Sartorial statements and Pehlwani – Mohsin Naveed Ranjha’s Sheranwal Bagh

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By Maliha Rehman

The men stand in their crisp kurtas and pajamas with two scantily-clad pehlwans grappling with each other in the background. This is Sheranwala Bagh, one of Gujranwala’s most well-known locations where the traditional sport of pehlwani continues to stay alive. The Eid collection by Mohsin Naveed Ranjha is named after the location and is also shot there.

There is certainly nothing pehlwan-like about the clothes worn by the models; mostly streamlined kurta pajamas in cotton textures and raw silk, set off by single-tone embroideries. Designer Mohsin Naveed Ranjha chose to name the collection after the famous locale as an ode to his home-town.

“It’s strange that what people once considered my weakness has now become my strength: my birth-city Gujranwala,” says the designer. “When I first entered the fashion industry, many were disdainful about the city that I hailed from and they questioned my abilities as a designer with reference to it. Now, when I dedicate an entire collection to my city, all it does is get me a lot of attention.”

Why place focus on pehlwani, though? “It may be a dying sport elsewhere but it remains extremely significant at Sheranwala Bagh,” explains Mohsin. “When we were shooting the collection at the location, some photographs had to be taken within the akhara, the main area where the men wrestle. The models were asked to take off their shoes when entering the area. The pehlwans have such respect for the soil that is an intrinsic part of their sport.”

The images have shock value. The pehlwans’ bodies are matted with dust as they roll about in the soil. It isn’t your classic sophisticated fashion shoot backdrop. For this very reason, it leaves an impression.

Moving beyond the shoot’s backdrop, this latest collection exemplifies the designer’s brand, MNR’s evolution within menswear. The collection is predominantly in cotton textures – cotton, cotton-net, cotton silk, karandi – with some options in raw silk and follows a subtle palette, barring two eye-popping options in green and mustard. The kurtas are tapered, embellished with embroideries that are a mix of hand with some machine-work. Paisleys, tiny borders, mirror-work and clusters of florals are all part of the canvas.

The silhouettes are all very fitted – a design element that may be appreciated by many amongst the MBR clientele but may not work for men who like their kurtas to be of a looser fit.

There is a chooridar pajama in the offing, a pajama with pleats at the end, shawls, patkas, Jawahar jackets and Nehru caps for the savant. One particular kurta is accentuated by bell-shaped cuffs. Two classic designs – one in ivory and the other in white – are modeled by the designer and his brother, Abubakar Ranjha.

There is quite a bit of embroidery in many of the designs – even though it doesn’t overwhelm because the colors remain muted. “There is a lot of embroidery because I felt the need to create a festive collection that could be worn on Eid as well as at weddings that follow soon afterwards,” says Mohsin. “A lot of newly-married and just-engaged men are part of our clientele and they require designs that are embellished but still remain masculine.”

“And we launched right before Ramzan,” he continues. “We wanted our male clientele to have their wardrobe sorted, well before Eid! The collection has been doing very well.”

Well then, that’s sorted. A crisp, streamline range for men; the name and the shoot catch attention but then, so do the clothes.

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Sartorial statements and Pehlwani – Mohsin Naveed Ranjha’s Sheranwal Bagh