The Friday Times: You are considered the dark horse of Pakistani fashion: surprising, moody, cutting-edge. Tell us about your journey into this world. Did you grow up in a fashion-friendly environment? What was your childhood exposure to fashion?
Fahad Hussayn: Fortunately I was raised among fashion-conscious people who were chic and tasteful. This “khandaani” environment polished me and let me grow into who I am today. I believe clothes should be an extension of one’s intellect, which is exactly what you perceive from my designs.
[quote]”Rapid industrialization has lured artisans away from their core skills”[/quote]
TFT: You have said in interviews that you have the best karigars (artisans) working for you. How important is traditional craftsmanship, in your opinion, in our age of mass-produced clothes? What in particular do you look for in a karigar?
FH: I feel rapid industrialization has lured many craftsmen and artisans away from practicing their core skills. This only results in loss of cultural expertise from an industry that relies heavily on skills. For my karigars I ensure that they have a passion for learning new techniques and exploring how to personalize their handiwork on my designs.
[quote]”The fashion school curriculum is not in sync with our national fashion culture”[/quote]
TFT: You show regularly at the fashion weeks held in Pakistan. Do you look favorably upon the existing infrastructure — schools, guilds — for the fashion industry in our country? How do you think it might be improved?
FH: I see our craftsmanship dying out with only a handful of skilled artisans left and very few designers on board who want to reinvigorate and re-embrace the old, time-consuming methods of local couture production. We need facilities and training centers for artisans to push their techniques in new directions. Also, our curriculum at fashion school is not at all in sync with our national fashion culture. Kids are not taught how to create a sari blouse or our desi bridal lehnga, instead they are taught how skirts evolved into miniskirts and ball gowns transformed into cocktail dresses! So you end up with a huge market gap where fresh graduates know more about western concepts of fashion and less about embroidery, detailing, “fusion” of styles, “patchwork” with embellishments, etc.
[quote]”I relished creating Meesha Shafi’s look for the Manto soundtrack”[/quote]
TFT: Tell us about the lawn craze in Pakistan. What’s all the fuss about? (Educate us!)
FH: Yes, it’s lawn madness! As soon as the weather changes lawn billboards go up. I’d say lawn is an ideal fabric for our climate. The era of two-piece and three-piece lawn is over, this is the period where the causal fabric can be embroidered, embellished and inventively designed to be worn in impeccable semi-formal outfits.
TFT: International buyers have often expressed the view that Pakistani couture, in comparison to its Indian counterpart, is more labored, embroidered, with better detailing, whereas Indian couture has better cuts and lines, is structurally more advanced. Do you agree?
FH: To a certain extent, yes. All we do is express how they are better rather than figuring out why they are better. Their government supports and invests in craftsmanship, in cottage industries and skill development. They have excellent marketing platforms and appreciate art to every extent they can. Their technology and production is a point of reference.
TFT: Your output can be wildly diverse. One minute you’re preparing a Mughal-era angarkha, and the next minute you’re designing a vampish frock! Where do these different sensibilities come from?
FH: Alter ego. Haha. I follow two sensibilities. I enjoy being old-schooled and simultaneously believe in re-invention. Deserts, puppetry, strong women, antique textiles and cultural traditions are my lifelong inspirations. I love using unusual fabrics, texturing and detailing, “fusion” of styles, patchwork with embellishments in vibrant colors. My creations always have a story behind them, which evokes images of ancient and medieval ages. At the same time I strongly believe in an International style, however with a national soul.
TFT: You’ve just made the clothes for the music videos of Sarmad Khoosat’s upcoming biopic on Manto. Tell us about the experience: was it fun? What were the highlights?
FH: Sarmad Khoosat is a visionary. He did not want anything typical or mainstream. He wanted to project honest cinema to the audience. The soundtrack is soulful and has a very epic side to it which I am certain will have great cinematic value. When I was offered the project I was very excited. I relished creating Meesha Shafi’s look for the soundtrack. Now that’s something I’m looking forward to seeing on the big screen!
[quote]”Noor Bhatty is the right amount of smart and the right amount of fool that a girl should be”[/quote]
TFT: They say an artist has to have a muse to stay inspired. Who or what inspires you?
FH: I made my debut in 2009 at Fashion Pakistan Week in Karachi. My collection was named Love is Worth a Fall. It was also Noor’s catwalk debut. I stood backstage watching the show, in awe of all that I had created – and then there was Noor Bhatty. There was a twinkle in her eyes, a fierce expression on her face, and she had such a strong walk. I fell in love with her! Since then, the first garment for every show is designed for her. Noor Bhatty is one of the most beautiful beings I have ever encountered. She is the right amount of smart and the right amount of fool that a girl should be. She is also one of the strongest yet most fragile people I know. She is headstrong and a perfectionist, and a dream to work with. She takes direction and gives everything 100 percent.
TFT: Why do you always wear black, Fahad?
FH: For the millionth time, black is my happy color! I’ll stop wearing it when they invent a darker color.