By Maliha Rehman
You could possibly hear the crackling of the radio in the background as you look at designer Mohsin Naveed Ranjha’s Eid-ul-Adha festive line, titled ‘Radio Pakistan’. There is a harmonium peering out from the background, vintage recording apparatus used as props and a library, lined with books encased in wooden glass cabinets. The models wear kolhapuris, khussas, classic jhumkas and chokers in silver, there are flowers in their hair, an ageing pedestal fan stands nearby. Shot at the old radio broadcast building in Lahore, the imagery transforms you to the times of yore when radio was in vogue and a motley crew of broadcasters, singers and celebrities took to the air waves to entertain a mass audience.
The lighting of the shoot and the overall color palette adds to the old world glamour; subdued shades of ochre, yellow and beige in the backdrop, set off by a collection that may be replete with design details but is understated in terms of hues.
Before one looks at the design elements of ‘Radio Pakistan’, though, one has to appreciate how well thought-out editorials are refreshing in these times of fashion ennui. The modeling pool has been chosen well; with men and women of varying skin tones and one of the female models having the skin condition vitiligo. It is a nod to the sentiment that today’s fashion, while retaining a semblance of glamour, needs to be inclusive.
Also, a large majority of Pakistani designers are now choosing to shoot their collections in generic glamorous settings that are instantly forgettable while others are opting for catalogue-y basic photographs that give potential customers a clear idea of the design and can be placed on their estore pages and Instagram. Only a handful are celebrating a newly conceived collection with an editorial that makes you sit up and notice not just the clothes but the story behind them.
Mohsin Naveed Ranjha has identified himself as one such designer. Time after time, he brings out an editorial that tells a story in a unique setting and that remains memorable. This Eid line, for instance, stays firmly in traditional territory – the women wear variations of the shalwar kameez while the men wear kurtas and pajamas. There is a blend of color and embroidery that is beautiful but there are no wacky silhouettes or outlandish statements. Festive collections targeting Eid tend to aim for elegance rather than veer off the beaten track, as is the case in Radio Pakistan. Wrapped in the shiny foil of a bona fide fashion editorial, the clothes somehow make more of an impact. I wonder if the effort helps amp up sales for the brand.
Focusing on the collection, embroidered florals and geometric patterns, block print, gota and mirror-work tapers on a pastel palette. There are necklines that run down till the waist, patterns spiraling down the back, shirt lengths that vary from above the knee to all the way down to the ankle and glorious statement dupattas. The womenswear ranges from kurtas and pajamas, to a peplum shirt paired with a shalwar, a straight shirt with a fitted waistcoat over it and gharara pants. The men’s designs feature kurtas, pants and jackets. Luxe fabrics form the base: raw silk, organza, karandi and cotton net. Timeless. And very, very pleasing to the eye.
This collection, preceded by a few other strong ones, is indicative of the brand MNR coming of age. Four odd years ago, Mohsin Naveed Ranjha had stepped into the spotlight with heavy wedding-wear with a strong focus on color. Since then, the designer has honed his aesthetic, understanding his market, and adding subtle luxury-wear to his atelier. There’s something for everybody, men and women, it seems – although I’ll have to take a tour of his studio to be sure of this!
Radio Pakistan, replete with such fine details, is a collection that is likely to sell well. It also gives testament to the fact that, with the continued absence of fashion weeks, a strong concept can make a collection more noticeable.
You could hear music when you wear it; an eternal Nazia Hassan hit, a classic by Madam Nur Jehan, a love song by Alamgir or, spiraling forwards, the latest Coke Studio hit, streaming out from a crackling, vintage radio.