Lajwanti crosses borders along with Jacqueline Fernandez – but what does it mean?

By Maliha Rehman

“Fashion is, perhaps, one of the softest, most intimate of shared common dreams and desires when it comes to bringing two nations together, even though the current climate may not allow a catwalk across borders in this case through India and Pakistan,” states fashion brand Lajwanti in the introduction to one of its most recent shoots, of a collection symbolically titled ‘Azal’, which means a new beginning.

While a cross-border catwalk may never be a tangible possibility, the shared heritage and history that binds India and Pakistan together has often resulted in artistic collaborations. Lajwanti’s latest shoot is one such effort, winding its way from Pakistan to India and finally taking center stage in the U.A.E.’s platonic ground where individuals from both countries mix and merge easily. The designs are made in Pakistan, modeled by Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez who hails from Sri Lankan and Malay roots and are showcased in an editorial campaign in collaboration with Masala U.A.E.

The designs are quintessential Lajwanti. Established in 1995, the Lahore-based atelier has long had a penchant for fusing Eastern traditional elements with modern cuts. The embroideries are intricately done by hand; thread embroideries merged with mirror-work and metallic elements on a canvas of fine, luxury fabrics. The silhouettes are elaborate; a flowing lehngas paired with an embellished bustier, a long front-open coat with cutwork at the back, a fitted mermaid-style skirt complemented by a single-shouldered, risqué top. It’s East meets West, modern design meeting ornate, age-old embroidered details, Pakistani design meeting an international audience.

What does the collaboration with Jacqueline Fernandez achieve for the brand, though? It certainly isn’t the first time that a Pakistani atelier has worked with a celebrity from across the border. It certainly isn’t as if one isn’t aware that Lajwanti creates luxury-wear with a modern sensibility.

Nevertheless, with local fashion weeks having receded into the shadows, it is important for brands to make the effort to stand out. The bi-annual catwalk created to showcase new collections have disappeared in post-pandemic Pakistan. Fashion shoots have become essential for drawing eyeballs towards a new collection and collaborating with an internationally renowned name manages to achieve this.

Furthermore, Azal has been featured in Masala U.A.E., one of the most widely-read magazines in the Middle East, and the melting pot of cultures in that region immediately connect with a well-known Bollywood actress. Of course, all artistic cross-border collaborations, including Azal, subliminally give out the message of peace and acknowledge the rich traditions of craft shared between India and Pakistan.

The collaboration also fits into the Lajwanti brand philosophy. From the patterns adopted in the embroideries to the selection of fabric and color to the themes adopted for fashion shoots, the brand has always sought inspiration from the pre-partition era. The silhouettes may be avant-garde but the quintessential Lajwanti winding arches, trailing rivulets, flora and fauna that are a throwback to the ornate luxury synonymous with the Mughal era.

Once the hype and hoopla of a celebrity wanes away, design ultimately matters. Lajwanti’s footprint has always relied heavily on painstakingly created, intricate craft. Zoom in closer on the pictures, zero in on that lehnga or that cutworked back and you’ll be able to appreciate it.

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Lajwanti crosses borders along with Jacqueline Fernandez – but what does it mean?