Pakistani fashion veteran Deepak Perwani is back in the zone

Deepak Perwani's Bridal Couture Week collection
Deepak Perwani’s Bridal Couture Week collection was regal and inventive

Deepak Perwani is coming up to his 20th anniversary as a designer. As he approaches this milestone, Perwani is riding on the high of a pretty stellar year. His Frieda collection won acclaim at Fashion Pakistani Week (FPW) and went on to sell well in-store despite being an edgy, unusual collection. He opened a new store in Dolmen Mall, which complements his flagship store on Zamzama. His winter bridal collection shown at Bridal Couture Week (BCW) in Lahore was one of the highlights of the three-day event.

Deepak Perwani's Bridal Couture Week collection
Deepal Perwani at BCW

Deepak Perwani’s BCW collection was striking and original. Inspired by Turkish pottery, it used Iznik pottery motifs. However, instead of using traditional Iznik blues and greens, the motifs were rendered in vibrant sub-continental ethnic colours. Thread, Dabka and polki-style embroidery were used on a colourful palette including vivid red, green, orange and purple.

The collection incorporated lots of diffuse block print to add texture, using as many as seven different blocks on a single piece. With so much going on, it would have been easy for the collection to become an ugly mishmash but Perwani balanced the various elements very well to give an eye-catching yet elegant look.

Boxy silhouettes by Deepak Perwani at BCW Lahore 2013
Boxy silhouettes by Deepak Perwani

With the winter season in mind the collection incorporated rich velvet in the form of coats and palazzos. The palazzos were paired with short dresses in a boxy Central Asian-inspired silhouette. Perwani’s Balochi coats were particularly memorable pieces while his use of digital saris gave the collection a chic, on-trend appeal.

Pakistani fashion designer Deepak Perwani
Deepak Perwani

Based on his fashion week showings it is hard to believe that this is a designer who, in recent years, has been accused of being lackluster and too commercial. Critics have complained that the stock in his stores is unimaginative and uninspiring. Perwani explains that the issue is perhaps two-fold. On the one hand, the design house is one of the most prolific in the country. They put out two fashion week collections, one pret and one bridal as well as a lawn collection and a winter unstitched collection. They also do a western wear collection and show abroad at events like the American Human Development Fund show.

Pakistani fashion designer Deepak Perwani's Milan Fashion Week
Deepak Perwani’s iconic bag collection from Milan Fashion Week in 2010

This is over an above the stores which stock both womenswear and menswear. As well as all this, Perwani was also on the board of the Fashion Pakistan Council. With so many commitments, he was probably spreading himself a little thin. This shows in the fact that his critically acclaimed Frieda collection from Fashion Pakistan Week in April didn’t actually hit the stores till August. This year, he is consolidating. Fashion Pakistan Council has been passed on to a new board and Deepak himself is concentrating on streamlining his operation.

Pakistani fashion designer Deepak Perwani's FPW collection
Deepak Perwani’s Frieda collection went down well

The other reason why critics will never be happy with in-store stock is that Deepak is catering to what customers want. While the trendy minority will wear gowns and Frieda tunics, the majority of customers want wearable traditional clothes and this is what Deepak aims to deliver. Some of the pieces most derided by critics are his hottest sellers. That said, there’s no doubt that there has been an improvement even in the more commercial outfits in-store. It’s obvious that Perwani has taken criticism positively and even his less experimental outfits display a certain designer flair that was missing a couple of years ago.

This year looks to be an exciting one for Perwani. He is currently working on his lawn and pret collections. Retail-wise, the Zamzama store will be is set to become a purely menswear store as he is finding that he is short of display space for his popular menswear collections. The Dolmen store has been going from strength to strength and will now become the primary showroom for his womenswear range. His 20th anniversary celebrations will see the launch of a documentary by Adnan Malik about Perwani and his design house.

Perwani is a rarity on the Pakistani fashion scene. He is a designer whose fashion week collections invariably display a flamboyant panache but also someone who is business savvy enough to have survived 20 years in the fashion business. Like any designer, his career may have had highs and lows but on current form, Perwani is a designer who has retained his passion and creativity. As anyone in the industry will testify, that is quite an enviable achievement.

First published in Karachista’s regualr column in the Express Tribune

Copyright 2015 Karachista. All rights reserved
Salima Feerasta
Salima Feerasta
Salima Feerasta is chief editor of and one of Pakistan's top fashion and lifestyle journalists.

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