Pakistan Celebrates 70th Anniversary with Regal Fashion Week in London

The Pakistani High Commission joined forces with fashion-based event planning company Riwayat to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence at a regal fashion week held at the sumptuous Lancaster House.  Riwayat’s Pakistan Fashion Week London Season 11 took place at the 17th century royal property, which boasts a bird’s eye-view of Buckingham Palace.  The grand halls of Lancaster House served as the prestigious backdrop for three runway shows featuring over 30 designers.  Over two days, the audience was treated to a program that celebrated the best of Pakistani culture and fashion.  Highlights included a live musical tribute to the regions of Pakistan, bespoke jewelry, a sumptuous range of runway designs — everything from traditional to modest wear, fusion, and plus-size collections.  

Pakistan Celebrates 70th Anniversary with Regal Fashion Week in London

Pakistan Fashion Week London-1

At the moment, emerging market designers and celebrities are dominating the limelight on European runways.  The richness of the South Asian couture craftsmanship is incomparable in my eyes, but even I was blown away by Riwayat’s careful curation of both emerging Pakistani talents as well as industry headliners for this special anniversary edition.  The front rows of the opulent halls and state rooms of Lancaster House were filled with London’s diplomatic corp and Pakistani fashion legends for opening night.

Pakistan Fashion Week London

Riwayat, which translates to “tradition” in Urdu, was chosen for the anniversary collaboration because of its focus on promoting Pakistani cultural heritage and traditions among Western audiences.  According to Riwayat co-founder Adnan Ansari, fashion is one of Pakistan’s leading exports.  As a multi-billion dollar industry, Pakistani fashion week events held in global fashion capitals such as London have a huge potential to increase economic ties and boost cultural diplomacy goals by challenging existing stereotypes.


Building on Historic Ties

The significance of hosting the special edition at Lancaster House was underscored in the opening remarks.  It was the venue from which the Pakistani flag was originally sent to Pakistan’s first Embassy in London.  Ties between the UK fashion industry and Pakistani designers continue to flourish through Riwayat’s events and other initiatives such as the British Council’s Fashion DNA project.  Launched in 2015, the annual Fashion DNA project provides mentoring and business training to emerging Pakistani designers with a special focus on sustainable and ethical approaches to fashion.  The selected designers present their work both at the UK-based Fashion Scout event during London Fashion Week and at Pakistan Fashion Week in Karachi.

Designer Headliners: Maria B.

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Pakistan Fashion Week London-15
Pakistan Fashion Week London-16

I was ecstatic to see that Riwayat’s fashion week line-up for “Designer Headliners” included Maria B, a brand that I have followed for years.  A graduate of the Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design (which recently held a similar, but smaller show in collaboration with the Pakistani Embassy in Rome), Maria launched the eponymous brand in 1999.  She is no stranger to international markets or shows.  Her collection of fiery bohemian separates and traditional couture gowns at Lancaster House did not disappoint.

House of Shameel’s Modern Trouser Suits

Pakistan Fashion Week London-11
Pakistan Fashion Week London-12

Among the many stunning collections, the pieces that really grabbed everyone’s attention were presented by Pakistani design veteran Shameel Ansari.  Known as the czarina of style, Shameel Ansari’s designs have been on the Pakistani luxury fashion scene for three decades.  Quite a few influencers fell in love with the elegantly embroidered silk pantsuits Ansari showcased.

Tribute to Pakistan’s Founding Father

The audience was especially appreciative of the inclusion of menswear collections by Maszjee and Cara by Imran  Ikhlaq.  The Maazjee collection was lauded for its tribute to founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah.  Mazjee, started off as a label that specialized in couture ties, but has expanded rapidly into the luxury menswear market.


Amour Faith Hope’s Artistic Euro Inspired Collection

The Amour Faith Hope collection stood out for its fusion of European aesthetics.  It was  presented by young Indian designer Ripci Bhatia, who is already garnering buzz in the South Asian blogosphere.


Sana Safinaz Duo

The award-winning sister-in-law duo Sana Hashwani and Safinaz Muneer wowed the audience with their Chateau Marmot collection.  The fanciful beaded creations that had a 20s vibe befitting the heroines of Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby.

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Pakistan Fashion Week London-19

In particularly, the dramatic black embroidery contrasted well with the bold colors in the collection.

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Chappra’s Peacock-Themed Collection

Cheena Chappra presented a vibrant plus-size collection that showcased traditional Pakistani textiles such as block prints.  The fun peacock feathers on the traditional hats added a bit of extra flare to the collection.

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GoGi By Hassan Riaz

Hassan, a young designer, who has already made a name for himself with a label that is known for high drama and couture tailoring, presented a space-age collection featuring bold red and black pieces.


Grande Finale with Design Legends

The final show included major designers to the stars such as Umar Sayeed and Maheen Khan.  Sayeed’s Zainab Market fusion collection featured modern fitted denims and crop tops with bold embroidery work.  There was also plenty of romantic silhouettes with bright pops of color.


For the next edition, Riwayat is continuing its tradition of cultural diplomacy.  The team will collaborate once again with the Pakistani diplomatic community in Europe to host fall fashion weeks in London and Geneva — Riwayat’s first show in Switzerland!  Season 12 of Riwayat’s Pakistan Fashion Week will take place on September 16 at the Intercontinental Geneva in partnership with the Pakistani High Commission to the United Nations Organizations in Geneva.