The Bridal Couture Week, now in its tenth season, has emerged as one of the biggest dichotomies of the fashion industry.
Let’s look at BCW’s strengths first. The event has been consistent in showing twice a year, alternately in Lahore and Karachi, ever since its inception in 2009. The 3-day event, televised incessantly on TV and shown to millions of viewers around the world, has the kind of outreach that designers can only dream of; it gives participating brands the kind of visibility that they probably can’t get anywhere else. Fahad Hussayn, an acclaimed designer who’s been a BCW loyalist since the very first event in Lahore, swears by it and the kind of business it generates for him. “We have a great relationship,” he elaborated in an interview with Instep. “BCW is really, really good with organization. Coordinating with them is easy. They listen to logical requests. They are great people to work with.” Similarly, Saadia Mirza, an experienced designer who had been out of the picture for the last several years, was delighted that she chose BCW as her comeback vehicle as it gave her brand unimaginable projection. She shared that she got over 200 queries from all over the world merely hours after her show. The impact was unprecedented.
The event also seems to have a desire to improve every year, whether it’s adding big names to its line-up, bringing in show producers like Ketan Bhatia, who was flown in from India this year, or even flying in foreign models like Neetasha Singh from South Africa. Add that to a list of names like Sonya Battla, Fahad Hussayn, Amir Adnan, Saadia Mirza, Zainab Chottani and the segment featuring Master Couturiers like Elan, Sania Maskatiya, Shamaeel, Zara Shahjahan, Umar Sayeed and The House of Kamiar Rokni amongst others and you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking it’s a great show. Throw in the kind of celebrity presence that BCW boasts of and you’d probably be ready to sign the dotted line in allegiance to this event.
But hold on. While having so many strengths, Bridal Couture Week fails to establish the one thing that a fashion week is expected to deliver: a fashion forward platform. BCW lacks the sophistication and style that needs to be associated with a fashion week. BCW, with as many TV, film and music stars on the runway as collections (if not more), entertains a TV watching audience more than it manages to educate viewers on new trends or more specifically, how to dress for a wedding. It is planned, executed and recorded as content for television; the channel highlights ongoing drama serials, popular television artists, soundtracks and songs which all attract huge viewership. Most people in attendance at BCW will remember the celebrities on the catwalk more than what they were wearing or in some unfortunate cases, even which designer they were walking for.
BCW’s biggest criticism is that it appears to have no selection criteria. There are a handful of names that lend credibility to the event but beyond the few critically acclaimed bridal couturiers is a mass of names that includes verandah designers at worst and commercial ‘darzigners’ at best.
“BCW is owned and operated by a channel and is televised world wide so we get tremendous enquiries,” veteran designer Shamaeel spoke about the pros and cons of the platform. Shamaeel, who has served as CEO of the Fashion Pakistan council, has also shown on the BCW platform. “The councils tend to have higher standards but this is more open to newcomers. It’s pitched for mass media whereas the councils are far more selective and have a due diligence to accepting known names who are in the realm of fashion. For anyone who needs the publicity this is a quick viral approach. The downside is that the line-up also includes names no one has ever heard of. A lot of them are housewives who do have a business and this is a quick spotlight. The councils would question why they should be given a platform but they aren’t questioned at BCW. The vehicle has to be discerning.”
You’d think this was a quick fix for the organizers; implement some form of selection criteria and elevate the standard of the show but they have not been able to achieve that standard yet. And the verandah designers may be lucky to get a chance of showing on such a massive platform but fashion suffers when ‘trends’ projected by these designers are shown and passed off as ‘fashion’. Machine embroidered polyester ensembles, floral wreaths on the head, over-embellished capes for men and poorly constructed garments are just some of the fashion crimes witnessed on the runways of BCW. One shudders to think what would happen if the masses saw and were influenced by these abominations.
But speaking of influence, one also must acknowledge the kind of influence BCW has and the power it can exert in swaying public opinion or spreading awareness on a certain social issue. This platform has the power to make social statements and actually influence viewers. One little segment, performed by the Udaari team (Urwa Hocane, Ahsan Khan, Bushra Ansari, Samia Mumtaz and Hadiqa Kiani) made a strong case for protection of children’s rights and the need to create awareness about child abuse. BCW’s grand finale, presented by Sonya Battla, paid tribute to acid burn victims in Pakistan and roped in Massarrat Mirbah and Dr Jawad Khan to speak on the subject. Again, a social cause that needs all the exposure it can get.
Again, coming back to square one, BCW serves several strengths but is weakest when it comes to its selling point: fashion. Social statements can make their way to the catwalks – we have examples in Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen – but the medium of expression is clothes and not celebrities or songs or entertainment. Unfortunately at BCW, the force majeur is not fashion.
It wouldn’t take much to change and fix it. A small selection panel can be put together to revise collections before they are accepted to the line-up. BCW could start earlier in the day, not necessarily ending at midnight which isn’t the most professional time to end a show. The event already has the best line-up of models and make-up team (Nabila); bringing in an international show director and choreographer (Ketan Bhatia) really worked in its favour. Perhaps BCW should import the services of an international event planner too; it wouldn’t hurt if the event looked less like a wedding and more like a slick, fashion platform. And if all this can change, then there’s no reason why Bridal Couture Week can’t emerge as the most powerful platform for bridal couture in the country.