A CANDID CONVERSATION WITH THE UBER TALENTED, DEEPAK PERWANI ON FASHION, STRUGGLES AND ALOT MORE!
1. Model, actor, fashion designer - which 'label' would you like to add to this intro?
Fashion designer all the way. Actor would be my secondary role. And thank you for calling me a model! I feel really young right now.
2. The Deepak Perwani brand is synonymous with luxury. Have you considered doing something more affordable for a larger audience?
The brand now caters strictly to specific markets and we have decided to stay in the luxury market after all. We’re almost finishing our three decades of design in the industry. And we feel like our clients need more of our luxury wear, rather than our pret wear. So, we will not be moving into pret wear. In fact, we will be moving higher into the luxury market.
3. You started out very young in the fashion industry. How have you seen the space for fashion change over the decades?
I started out in fashion at the age of 19 and I have literally seen the whole industry grow in front of my own eyes. I can proudly say that we have made this industry come up – including all the fashion designers, magazines, editors, coordinators, choreographers, models. And this retail industry that we see today is largely based on the influence of fashion, fashion weeks, fashion awards and many other components. They have all come together to create a retail industry that we are all very proud of today. And to have achieved all of this in the past 30 to 15 years in a feat on its own.
4. What are some of the changes you would like to see happen in the industry?
Well, there are a lot of changes that can be asked for. But now everything is possible. Times have changed, social media has come up (and at this pace) to focus on, to market your product. All of that requires monetary funding. But I do feel like monetary funding comes into the way of creativity, where creativity is not as appreciated as the ‘budget’ from the design house or a retail house. Let’s not forget the thin line between monetary value and intrinsic artistic value of a product. Once we start dishing the artistic product from a design house, a designer or a retail brand, we lose all creativity. Copying will be allowed. Everything will be justified, in the name of paying for a post. And that is something that should not happen. I find that with a plethora of fashion magazines, a plethora of fashionistas, bloggers, journalists – they still need to keep the sanctity of their own profession to maybe a certain percentage, so that originality still shows, design still comes up and young designers who do edgy work can still be celebrated.
5. You are possibly Pakistan's best known fashion designer in international circles, with a standing ovation at Milan Fashion Week, Best International Designer at Miami Fashion Week and so many more. Which of these moments really stood out for you?
God is really in the detail. In the happiness of those small things and moments, that make you realize how different you are or what you have managed to achieve in your period of time. Yes, the standing ovation at Milan, the Best International Designer at Miami Fashion Week, the 6th Best Designer by the European Fashion Council and many other accolades and awards have had their time. And I think that I have paid my dues. All of those dues were creative, they were out of the box and pushed an industry forward. They made me feel like a rock star! After all, what is a designer’s job? It is to wake up in the morning and create. And if the creative juices are not flowing then after a while you tend to become a little redundant and bored. And I am not that kind of a guy, I will always be wanting to move forward, wanting to do something new and something exciting. That’s really the ingredient to an industry, the drive. And none of us should forget that. As for small moments, I think all moments are incredible. I remember, back in the day we had done some clothes for Javed Akhtar. Shabana Azmi had called up from Bombay to say that Javed will be wearing this sherwani when receiving the Padmashree Award from the President of India and we just want you to know that we love you and we are very, very proud of you and we love the piece that you made for him. So, there’s that kind of kindness. The head of Milan Modacoming up to you and saying ‘Bravo! What a smart genius you are!’ and then to find out three months later that Dolce & Gabbana has completely ripped you off and their windows look like your DPhilosophy. So, it’s all very, very inspiring. There are good days and bad days, and these small pockets of happiness keep us going. And God is truly there, as the God of small things.
6. You are also considered one of the originators of Islamic Fashion Week in Malaysia. Do you think that Islamic/modest fashion has not received the right attention from the top names in Pakistani fashion?
This is a market that the Pakistanis have not really explored because we are a progressive society. We are not a conservative society at all when it comes to fashion. Modesty, yes, we already have that. One of the reasons this was started was that the countries that originated with headscarves like Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE and massive populations of Muslims in China. It was a great concept for its time. It still runs but some how it just hasn’t popularized in Pakistan. It’s never really taken it’sown stride.
7. Frida Goes to Kharadar, was recently featured in a book on Frida Kahlo - how did that collection come about?
My collections are always inspired by concepts or ideas that are available in our own country or industry or they will always be from strong women, or women who have inspired me. If we look before Frida Kahlo, there was a collection based on the imminent artist Amrita Shergill. It was one of the first few times that that digital printing was introduced in Pakistan in those days. We were one of the first design houses that did that. So the second collection that came under the DPhilosophy label ‘Frida Goes to Kharadar,’ just the juxtaposition between how I look at art or how I look at localizing or internationalizing that art. The collections are very normal to come out of the House of Deepak Perwani. After all, if you are taking your inspiration from an artist like Frida Kahlo , she’s just bound to go to Kharadar.
8. Does ethnic Pakistani fashion have the potential to make it to the international stage the same way that Frida Goes ToKharadar does?
Ethnic Pakistani fashion comes from many different regions. You have different embroideries in Sindh and Baluchistan. The khaes, the ajrak – the dying process. Punjab has its own weaving embroideries. We have not really worked on revival. Revival of craft is very important for our designers to actually look at; the revival of old tankas and embroideries to modernize them. Ethnic going abroad, probably not, but yes a fusion of Eastern and Western embroideries, a balancing of the East and the West, that can go very far. For that you have to very attuned to what is happening in the international arena.
9. What was the last piece of clothing you bought?
A couple of shorts and T-shirts, to go running.
10.What do you enjoy designing more? Menswear or womenswear?
I enjoy designing both. I love my edgy womenswear. I find progressive fashion exhilarating. And I love designing for men. They both keep me sane and keep me balanced.
11. Will we see Deepak Perwani lawn? You never know. We are still thriving and surviving. Who knows the lawn may make a come back. Things have slowed down a little bit during the Covid times. We have plans in the pipeline and will be revealing them next year.