Inside the Swarovski shindig that brought Pakistani designers to Dubai to shine

An internationally acclaimed brand like Swarovski intrinsically inspires awe. It spins visions of shimmering, extravagant crystals, of designer gowns and A-list celebrities. With its second Sparkling Couture Infinity exhibit, the brand sought to reaffirm this image, helmed over a span of more than a 100 years of working with the world’s finest couturiers.

As before, the event took place in Dubai’s cultural melting pot, drawing in an assorted milieu that networked and made all-important posts on Instagram; the city’s socialite set, fashion designers, media expressly flown in for the event and of course, well-coiffured buyers interested in investing into the world’s crystal du jour.

It was going to be a sparkling affair – then again, how could one dominated by trillions of crystals not be?

A gala evening was preceded by a press-meet in the day time where heavy dark curtains were parted to reveal an extensive display of gowns, jewelry and clutches.

Crystal constellations were suspended from the ceiling, tall curtains glinted with tasteful smatterings of bling and a falcon, especially created by Franco Capelli and encrusted with over 600,000 crystals added magic to the evening. Taking center stage, it revolved amidst the mannequins, the national bird of the Middle East signifying Swarovski’s growing strength in the region.

The falcon set the mood for the evening for the Swarovski bonanza was one that was dominated primarily by the brand’s ‘emerging markets’, traversing the Orient, Africa, the Middle East, India and Pakistan.

An eagle statue decorated with crystals
An eagle statue decorated with crystals

The first exhibit in 2015 had featured 35 designers – this one had over 50 and together, they displayed the many facets to crystal craft clusters; from abayas and headscarves to gowns, saris, lehngas, shoes, bags, jewelry and even some blinged up home accessories.

But peeking beneath the event’s high fashion veneer, did the second Swarovski Sparkling Couture Infinity exhibit offer a one-of-a-kind experience? Here’s what we noticed…

1) The Pakistani contingent dominated…

There is definite prestige value associated with a global heavyweight like Swarovski and the Pakistani fashion contingent came out in full force to the event.

Amongst the accessory designers, there was Naushaba Brohi of Inaaya, who had worked her indigenously crafted jewelry with crystal and Rema Taseer whose artistic workmanship immediately caught the eye. Maria B. made the effort to move out of her comfort zone and dabble with contemporary construction, Sania Maskatiya worked with intricate cutwork and hand embroideries, Zainab Chottani created a heavily embellished bridal gown and veritably the country’s grand dame of bridal design, Bunto Kazmi, put forward a classic sari. Bunto was represented by her daughter in law, Seher Kazmi, while all the other designers were present.

Also milling amongst the guests was Chairperson of the Pakistan Fashion Design Council Sehyr Saigol, CEO of Fashion Pakistan Council Feri Rawanian and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari who came to support her friend Rema Taseer. From a Pakistani point of view, it was all rather upper crust and it was no wonder that our nifty Instagrammers made sure that the event trended on social media.

2) But we could’ve had yet more impact

The heavy duty attendance made sense not just because of the Swarovski association but also because the Middle East is increasingly becoming an important market for Pakistani bridal-wear.

Designer Faraz Manan already has a store in Dubai and lately, Pakistani fashion has been showcased in events at Beirut, Bahrain as well as Dubai. The Middle East is a neutral playing field for our designers, attracting in Arabs, the Indians and even some bling-inclined buyers from the West and the Swarovski exhibit presented an opportunity to reach out further towards this clientele.

Having said this, the Swarovski exhibit was a crowded one and some good old fashioned marketing gimmicks could have helped our nascent fraternity stand out.

Thai designer Sudjitt from Finale Wedding Studio, for instance, had Pancake Khemanit Jamikorn, a popular actress from their region, attend the press meet as well as the gala evening.

Tall, elegant with exquisite bone structure, one didn’t have to know of the actress to ascertain that she was a star. Another woman who immediately caught the eye was an ebony-skinned model looming over the crowd wearing a design by Ophelia Crossland from Ghana.

Similar efforts could have created greater impact for the Pakistani designers. It was appreciative, though, that they were in attendance, answering queries and interacting with the many buyers who peered inquisitively at the designs.

3) Major Indian designers were notably absent

With the Pakistani fraternity hobnobbing with great gusto, one was surprised that the Indian designers taking part in the event – Tarun Tahiliani and Shantanu and Nikhil – skipped out on attending at all.

Another long time Swarovski partner, Lebanon’s Georges Hoebika – in local circles, remembered for Mahira Khan’s fairytale gown at the Lux Style Awards in 2015 – also did not come, sending in his son and PR team instead.

Many others did turn up and the veritably cosmopolitan gala evening brought together the Middle East, Africa and a considerably strong contingent from the Far East. The focus, though, was on design, as pointed out by Arsalan Saifullah Khan, Head of Sales for the Gulf and Emerging Markets at Swarovski.

“We see so much potential in the designers who are part of the event. This exhibit is a step towards consolidating our collaborations with them, with the brand and the designers establishing long-term partnerships that our mutually beneficial and fashion forward,” he said.

4) Swarovski’s sights get wider

Only three years into officially launching into Pakistan, Swarovski has already latched onto our bridal market, officially partnering with Sania Maskatiya, Zainab Chottani and Maria B. Many other designers – Bunto Kazmi, HSY, Elan, Faraz Manan and Ammara Khan to name a few – have also long been implementing the crystals into their bridal-wear embellishments.

The crystals are diverse, melding well with our homegrown hand embroideries, complementing the dabka, tilla and zari rather than overpowering them. The second Swarovski Sparkling Couture Infinity exhibit was testament to this.

One looks forward to seeing Pakistan’s burgeoning Swarovski equation become more visible in the next exhibit.


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