It’s Earth Day and I am feeling so blessed to be living on this incredible planet of ours. Although we can gripe about pollution or worry about O-Zone layers, depleting water supplies and so many other things wrong in our world, there is so much more to be grateful for. The amazing way the sun rises every morning, only to be followed by the moon each night.
I recently went for a yacht ride on the full moon to Oyster Rocks. Just a 20 minute ride from Karachi, this island has a beautiful view of Manora and Karachi and we climbed to the top quite easily. Arranged by Neshmia Ahmed, we indulged in masala popcorn crabs and shrimp curry, and mused how this could easily work as a tourist resort.
The September Issue
Although it’s Springtime, Pakistani born American Sadia Shepard held a premiere for her award-winning “The September Issue” in conjunction with the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi and the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture. Her documentary revolves around editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her team as they put together the 2007 September issue of Vogue Magazine. The film won the Excellence in Cinematography Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and the Audience Award at the 2010 Cinema Eye Honors. Having seen the film when it was part of Toronto Fashion Week last Fall, it’s certainly a great achievement for the rising star and author of “The Girl from Foreign: A Memoir,” who produced the film.
As Springtime brings with it greater heat and people start planning for their summers, there has been a plethora of events. Pakistan Fashion Week 2 took place, Frieha Altaf and Catwalk celebrated their 20th anniversary in style at Mohatta Palace, Ensemble moved location and they marked the occasion with a night to remember. Canvas Gallery also had a very special show titled “Black on Black” which featured some ground-breaking armor work by Amin Gulgee. One piece in particular – a collaboration with fashion designer Aamna Mirza Shah (who recently moved to Karachi from NYC) – combined art, sculpture and fashion and I for one can’t wait to see this dynamic duo take it to the catwalk or stage at a later point.
Amin Gulgee & Aamna Shah
We at Dawood Capital Management Ltd., managers of LADIESFUND™ , held our second LADIESFUND™ Women’s Entrepreneurship Awards, once again at the beautiful Mohatta Palace, and it was heartwarming to see the overwhelming response. This year’s winners include Begum Sughra Kazmi for LADIESFUND™ Lifetime Achievement, Nilofer Saeed for LADIESFUND™ Momentum Award, Khadija Malik and Kiran Aman for Trailblazer 1, Lal Majid and Madiha Sultan for Trailblazer 2, and Ruth Pfau for LADIESFUND™ Woman of the Year.
Chief Guests were former Nazim Nasreen Jalil and Member of the National Assembly Khushbakht Shujaat, moderator was Sidra Iqbal and the judges were Barrister Shahida Jamil, Frieha Altaf, Chuni Saigol, Ameena Saiyid and former winner Sameera Raja. The guest list included Ayesha Tammy Haq, Nida Butt, Begum Salma Ahmed, Laeeq Akbar, Marium Shams, Zahida Habib, Peng Qureshi, Selina Rashid, Naushaba Burney, Nadira Panjwani, Hina Bayat, Naaz Fancy and Sana Bhagat.
However, probably one of the most exciting things to happen is the launch of ground-breaking Eco-café “N’Eco’s” in Karachi. This is Pakistan’s first organic café and it has within a deli as well as a store for organic goods. Although many might feel the nation’s not quite ready for the premium priced wholesome items, proprietor and founder Nilofer Saeed, who started the café culture with her Copper Kettle and upped bakery standards with Hobnob Bakery, is confident about introducing the concept of wholesome eating in Pakistan.
The café opens at 8 am and closes at 10 pm to encourage patrons to eat at healthier (and safer) times. I fell for their world class French toast and must say their flatbread sandwiches rocked. The prices – as is typically for organic products – are a little on the steep side, but the quality is there and most importantly, the heart is there. You can tell the minute you enter and see a tree right in the middle of this café that the concept is well grounded.
Speaking of being grounded, a friend recently told me about a theory (perpetuated by Facebook statuses) that the sijdah that we do in prayer grounds the body the way an electrical current needs to be grounded. Apparently, electronic appliances and their electromagnetic radiations around us create an electrical charge within us and touching one’s forehead to the floor apparently “grounds” us because the earth can absorb charges.
This definitely seems like a longshot but if true, is just another reason to love Mother Earth.
Adding true international flavour to Toronto Fashion Week was Vibgyor, a dynamic designing duo from Mumbai. Libas had an exclusive interview with rising stars Simone Khambatta and Roma Narsinghani after their debut show.
Although they are both just 24-years old, the two designers have training, passion and ambition. They are determined to elevate their Indian label to the international scene. Confident and comfortable in their own skin, they believe in themselves and in their dreams. Self-described foodies, they also enjoy socializing and have a zest for life and all it has to offer. Currently living in and originally from Mumbai, the two brunettes actually grew up outside of India. Khambatta is a Dubai girl while Narsinghani was raised in Kuwait. They met in the United Kingdom at the London College of Fashion where both were taking classes after Khambatta finished studying at the Parsons School of Design, New York, and Narsinghani at The London College of Fashion, London. As their friendship grew and as they were both originally from Mumbai, they decided to start a label together and base it in Mumbai. Narsinghani states, “We can speak for Indian designers and we feel their level and quality can be matched to any designer worldwide. They have created their own mark across the globe.” Their USP (Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Selling Point) is “two similar brains working towards one goal”, and they are proud of their work as a team and their representing India in fashion.
As Khambatta shares, “As fashion designers we believe we create wearable art”. Narsinghani adds, “Our goal is to garb the ‘international woman’ who travels and experiments with fashion. Our garments bear a unique sense of individuality and draw attention to any woman that wears them.” Khambatta describes their latest collection as inspired by “a juxtaposition of chaos and order”, adding “straight lines are placed near concentric circles to create unique embroideries and basic silhouettes are teamed with ruffled/pleated chiffon and tulle drapes”. “A worldly-wise ‘poor little rich girl’ who can shop till she drops meets ‘rich little poor girl’ who sews her own clothes,” she quips, capturing the essence of the collection. “When combined, they correlate to create a woman who wants the best of all worlds. She likes to be pretty and sexy in a discreet manner. She adds a modern twist to the classic and loves to stand out.”
Their appearance at LG Fashion Week in Toronto was their very first runway show and the following week they flew to the Emirates for Dubai Fashion Week where they won the Emerging Talent award.”
Although they are both very busy currently with the Mumbai haute couture bridal scene, the two Sagittarians have a clear vision for the scalability of their western designs and are gearing up for their Autumn/ Winter ’10 collection.
Currently, Vibgyor is available at several stores across India and the Middle East, and they are looking to hit the North American market soon with their “international silhouettes”.
They would also love to visit Pakistan and perhaps participate in a future Pakistan Fashion Week.
Narsinghani states, “I’ve wanted to go to Karachi for so long now so I’d love to visit and maybe one day show our bridal collection there. Always follow your dreams like we did or you’ll never be satisfied,” Narsinghani advises aspiring designers and entrepreneurs.
This duo was inspired by some of the best. “John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Dolce and Gabbana …” reads the list of Khambatta’s favourite designers, as well as her “new favourite, Alexander Wang, love him”.
Her favourite female entrepreneur, however, is hands down Coco Chanel. “That woman was and still is legendary,” explains Khambatta, adding, “We’d like to be remembered as the designers that transformed fashion during our time and took it to the next level.”
Their appearance at LG Fashion Week in Toronto was their very first runway show and the following week they flew to the Emirates for Dubai Fashion Week where they won the Emerging Talent Award, which awarded them a free runway show plus an exhibition space for the entire week. They were most excited, however, by the compliment they received from senior international fashion stylist and member of Dubai’s Fashion Council, Derek Khan, who told them that out of the contestants “everyone looks like emerging talent but Vibygor stands out and looks like established talent”.
They view their work as “edgy, versatile and cosmopolitan”.
Although they have only been in the business for less than two years, this fashion duo is already starting to brighten international catwalks with their bold colours, fusion designs and fresh looks.
ASIAN PRESENCE AT THE TORONTO FASHION WEEK
TORONTO’S LG FASHION WEEK BEAUTY BY L’OREAL PARIS HAS CONSISTENTLY FEATURED CANADIAN SOUTH ASIAN DESIGNERS AND FUSION WEAR, BUT THIS YEAR, FOR THE FIRST TIME, IT INCLUDED SOUTH ASIAN AND MIDDLE EASTERN BRANDS ON ITS RUNAWAY LINE-UP. LIBAS WAS RIGHT THERE, FRONT ROW AND CENTER.
The debuts of Mumbai-based Vibgyor – as well as Dubai based Frame – with their fusion wear added some international spice to the Spring/Summer 2010 Collections, as well as a truly global flavour.
This was complemented by a plethora of international media covering the event.
Fashion Week’s Spring-Summer Theme was ‘Wear Love’, and began with Asian Canadian designer Sunny Fong’s collection ‘Tattoo Hibiscus’ exhibiting at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and ended with the ‘Dare To Wear Love’ Closing Night Fundraising Gala in which pieces were African influenced.
Fong, who moved to Canada from Vietnam in 1981, won the second season of Project Runaway Canada. This was his debut post reality TV collection and there was high anticipation from the fashion community. Set to the backdrop of the gorgeous Walker’s Court, his French Polynesian and Mutiny on the Bounty inspired 12 piece presentation featured an ivory and sand palette with occasional accents of red and fuchsia and trendy but controversial models of various ages and sizes.
Over the course of the next four days, there were many fashion forward moments. Most notably, Vibgyor’s bold colours and intricate pleating - as well as Western cuts with Eastern motifs, embroideries and at times essence - was very different from other designers at Toronto Fashion Week and their risk-taking fusion styles were much lauded and applauded. Evan Biddell also took risks with his collection, particularly the fi rst half which was both techno and tomorrow in essence. Fantastic structuring and use of draping complemented the dark metallic material and funky futuristic jewelry. Nada Shepard put together a sexy collection that rocked, and the high dramas of her catwalk topped Fashion Week. Corsets with panels and black lacy stockings with a dominatrix touch underscored that this was a designer who was not going to hold back.
A global fusion flavour was also added by Dubai based label Frame - by duo Stephen Frame and Yasmin Mahrous - who turned down a showing in Dubai to debut their first international/commercial collection in Toronto instead.
With the theme ‘Heaven and Hell’, Frame presented analchemic mix of Middle Eastern and Western influences, the designs consisting of heavenly, almost ethereal dresses for women and well tailored suits for men and then slowly progressed to a more sartorial flair. Of particular note was a black tuxedo-esque ensemble with leather-lined wide lapels that epitomized the dandy look of suits planned for 2010. At times, their designs flirted with ultra casual (graphic tees over raw denim) but even then there was still something fresh and original about the fit, perhaps signaling a trend for the next decade.
Asian Canadian Andy-The-Anh displayed another winning collection of beautiful silk dresses and stiff blazers in a private showroom adjunct to the main catwalk. David Dixon held two successful catwalk shows – one clearly inspired by Valentino and Giambattista Valli (famous for his bubble skirts) and another by 50 year celebrant, Barbie. Youthful,fun and uber trendy, the Barbie and Ken show was full of pink, black and white and managed to present a preppy teenage girl’s dream wardrobe. The models sported knee-high black ankle socks, nerdy-chic black-rimmed glasses and lots of houndstooth prints. I particularly liked the pink lining in the jackets and dresses. Asian designer Monica Mei of Aime put together a commercial and comfortable eco-chic collection that while lacking in spark still made you want to buy a piece or two of these staples. Every woman in the audience gasped at the stunning ballgowns (and wedding dresses) designed by Romona Keveza. The flawless cuts, elegant fabrics and flattering falls make these evening gowns ideal for Hollywood or Bollywood.
LG Fashion Week ended with a socio-conscious fundraiser for the Stephen Lewis Foundation titled ‘Dare To Wear Love’ and produced by Hoax Couture. Twenty-five of Canada’s premier fashion designers including Lida Baday, David Dixon, Evan Biddell and Greta Constantine designed a uniqu e outfi t each created from African fabric and modelled by a multitude of Canadian celebrities. Many of the designs had a fusion feel whether from the cut or from the cloth used.
This uplifting end to a week of fashion frivolity reminded all present of the important role Fashion can play in working toward a better world for all of us.
Toronto Fashion Week was an unqualified success, upping the ante from previous seasons. It was particularly exciting to see South Asian and Middle Eastern designers make a name for themselves with truly international collections that can be worn by women anywhere in the world.