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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Fashion Pakistan Council answers its critics

Published in the Express Tribune 29th May 2013
Maheen Khan FPW 5

Fashion Pakistan Council has been under fire recently, with former CEO Amir Adnan joining PFDC and unfavourable comparisons between Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) and PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW). So are designers disillusioned with FPC and is the council a spent force? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Adventure Tourism in Pakistan with Walkabout Films - International thrill-seekers experience heliskiing in the Karakoram mountain range

A version of this was published in the Sunday magazine of the Daily Times on 26th May 2013
International Extreme Skiers on the slopes of the Karakoram, Northern Pakistan

A few weeks ago CNN did a report on Pakistan. No terrorists or bombers were involved. Instead the story was an international Heliski event in Gilgit Baltistan, with an international team of Heliskiers  - one whom was Pakistani. Not only that, the sole Pakistani was actually a woman, the stunning Samyra Rashid of Walkabout Films.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Yogen Fruz opens on Zamzama in Karachi

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Scrummy Yogenfruz yogurt
Yogenfruz comes to Karachi
We already have Tutti Frutti and Snog – does Karachi need yet another frozen yoghurt franchise? Well Yogen Fruz is not your average frozen yoghurt joint. 
Toppings at yogenfruz karachi
Toppings galore!
Though their range of toppings and self-serve yoghurt is sensational, that’s not what sets Yogen Fruz apart.
Their unique mix-it range mixes plain yoghurt with flash-frozen fruits for a fresh fruity hit that is simply scrumptious. I tried strawberry/banana while my sons opted for blueberry/blackberry/strawberry. Both were delicious.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Top Pakistani fashion designers in inspiration-imitation controversy.

Published in the Express Tribune on May 24th 2013
                                                  Karma's jacket is heavily inspired by Balmain                     pic: aamiriat.wordpress.com
He’s done it again. Copycat-spotting blogger Aamir Bukhari has come up with a new set of inspirations and imitations by Pakistani designers, but this time, it’s from the runway. His blog aamiriat.wordpress.com has now put top designers Karma and Elan in the firing line, amongst others.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Socialite Entrepreneurs boost the Economy - Women in Pakistan taking charge of their own destiny

Published in the Express Tribune on May 19th
Fashion tycoon Sana Hashwani with Nausheen "Pepsi" Leghari - owner of Links School

Designer Khadija Shah with the editors of Paper magazine
There was a time when the only work socialites did was light charity fundraising – organising expensive balls for their chums or sweet-talking friends and family into donating. Not anymore. High society designers like SanaSafinaz are now an economic force to be reckoned with, employing thousands of workers, with sales running into millions of rupees.
The list of what top fashion journalists have termed “socialite designers” reads like a who’s who of both fashion and society. From Khadijah Shah to newcomers like Misha Lakhani, many of fashion’s elite are “it-girls” who certainly don’t need to work and yet have built professional, thriving businesses. Many society women, such as Nadia and Ayesha Ellahi, design on a smaller scale; to the extent where it now seems there is a “designer” in every family.
However, socialite entrepreneurs haven’t limited themselves to just designing clothes. They are running furniture shops, salons, bakeries, shoe shops, gyms and more. Many start out in a small way, holding exhibitions for friends and family. For some, this is as far as they go, finding small-scale exhibitions the perfect vehicle for a work-life balance. Others, however, use exhibitions as a springboard to a more professional approach selling online or even opening an outlet.



Sunday, 12 May 2013

Polling Day Pakistan Election 2013 - PTI, MQM and PML-N tussle among allegations of rigging - Voting feels like a Victory


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My hard-won inked thumb
Election Day was one of those “I was there” moments that only happen a handful of times in a person’s lifetime. It was an inspiring, frustrating, tiring and disheartening day for many new voters. There were highs, particularly where voting went smoothly but, especially in Karachi, there were many, many lows.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Aamna Aqeel - is the Pakistani designer's controversial fashion shootracist, bigoted, self serving or merely misguided?


Aamna Aqeel racist photoshoot
Aamna Aqeel vehemently denied allegations of racism
KARACHI: It’s not easy producing a memorable fashion shoot; pictures of pretty women wearing pretty clothes can get boring fast. The best fashion shoots are engaging, compelling and imaginative; they require talent, hard work and vision from the designer, stylist, photographer and model. Of course, if you can’t manage all of that, the other way to ensure you get noticed is to make a fashion shoot so controversial and tasteless that getting media attention is guaranteed.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Pakistan Election 2013 - The Newbies' Guide to Voting - How to find your polling station and where your vote is registered

Printed in The Express Tribune on 5th May 2013


 Do you plan to vote in the upcoming elections? Elsewhere the question would be “Who do you plan to vote for?” but Pakistan has one of the world’s lowest voter turnouts. That may be about to change. The election is a hot topic of discussion everywhere from dhabas to Twitter.
Facebook is rife with political talk, including engaging videos encouraging people to vote.  Before you dismiss the social media, did you know that the PPP made a government with only 10.2 million votes? There are 8 million Pakistanis on Facebook alone. Bangladesh managed at 87% voter turnout last election in comparison to our 44%. In some areas like posh Clifton/Defence in Karachi the turnout was a mere 30%. This time, however, people from all sectors of society who have never voted before are choosing to so do. And it’s not just men - from workers in beauty salons to ladies who lunch, more women than ever before are planning to vote. 
Tweet by designer Rizwan Beyg

So how easy is it to vote? The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been publicizing its SMS 8300 service where, for a mere 2 rupees, you text your NIC number to 8300 and receive your voting details. I tried it last week and within 5 minutes had received details of my polling station and two numbers: my serial number and my block code. Unfortunately it seems you need a degree in election-ology to decipher what those two numbers mean. The SMS didn’t tell me what my constituency is and neither did the ECP website which is a masterpiece of mismanagement. It tells you an awful lot about the election without telling you anything useful. There is no way to use your serial number or block code to work out your constituency. There is a voter education handbook but it gives guidelines for voter education programs instead of offering any useful information for actual voters. The site gives a full list of the candidates and their addresses, but doesn’t tell you which constituency they are running for. In order to find out which party they belong to you have to look at their assigned symbol and go back to a list of 134 symbols to work out which party they are running for. For a newbie like me the party symbol list is confusing as there are so many parties that have similar names. I resort to Google to work out the symbols of the main parties. 
Similarly Google helps me work out that Clifton is in NA-250 and that my candidates include Farooq Sattar for MQM and Dr. Arif Alvi for PTI. This revives my flagging interest after the frustrating search to find my constituency and candidates. (It later turns out that Dr. Farooq Sattar will be contesting NA-249, withdrawing from NA-25 in favour of Khushbakht Shujaat). There remains confusion because the polling station info for my block code on the ECP site is hidden in a .rar file about polling stations. A PTI supporter has since launched a great site called whereismyballot.com where you input your block code and it pulls up the polling station information from the ECP website. Why the ECP couldn’t have made things this easy is anyone’s guess. I intend to make the attempt to vote. At the last election in 2008, the winning margin for NA-250 was less than 8,000 votes. Only one third of the 350,000 registered voters cast their vote. But will the election be fair?
Stories of poll rigging abound from previous elections: “Yes ma’am, I went to vote but when they gave me the ballot paper they stood over me and watched to make sure I voted for their party.” “I was too late to vote. No, the polls hadn’t closed but when they checked my NIC they said I’d already been to vote earlier. It looks like someone had voted for me” Another complained that when his thumb was inked they took his thumb and stamped his vote before handing him the paper. These and other abuses are undoubtedly rife. Doctors from national hospitals who are among those required to invigilate have confirmed that they have been told by party workers to look the other way at polling stations. It’s naïve to think that vote rigging doesn’t go on. However with the vested parties watching each other and with increased power and scrutiny by the media there is hope that things will improve. Those who have never voted or attempted to vote cannot bemoan the situation when they have never made the least push to put things right. By not turning out to vote we make things easier for those who rig elections. The only way to change a system is from within.

PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week Report - Part 2 - A final word on PSFW


Ali Xeeshan invites you to vote with his collection JALSA
So to my final word on PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW) – if you aren’t already tired of hearing about it. PSFW has already had quite a lot written about it (a fair amount of it on this blog) and that’s even before the Sunday sections of the major papers have covered it. It even got some international press in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, courtesy of Hilary Alexander a British journalist who became a minor celebrity and sort of mascot at PSFW. I loved the way she got into the spirit of PSFW, wearing local designers and looking at things from a fashion point of view instead of a political one. By all accounts she is also a lot of fun and garnered a lot of people’s affection.
Karma's Gatsby girls having some fun
 Hilary Alexander was one of the personalities of PSFW along with many of the faces of Pakistani fashion and high society but the event was not as exclusive as it might have been. PSFW was apparently horridly congested, especially on the last day, and it seems the crowd wasn’t all it could have been. (Note - this is not a reflection on Lahore; men in Karachi are just as bad if not worse) Bad manners ranged from the mild i.e ogling to the unforgivable i.e groping (eugh) but the funniest example of vulgarity related to give-aways.

Friday, 3 May 2013

PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week Round-up

Published in The Express Tribune on 2nd May 2013 - on covering PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week online

PSFW: Reporting fashion — one tweet at a time

Misha Lakhani, Sania Maskatiya. PHOTOS: SHIAFIQ MALIK/EXPRESS
KARACHI:  A fashion week creates buzz like nothing else — the celebrities, the dramas, the gossip and of course the fashion. Reviewing it online via live stream and Twitter couldn’t be the same — I was expecting a very bland experience. No chats with the movers and shakers of the business, no people-watching and none of that peripheral experience that adds to the charm of a fashion week. How wrong I was!
Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) Sunsilk Fashion Week’s live streaming worked almost without a hitch, but what made the experience amazing was live tweeting from the venue. Lots of bloggers posted pictures of who was wearing what and also tweeted about the ambience. Most of the major players were tweeting in real-time during shows and this along, with private messages from close friends on-site, made virtual reporting a treat. The only thing I missed was trying out the Magnum bar and getting my hands on some of the goody bags.
PSFW was the most hyped fashion week of the year. Its stellar line up had fashion-lovers drooling and designers looking over their shoulders at the competition. Day 3, in particular, had Rizwan Beyg, SanaSafinaz, Layla Chatoor, Nida Azwer and Karma. Designers had to be on top of their game to make an impression.

Layla Chatoor , Karma. PHOTOS: SHIAFIQ MALIK/EXPRESS
So, the question is: did it live up to the hype? Not quite! There was a lot to love about PSFW; although there was marvelous fashion, a few major names disappointed and there was a glaring divide that was hard to ignore. There was a huge gap between two distinct interpretations of what luxury prêt should be. For one camp luxury prêt was all about experimenting with prints, cuts and silhouettes. There was embellishment, but it definitely took a back seat. For others, however, luxury prêt was all about embroidery and bling — that, too, lots of it. For the Pakistani market, as a whole, neither camp was wrong but it made reviewing PSFW an uphill task — a case of comparing apples to oranges.
There were also several standout collections. Rizwan Beyg’s collection was one of the most stylish renditions of truck art ever.
SanaSafinaz’s sensual sophisticated collection, with Balenciaga-inspired jackets and embellished pants, was a major hit. Karma’s Art Deco Gatsby collection was cohesive, blingy and beautiful. It was also one of the best-styled ramp shows.
Fahad Hussayn and Ali Xeeshan, however, were a triumph of styling over everyone else. I loved what I could see of the clothes but the dramatics eclipsed the clothes to a degree. HSY’s show strayed into this territory though his glamorous sexy yet unmistakably Eastern prêt was a treat.

Élan’s opulent Oriental collection and Shehla Chatoor’s alluring Soigné collection were detailed and masterful. Sania Maskatiya and Maheen Karim produced brilliant chic resort collections. Layla Chatoor’s Ayesha collection was intricate and attractive, while Feeha Jamshed took black and white to a new level. Misha Lakhani’s styling lacked the wow factor but the clothes themselves were gorgeous.
There were flashes of brilliance from many of the other designers, but often there was a lack of cohesion and editing in their collections. The ramp is an unforgiving platform — the best collections stay true to their inspiration while showing variety and flair.
Unlike others I didn’t have much complaint about the fact that most of the clothes were not wearable. Ramp wear doesn’t really need to be wearable — it’s about showcasing a designer’s vision, craft and creativity. While Khaadi Khaas and Faiza Samee showed very wearable collections, others will no doubt tone down their collections for customers. Maskatiya, for example, will surely produce kameezes from her Aghaaz collection that will appeal more to her core clientele than the peep-shoulder tops would.
However, one major complaint that I had during the four days of fashion week was the lack of time keeping. It was practically midnight before the evening came to a close — every night. It was exhausting even from the comfort of my own home. For models photographers and press on site however it was a grueling four-day marathon.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2013.                     
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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week Report - PSFW Part 1

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The beautiful intricacy of Elan's Ode To A Nightingale Collection
PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW) is finally over and what a marathon extravaganza it was. Anyone who chose to watch all the shows - nearly 50 shows in four days - would probably be comatose by now. Even those of us who sensibly limited ourselves to the luxury pret, ignoring the lawn and high street brands, have had a grueling four days. Watching that many shows was tough enough – kudos to the poor models who actually did all the work.
I had originally intended to do one big blog post about the whole event but with so many designers showing it makes more sense to split my coverage into two and give the collections I liked a more detailed review.
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