Zara, Mehreen Syed, Husnain Lehri and many others,” said Altaf.
Model Mushk Kaleem told SAMAA Digital she was excited to be part of the project and to see a strong lineup of her favourite designers.
“This just might be the future of fashion in Pakistan, as we know it,” she said. “A great initiative and an even greater opportunity to keep fashion alive and breathing in these trying times.”
The bigger cause
Aside from attracting online buyers and boosting sales, the show is dedicated to healthcare workers and those risking their lives to protect others amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to Altaf, each designer had an option to donate a dress to the people fighting on the frontlines.
“We are going to identify people who are doing good work like Sameer from Robin Hood Army, Seemin Jamali the Executive Director JPMC and Dr Abdul Bari Khan the CEO of Indus Hospital and donate a dress to them,” she explained.
The fashion industry has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic as many people, such as the backstage crew at photos shoots and runway shows, can’t work remotely. It looks unlikely that Pakistan Fashion Week or Bridal Couture Week will take place any time soon as more and more people are practising social-distancing.
“In such a situation, we’re pushed to think of things differently. We have to adapt and rethink how we can do things,” said Altaf. “We have to remember that life changes and evolves.”
Altaf, there was a time when we all used to accompany parents to visit the tailor
and give measurements to stitch our clothes.
“But now everyone prefers readymade clothes. In 2014 there was a huge shift, people stopped going to their tailors and preferred buying readymade clothes from the mall,” she said. “When there is a shift in the way people think, we need to embrace that change in the business and fashion industry as well.”
Altaf said that holding a virtual fashion show was vital for Pakistan’s fashion industry and to kick-start the e-commerce culture. Before finalising the show, Altaf said that she discussed the concept with people from the fashion and textile industry.
“The one thing I got from everyone was that their boat was sinking. They all said that their online sales were very low, around five to 10% of their total sales,” she added.
With an uncertain economic future, a digital fashion week feels like the most economically viable decision for now. Not only is the fashion industry struggling logistically and economically, but it is also recalibrating tonally as recession looms.
“Our fashion industry is not united at all and it is very hard to bring everyone on the same page but this time we all are standing together for our healthcare workers and for ourselves,” said Altaf. “Organising everything will be difficult and that too in just two weeks with me and my team in self-isolation and working virtually from our homes.”
She remarked that the only thing that kept her going was the positive and the immediate approval from the models and the designers for the virtual fashion show.
“After all these top models, makeup artist and ace designers agreed to work on this idea I was more determined to make it work,” said Altaf. There’s an opportunity now to provide a different solution. What it demands though is not just recreating events, but rethinking them entirely.
While moving to digital fashion shows might feel a bit unconventional or better said, uncharacteristic to fashion, it could prove very beneficial for the overall fashion industry.