Chinoiserie Collection by Shehla Chatoor at Fashion Pakistan Week-4 (FPW)

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By Zehra Javeri

Silk flows through secret hallways, whispers rise above mists of opium. The gentle patter of lotus feet, a gong echoing in the night air, the sounds of an ancient empire fade into the distance of time. All that are left are images frozen onto fabric and molded into art. Potent symbols of life and power, love and beauty, these are what resonate today of the long shattered Chinese Empire and what Shehla Chatoor has attempted to encapsulate in her Chinoiserie collection.

These Showcase of clothes is a small teaser of what Shehla Chatoor has been meticulously crafting in her workshop. Each outfit on display has been designed with an eye to detail and a careful sense of antiquity. Shehla Chatoor has chosen black as a backdrop to act as a foil for the symbols that play richly on the fabric. Each emblem plays homage to the Chinese mythical landscape. Graceful cranes dancing among serpent-like clouds, a fiery phoenix in flight and the dragon, that quintessential Chinese totem of imperial power and national identity, all captured by Shehla’s artful prints.

Symbols are much more than form. They have ceremonial and spiritual importance but, more than that, they create identity. Nations have been known by the banners that they carry just as women today are styled by the brands they wear. Shehla Chatoor, as a brand, is acutely aware of this philosophy and has, at the outset, branded her products and prints with a logo and a design aesthetic that is particular to her. She has made her mark but has not lost sight of the symbolism that inspired her. Her penchant for Oriental imagery is evident from her earliest collections and has become her signature.

Shehla Chatoor uses luxury fabrics and metal embellishments clasped onto tremulous swathes of silk like modern day netsuke. Metal chains, fashioned into jewelry by Shehla, cascade down the outfits and add drama against the black silhouette. This time, Shehla Chatoor has also added an element of texture with wraps of fur that transform each piece to the sublime. Ornate handbags and elegant shoes, all made in house, complete Shehla’s vision: a languid and elegant style, rooted in history but bold enough to stride down catwalk.