All for one, and one for all
By Mohsin Sayeed
Fashion journalist Mohsin Sayeed’s take on a Pakistani fashion council in an ideal world. DESIGN: ANAM HALEEM
While a number of people fell for Tribune’s April Fool’s prank hook, line and sinker, Fashion Pakistan and Pakistan Fashion Design Council took it so seriously that it defines a new level of seriousness.
I must say, this was the only uniting factor for both the councils. A prank. Got them together to co-write a letter that said that in fact they are not together – still with me? It made me think if they can write a letter demanding a public apology and threatening legal action in case of noncompliance, why can’t I take it seriously too? Delayed reaction, I agree, but still better than no reaction. I thought what I would do IF I ever have to head a fashion council.
Aren’t we all allowed to dream, and take ourselves seriously? So here’s my wish-list/plan for a council and fashion week under my brilliant exemplary leadership, adding that chances of this materialising are as bright as Pakistan being declared by Transparency International to have cleansed itself of all things rotten or becoming a secular, stable, cleansed of Taliban-mindset, progressive democracy…
1. I shall run the All Pakistan Fashion Council (APFC) like a proper company with properly supervised marketing, research and development departments. The council will have a board of designers serving as the face responsible just for the fashion; they will not interfere in the management and running of the council. Sales of collections and confirmed orders and follow-ups will be announced to keep track of business growth and annual reports will be published to document that growth. The APFC will be the single most powerful collective bargaining body, promoting and negotiating deals and rebates for the designers. A tax holiday period will be negotiated with the government of the day for growth and progress to take it from a cottage industry to midscale industry.
2. Initially, the APFC will hold just two fashion weeks a year: Spring/summer and couture. Pakistan, with its rich textile tradition and cotton as one of its major crops, is famous for hand-woven and cotton textiles. The world is looking for our crafts structured with a global appeal. We must build upon our strengths and take it from there. Autumn/Winter will be added to the calendar at a later stage.
3. I will invite IMG Fashion, which owns and operates fashion events around the world, back. It is all well and good to get international press, but to be a global player, a global partner is a must. IMG can pave the way for our designers to show in fashion weeks that matter. IMG can help one approach Colin McDowell who has successfully launched many successful initiatives in scouting and promoting young talent.
4. I will drum this deep into everyone’s psyche: A fashion week is not an entertainment event. It is a serious business-to-business and business-to-consumer affair. Major attendees will be representatives from banks, business houses, buying houses, textile companies, garment manufacturers and buyers. A sprinkling of celebrity and leading socialites who further fashion business and are brand ambassadors will be invited to add the required glamour. However, relatives, friends, and oglers will strictly be kept out.
5. I will forge ties with Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and take over its fashion department. The TDAP with its huge budgets reserved for promoting Pakistani products wastes money favouring politicians and their ‘friend’ designers taking ‘exhibitions’ abroad (read having paid holiday at taxpayer’s expense). I will ensure budgets are spent on two global events over the next decade: London Fashion Week, where the world comes to scout fresh talent, and one in South East Asia either Tokyo or Hong Kong, so we can capture the regional markets. The TDAP will be made to play a more active role in forging ties with various domestic and international manufacturers.
6. I will prioritise wooing buyers and press from Africa, South America, Middle East and South East Asia to gain a foothold into their respective markets. While buyers of mega retail stores such as Harrods, M&S, Saks, Barneys, Neiman Marcus and Harvey Nicholas will be approached, presented various designers’ portfolios and invited to the fashion week, stores like Browns, Villa Moda etc . will be equally focused for small consignments. India is a huge market too. Various platforms like the Pak-India Business CEO Forum will be roped in to facilitate business and media participation to make inroads into the Indian market.
7. Pakistani manufacturers once got orders from leading international brands, and a few still do. Those manufacturers will be requested to come forward once orders begin pouring in. I will find garment and accessory manufacturers in the largest industrial estate in our own backyard –China. Forming ties with manufacturers there will facilitate our designers to accept large orders and deliver on time.
8. I will organise regular seminars, workshops and talks for the benefit of council members. Members will be kept updated on global fashion, business trends and developments through a periodic publication. The publication will also be used to introduce new collections and fresh talent, which will help discourage pay-to-enter backdoor practitioners. Edited by incorruptible journalists, The Independent will only publish commissioned editorials.
9. To stop infiltration of garbage in the name of fashion, I will institute a blind jury system for the selection process. Potential/willing participants will submit mini collections of six outfits without labels and their identities will be kept strictly confidential to avoid favouritism, lobbies or brand power influencing the jury. The jury will consist of seasoned, fearless and competent professionals who have no fear of being outcast and not invited to parties and shows. It is a very difficult job to find such professionals but I am an optimist despite my reputation. This will successfully close doors on sisters of venue owners who threaten to pull the plug on a fashion week if the sister is not allowed being on the ramp, as well as stylists pretending to be fashion designers. The idea is to showcase the BEST, not the MOST.
10. I will make it mandatory for designers to show full collections instead of just 20 pieces. Shows will not be crammed into one, painful never-ending slot blurring it all into a haze. They will be scheduled an hour apart at least and the allotment will be decided through a ballot, not tantrums. All the designers will be treated equally. To project a professional image, designers will be encouraged and facilitated by individual PR companies and professionals to have press kits, media interviews and buyer appointments. Proper media talks will be organised after each show in separate reserved areas. Similarly, a buyer’s lounge will also be created for private buyer-designer meetings. Exclusive media lounges will be arranged to help media professionals file stories in time.
12. I will not allow any sponsored prize/award for best-dressed person simply to appease clients during fashion week. There are professional ways to advertise and brand one’s product. Also, there will be no awards for best designer(s) of the week. This is not a school competition. No long-winded mutually-gushing, teary-eyed speeches by the chairperson and her/his cronies. It’s not an awards night. Flowers too will not be presented to ANYONE. A fashion week is about the promotion and business of the fashion industry, not individuals.
13. I will ensure that only fashion journalists are accredited to attend the week. Cheap-dollar variety war/political correspondents searching for a sensational story and/or highlighting only sleeveless-and-backless-dresses-and-smoking-models-in-terrorism-and-Taliban-stricken-Pakistan kind of superficiality will be kept strictly out of the week. Those whose motto is “the more crises this country has, the more money I make”. I wish I could name them.
To sum up, I believe after aesthetic sense, two senses are critical to hold in fashion: sense of humour and sense of rumour. If blessed with these three, anyone, and I mean anyone, can become a great designer. Designers applying for membership of my council will be tested on these three senses. These will come in handy when dealing with media and avoiding embarrassingly self-important and serious letters and statements containing threats of legal action. The motto of the council will be: Izzat zillat aani jani cheezain hain, insaan ko fashionable hona chahiye.
Source: The Express Tribune