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One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan

Feb 15, 2018

Noted couturier Ali Xeeshan shares his insights on his homage to Lahore, dismissing the rules and the beauty of not being put in a box. 

When Pakistani celebrity and bridal designer Ali Xeeshan debuted his very first collection back in 2010 at Pakistan’s PFDC Fashion Week, a head-turning moment occurred when a male model strutted down the catwalk in nothing but a razai — a traditional Pakistani quilt. Which left the style set in attendance brilliantly bewildered. And that was his point. The Lahore-based celebrity and bridal designer who has been ruling the runways since, relishes in shoving the status quo to the side.

“Who makes these rules?” Exclaimed Xeeshan when he told me about a query from an eager bride who was not sure what colour to wear for her reception. His answer was yellow. “Why should that colour only be for the Sangeet?” And cue the sounds of crashing cultural clichés.

Occasionally you come across someone who exudes such an authentic self they can seem almost unnatural when dropped amid a wilderness of filtered posts, and eschewed social media perceptions of reality. That person’s sense of self-awareness shines brighter when in stark contrast to the world which thrives on approval.

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: with Mahira Khan at PLBW 17. Photo Credit: Instagram/Ali Xeeshan Theater Studio

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: His homage to Lahore. Photo Credit: Instagram/Ali Xeeshan Theatre Studio

No Limits  

Rules aren’t made for the likes of Xeeshan. They are simply a deterrent, posing as a restrictive harness begging to be cut loose for one’s true self to breathe.

“I was gifted with invisible air about my own self,” Xeeshan opines. “I look at life from a different point of view.” And that included unapologetic flourish. Whether it was decorating himself, his house or his food, “even if it was roti and daal, I would decorate it with something and then eat it,” Xeeshan knew the beauty of the visual.

A serendipitous meeting with noted artist R.M. Naeem is when Xeeshan’s path to the runway began. Naeem gently pushed him towards fashion recognizing the budding artist’s talent for creating patterns and design. Thus, began Xeeshan’s stylish jaunt.

Having studied at the Pakistan Institute of Fashion and Design which also is affiliated with L’ Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture in Paris France, Xeeshan completed his four years with distinctions, followed by work placements in Germany and Paris. After working for a few designers back in Pakistan, he then launched his first collection where, yes, the quilt-wrapped model made Xeeshan’s presence known.

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: One of his sketches. Photo Credit: Instagram/Ali Xeeshan Theater Studio

Heritage Haute

But make no mistake, the quilt was strategic. It was Xeeshan’s “3D mood board” of inspiration. Initially when he was focused on establishing his aesthetic, he looked to other designers for inspiration before realizing the best route for him was to look inwards. “I grew up in Lahore and I’m Punjabi. In Lahore, just like Delhi we have four seasons. We have festivals and a very diversified culture, “Xeeshan explains. “That will always be my inspiration and will always be a core of my designs. Then we translate it and fuse that into contemporary cuts and silhouettes so any woman from any region can relate to it.”

While other designers were focused on evening wear, and ready-to-wear, Xeeshan in the hunt for freedom found bridal wear to be the perfect fit. It provided him the freedom for his endless experimentation be it with textures, colours (“sometimes it would take me weeks to come up with a right shade”) or applications. Xeeshan needed the right environment to create and the bridal space provided the perfect mix of luxury, glamour and fantasy for him to bloom, “For me more is more and loud is proud. You can go far with it. There aren’t many restrictions.”

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: Heritage Haute. Photo Credit: Ali Xeeshan For Libas Magazine/South Asian Bride Magazine

 

His collection lands smack dab at the intersection of couture and culture. It’s his familial cultural pride of decorative embellishments and taking unconventional hues which comes through in his designs. Xeeshan prides himself in being able to balance colours effectively while creating a distinct palette where one who is looking to stand out is drawn to. “I grew up with a lot of colours around me. My mom used to wear a lot of sharp colours, he explains. “My eyes are really good with balancing of colours. Putting two shades of colours, that comes to me naturally.”

Speak To Me  

Giving that traditional aesthetic a healthy dose of modernity without looking contrived is what Xeeshan is best known for and is an unflinching magnet for the A-list celebrity clientele as well as discerning brides who flock to one of his three studios in Pakistan located in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. In his personal studio, you won’t find any fashion magazines. Xeeshan’s mantra is keeping the sources of inspiration organic. “There are only history books, authentic books and my team’s photography. Those are inspirations,” Xeeshan explains. “When you are inspired by already existing fashion, you end up making soul-less pieces. It doesn’t have character. It doesn’t have personality. I find it synthetic. When you see an original design inspired by history or an object it talks to you.”

And Xeeshan is keen on telling a story with his clothes that he feels are his “characters.” Most recently at his runway presentation at the Hotstar Presents ANOKHI Awards 2017 — a Canadian debut for him — Xeeshan presented a collection of his favourite pieces from his Ali Xeeshan Signature line. He wants to be sure that his creations “speak” to the audience as well as to his clientele. It’s all about creating that dialogue between his ensembles and the admirer.

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: His Canadian debut Hotstar Presents The ANOKHI Awards 2017. Photo Credit: ANOKHI MEDIA/Georgia Esporlas

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: His Canadian debut Hotstar Presents The ANOKHI Awards 2017. Photo Credit: ANOKHI MEDIA/Georgia Esporlas

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: His Canadian debut Hotstar Presents The ANOKHI Awards 2017. Photo Credit: ANOKHI MEDIA/Georgia Esporlas

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: His Canadian debut Hotstar Presents The ANOKHI Awards 2017. Photo Credit: ANOKHI MEDIA/Georgia Esporlas

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: His Canadian debut Hotstar Presents The ANOKHI Awards 2017. Photo Credit: ANOKHI MEDIA/Georgia Esporlas

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: His Canadian debut Hotstar Presents The ANOKHI Awards 2017. Photo Credit: ANOKHI MEDIA/Georgia Esporlas

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: His Canadian debut Hotstar Presents The ANOKHI Awards 2017. Photo Credit: ANOKHI MEDIA/Georgia Esporlas

 

Appreciating history is key, as is the case with any couturier worth their salt. He mentions his admiration for iconic fashion houses such as Balmain and designers such as John Galliano (“he’s my best friend in my head”) as well as Indian designer Rahul Mishra (“he’s a textbook example of contemporary designer with ethnic soul”). However, in today’s Insta-ready world, it’s not lost on him that there seems to be a lack of appreciation for fashion history. “It’s really sad,” he sighs. “You see replicas of replicas now (laughs).”

When it comes to social media, as with anything in life, it’s best when used in moderation. Of course Xeeshan appreciates the marketing value and the global connectivity of it all, but he consciously ensures that he doesn’t get too distracted by it. “[It] can destroy your creativity when you are too busy considering likes. When you start unconsciously comparing your brands to others, you lose creativity so I try to create balance.”

This year will prove to be a banner year for Xeeshan. While he’s continuing his global outreach when it comes to his couture line, he is also looking to expand his craftsmanship (along with his continued support of local artisans) with a line of furniture as well as creating Ali Xeeshan Couture Weddings an all-encompassing design studio that fulfills every aspect of the wedding space. He will continue to showcase his collections per season working on presenting independent of PFDC to accommodate his larger-than-life presentations.

 

One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity & Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan
One-On-One With Pakistani Celebrity and Bridal Designer Ali Xeeshan: Portrait photography of his latest Clair de Lune collection. Photo Credit: Instagram/Ali Xeeshan Theater Studio

Making marks, breaking barriers and throwing rules into the rubbish is what makes Ali Xeeshan — well — Ali Xeeshan. He is always looking to break from the pack. When something is trending, he’s not interested. “I like to create trends, not follow them. I always say that I’m here to stand out and not to blend in.” Mission accomplished.

 

Main Image Photo Credit: ANOKHI MEDIA/Georgia Esporlas 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hina P. Ansari

Hina P. Ansari

Author

Hina P. Ansari is a graduate from The University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario). Since then she has carved a successful career in Canada's national fashion-publishing world as the Entertainment/Photo Editor at FLARE Magazine, Canada's national fashion magazine. She was the first South Asian in...

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