A show in Paris is a show in Paris – it is not Paris Fashion Week

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By Maliha Rehman

This past weekend, the Asian Institute of Fashion Design (AIFD), part of the Iqra University, Karachi, set a new precedent by showcasing the work of its graduating class of fashion students on a catwalk in Paris. The show, part of a collective designer event organized by the LA based production company Fashion Week Studio, presented the top 10 looks from the AIFD thesis collection 2022. It also featured a student-made fashion film titled ‘Enchanted Odyssey’.

To showcase at a runway in Paris is a dream come true for any fashion student and one can only imagine how excited the nine students who were there at the venue must have been, accompanied by AIFD’s CEO and co-founder Maheen Ahmar Lakhani as well as a select few who also flew out to attend the show.

“It had long been my dream to take the work of our student body to an international level,” Maheen Ahmar Lakhani told me, a few hours before she flew out of Pakistan for the event. “My dream lingered on as I worked with our fashion students. We came up with our very first fashion film, a small one, in 2021. Then, with the next one, we invested more time and effort and the culmination of our efforts, ‘Enchanted Odyssey’, will be showcased at the event in Paris. We have opted for the final slot at the event particularly because we wanted to show our fashion film.”

Maheen continued, “A lot of times, fashion students’ work is criticized that it is not wearable. I’d like to point out here that students’ work is supposed to be edgy and give testament to the many skills that they have learnt. The clothes that we’re taking to Paris show the students’ artistic perspective.”

Adding to the excitement was the fact that AIFD was participating in a show that was taking place around the same time as Paris Fashion Week (PFW), one of the most prestigious events on the fashion calendar. This is one of the main highlights of Fashion Week Studio’s ventures. The company’s events take place around the same time and in the same city as the world’s most prestigious fashion weeks. Designers can register and become part of Fashion Week Studio ventures by paying a participation fee. This could mean that the collections that are showcased don’t really go through a stringent vetting process before they are approved for the catwalk. Also, only people who can afford to do so can be part of the event.

AIFD’s efforts to provide its students with international exposure, by working with Fashion Week Studio, must be appreciated. The PFW catwalk is, of course, an extremely coveted one. Only the world’s topmost ateliers are listed on its bi-annual schedule. It is a feat indeed for a new brand to get featured on the PFW runway. Paris buzzes with excitement when PFW is taking place, with an A-list crowd of models, media and designers flying into the city to attend a very exclusive montage of shows. It must really have been a brilliant experience for the young students to soak in the high-fashion excitement buzzing through the city at this time of the year.

However, this does not mean that it should be implied that the group was at PFW itself. Time and again, all across social media, cleverly worded statements insinuate  that the AIFD group is showcasing at PFW. While now and then one of the attendees makes an adjustment to the captions that they are posting, mentioning that they are watching a show taking place ‘during’ PFW, most of the time this bit of information is being ignored.

On Instagram pages, including AIFD’s own page, the hashtag #ParisFashionWeek has been floated out rampantly. Yes, they may be attending a fashion show in Paris and a layman may consider that the description ‘Paris Fashion Week’ can be applied to the event. However, Paris Fashion Week is the name of a copyrighted, registered event. This group was not at the Paris Fashion Week – as a school specializing in fashion, surely they must be aware of the vast difference between the two events.


I mentioned this to Maheen in our conversation and she acknowledged, “Yes, we have constantly been mentioning that the show is taking place during Paris Fashion Week. However, sometimes students and bloggers get excited and mix up facts.”


The show has now wrapped up in Paris and the facts are still getting mixed up. There are some captions that have correctly outlined that the AIFD show is one taking place ‘during’ PFW. Instagram influencer Alizeh Pasha has, for instance, been careful with the wording of her captions on Instagram.


At the same time, a plethora of locally run pages on Instagram are cheering over how Pakistan is being represented at PFW. There are posts talking about how AIFD has made Pakistan proud by making it to PFW. There’s that misleading hashtag being pushed about enthusiastically.

And there are people who actually believe it all. It’s unfortunate. Pakistani fashion may be going through a low phase and designers may lack the vision and financial clout to make a mark internationally, but surely we can’t let ourselves wallow completely in the backwaters. We can’t push forward misleading captions, expecting an unassuming audience to accept it all without blinking an eye.

We’re not living in a village, cut off from doing a basic Google search in order to verify facts. Consider the impression we give off if an international fashion editor or designer does a random Google search of Pakistani fashion and comes across murky information like this. How does that make us look?

Getting shortlisted for an international fashion week is not an easy task. Recently, Lahore-based brand Rastah managed to get featured on the London Fashion Week (LFW) schedule. They had to invest time, effort and considerable expense into coming up with a collection that would pass through the LFW editing process. Hopefully, one day, young fashion graduates from Pakistan may also similarly make it to major fashion week runways.

Until then, designers and fashion schools can be proud of other achievements. Some of the finest hand-crafted embellishments are intrinsic to Pakistan. There are Pakistani ateliers that work with extreme finesse and have aesthetics that could rival the work of the world’s finest couturiers. Fashion schools in Pakistan are doing wonders, training a motley crew of young people on the technique and expertise required for a career in design. Thesis displays – or better yet, graduating class shows should fashion schools choose to invest in them – would be a reason to celebrate.

To be part of a show in Paris is an exciting thing. Let’s be happy about that. There is no need to make other implications.

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A show in Paris is a show in Paris – it is not Paris Fashion Week