With a little more than a month to Ramadan, bridal season is in hurried, full bloom. And with weddings happening left, right and centre, can bridal fashion weeks be far behind?. Packed with clothes, jewellery and even music and dance performances, It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that BCW has been tailored made – not for style – but for an entertainment starved Pakistani audience that is equally besotted by the brouhaha of weddings.
The show’s main sponsor position it as “an opportunity to build strong and meaningful connections with women across Pakistan.” Event organizers at HUM TV consider it “an important platform for new and established designers of Pakistan.”
But what is it? Young and upcoming designers – even established names who see its commercial worth – may be eager to show at PBCW but unfortunately, despite having eight seasons under it’s belt, it still does not have the grip of a seasoned event. It continues to spark a lot of criticism and often disapproval for it’s unprincipled and money driven nature. There is no apparent selection process, which means that anyone who can pay can show. That does compromise the quality.
“I saw tacky, ripped clothes being paraded out,” one young designer spoke to Instep on terms of anonymity. “The backstage was very mismanaged and we were given no time to prepare models for our show. I don’t think I’ll show again.”
“The feedback and exposure that brands get at BCW make it worth it to show,” a veteran designer spoke, again on terms of anonymity. “But why does one designer always get the grand finale and why are models spending hours rehearsing for his show while we barely get 15 minutes of preparation time?”
It is fitting to note here that unlike Fashion Pakistan’s FPW and Pakistan Fashion Design Council’s PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week, BCW is not backed by a Fashion council, rather it is owned by a TV network. This determines that the event is organized to generate content for television and not to stimulate fashion. That said, as a huge marketing platform for designers who show, BCW does generate business as a bi-product.
Clothes shown at BCW are mainstream bridal ensembles with prices often ranging between six and seven digit figures. And even the naysayers cannot deny that BCW has brought fame to a lot of amateur designers/boutique owning aunties. But whether these ‘aunties’ really deserve to be at the forefront is debatable. What is the criteria and who decides? Anyone who can dish out the dough can basically have their way at BCW but what does that do to the standard of the event?
“The criteria is not very stringent as the objective is to give as many people a chance to showcase their talent as possible,” HUM TV’s Public Relations Manager Shanaz Ramzi commented on the issue. “There is a committee that looks at the samples of work and if they feel they are decent enough to showcase on the ramp, they are accepted. Of course it all depends on slots available as people book for the next event right after one event is over. ”
The BCW controversy does not end there. The event’s makeup partner, Saba Ansari from Sab’s, recently admitted in a magazine interview that she does pay organizers to do the hair and makeup (rather than other way around where artists get compensation for providing their services). She defended her decision of paying by insisting that the publicity she gets from the whole extravaganza is worth even more. And publicity it does generate.
Zaheer Abbas who has recently evolved his edgy romantic aesthetic to a more mass friendly one points out that “the kind of publicity BCW provides on Hum network is exemplary; it keeps running on repeat till the next show. PFDC’s bridal showcase doesn’t give one such long PR mileage. In addition, there is a magazine which prints these photos from the show and is distributed far and wide, giving us international reach.”
Designer Nida Azwer who has shown at all fashion weeks this season offered a different outlook, saying that “the seasoned brands (like her own) are asked to show whereas the ones who are lesser known have to pay to show.” She also reiterated that “BCW is unabashedly commercial, and is made for television and an attending audiences so one has to take these things into consideration when showing.”
When asked about BCW ‘s comparison to other bridal showcases, designer Nauman Arfeen (who is a board member of the Fashion Pakistan Council as well) opined that “you can’t really compare apples with oranges; the rules of the game are obviously different. But Bridal Couture Week is a fantasy, drama. It is larger than life and it reflects the sentiments of our masses that are increasingly looking for fairytale weddings with all the bells and whistles. Since the entertainment quotient for BCW is higher than others, it is appreciated by the masses.”
It is very mass-oriented, apparent in the attendance. Instead of international buyers, media, fashion critics, fashionistas and front row stylistas, the audience here is very demographically diverse, mostly composed of corporate sponsors, boutique aunties and network people out for an evening of entertainment. But Tabassum Mughal, who is one of BCW’s success stories, thinks it doesn’t really make a difference as “real people who buy my clothes are more important for me and a diverse audience is always good for the business.” That does make sense for designers looking for good business as pure fashion may be elitist but wedding wear has to appeal to the masses and this is what the general public appreciates and responds to. Case in point: the kind of following morning shows get, crude and tacky as they may be.
Over 14 editions old (it is organized twice a year, between Lahore and Karachi), BCW has become the proverbial itwar bazaar of wedding wear. It is populist, open to all and commercially does very well for designers who choose to set up shop. It may not be critically acclaimed but then critical acclaim is not what the organizers are looking for; they are looking for content for television screening and meanwhile have set up a platform for people to benefit from. This is another show that HSY choreographs and shows at. It’s where council heads like Deepak Perwani and Nauman Arfeen opt to show. And even designers like Nida Azwer, who are already showing everywhere, choose not to miss BCW. As long as designers continue to benefit from the platform, it is safe to say that is here to stay and flourish and generate business for bridals.
Disclaimer: The article originally appeared in Instep in 14th May 2014