Amir Adnan resigns from his post as CEO of Fashion Pakistan

Veteran designer Amir Adnan has just resigned from his post as the CEO of the Karachi-based council, Fashion Pakistan (FP). To be honest, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Adnan came on board six months ago, faced with sorting through the council’s monumental pile of pending paperwork and while dealing with the rampant insecurities and ego-clashes within the council, pull off a fashion event. Daunting tasks, both, and Adnan, after trying his best, decided that he was better off resigning.

For the boggled – and it’s easy to get confused by our multiple fashion weeks, councils and sporadic grand declarations made by each council’s reigning members – here’s a quick run through Pakistan’s nefarious fashion politics. The Pakistani fashion industry, though small, has a whopping four fashion councils vying to represent its needs. Two of these councils are relatively new. One is the Pakistan Fashion Council (PFC), which doesn’t really have any council members from the fashion fraternity – just stylist Tariq Amin manfully using his considerable clout and experience to organize entire fashion extravaganzas. PFC held its first fashion week earlier this year in Islamabad. Then, just recently, we’ve been besieged by news of a fashion council having been formed in Peshawar. The National Fashion and Arts Council (NFAC) plans to highlight fashion, local handicrafts, arts and culture from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region – a grueling challenge to take on in a province where a large proportion of the women opt to spend their entire lives under the veil.

The two older, more prominent fashion councils have their roots in Pakistan’s two competing fashion capitals – Karachi and Lahore. The Karachi-based FP started off with high hopes. More than a year ago, the council pulled off Fashion Pakistan Week 2, featuring some of Pakistan’s best designers on the ramp and managing to earn a mention in the venerated September issue of Vogue. However, since then, the council has failed to deliver. Meanwhile, the Lahore-based PFDC, headed by the indomitable Sehyr Saigol, has breezed on ahead pulling off one fashion event after another, right on schedule, drawing international media coverage and attracting local and international retailers. Designer brands such as FnkAsia, Adnan Pardesy, Rizwanullah and Zaheer Abbas had hitherto been a part of FPW2. This spring, though, faced with the Karachi council’s continuous delays, they opted to showcase their work on the PFDC ramp instead, to much acclaim. Furthermore, Rizwan Beyg, ex-CEO of FP, was responsible for the styling of the FnkAsia show at the recent PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week. Other major Karachi designer-brands like Teejays by Feeha Jamshed, Sadaf Malaterre and Khaadi by Shamoon Sultan have always preferred the PFDC platform simply because it has always had its act together.

Owner of Pakistan’s largest multi-label store, Labels, Zahir Rahimtoola puts the matter in a nutshell by saying, “The PFDC may be autocratic and may have its own internal issues but at the end of the day, it delivers on time and that’s what really matters rather than whether the designers are from Karachi or Lahore!”

His sentiments are echoed by Amir Adnan. “It’s high time that we stop defining fashion and fashion weeks as Karachi or Lahore-based,” he says. “Fashion weeks are meant to benefit the entire fashion community and not a particular city. This year, with quite a few designers from Karachi participating in the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week, the event was representative of Pakistani fashion rather than of just Lahore.”

But putting aside the eternal Karachi-Lahore debate, Amir Adnan’s departure from the CEO post has us wondering whether FP will really ever be able to organize another fashion week or will the council slowly dissolve into oblivion. Although the miffed board-members of Fashion Pakistan will probably beg to differ, this new turn of events may actually work out well for Pakistani fashion as a whole. Designers may finally realize the ease and convenience of working as one, united fashion council. Not a man to mince his words, Adnan lays out the bare facts, “The Pakistani fashion industry is relatively new and our designers don’t, as yet, have huge production capacities. There’s no point in over-exposing them through multiple fashion weeks organized by multiple councils. One council is more than enough to bring in business for Pakistani fashion. The PFDC, so far, has been doing a good enough job and I support them. They have good leadership and a solid, efficient infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, Adnan cites quite a few problems within FP that are hindering the council from operating efficiently. “Fashion Pakistan is a Public Limited Company and it is necessary for it to maintain a certain level of paperwork. When I took on my post as CEO, I set a six-month long deadline for myself to salvage the council. But with no manpower to assist me and absolutely no resources, I just couldn’t manage. Other than this, the council is rife with internal conflicts. How can any organization operate in this manner?”

Adnan’s departure has left Karachi’s long-dormant fashion council floundering for a new CEO. “We will decide on the appointment of a new CEO after a board members’ meeting,” hedges FP’s Chairperson, designer Shamaeel Ansari. “Till then, we really can’t say anything.”

Moving away from the Karachi-Lahore council wars, we have the recently formed PFC, a quiet contender. With just one fashion week to its credit, it will take some time for the PFC to establish its importance. According to Adnan, in fact, the council would serve a much better purpose as a trade body for Pakistani fashion and retail brands. “This way, PFC will be benefiting the industry without crossing paths with the other one – or multiple – fashion councils,” he explains.

While PFC gears up for a fashion week tentatively scheduled for October and the PFDC endeavors to enter the bridal couture market, FP trundles on for the time being. The council’s governing board includes fashion bigwigs like Maheen Khan, Shamaeel, Deepak Perwani, Safinaz Munir, Honey Waqar and Sabeen Ameer Ali. For now, the next FP-orchestrated fashion week is yet to be announced while the well-organized PFDC continues to effectively pave inroads for the business of Pakistani fashion. But who knows, the Karachi-based council may eventually manage to get its act together.

The question remains, though, whether it really needs to go through the entire rigmarole? At the risk of sounding repetitive, we have to say it again: why not just one council for one small, fledgling Pakistani fashion industry?

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