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WKND Fashion: How Dubai put the couturier Faraz Manan on the global fashion map

Khaleej Times logo Khaleej Times 15/07/2021 Sujata Aaaomull
a man wearing a suit and tie: WKND Fashion: How Dubai put the couturier Faraz Manan on the global fashion map © Provided by Khaleej Times WKND Fashion: How Dubai put the couturier Faraz Manan on the global fashion map

A celebrated couturier from Lahore, Pakistan, with a plush, two-storey flagship in the toney area of Dubai's Jumeirah, who has Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor Khan as his muse and a clientele that comprises some of the most influential Middle Eastern women, Faraz Manan is a designer who has truly transcended borders. You cannot pigeonhole him. Walk into his store and you will find everything - from dazzling fairytale lehengas to chic kaftans to ever-so-daring short dresses - many of them made from the finest French silk. The common theme running across all is an aesthetic that may be rooted in luxury but also has delicacy to it. Manan has special love for intricate hand embroidery that is served with a delicious dose of glamour with measured use of sequins, beading and fringing, and yet feels fresh as he experiments with silhouettes.

There is an unapologetic femininity to his designs. His clothes conjure up a feeling of romance and they are for the woman who embraces her inner grace. Dubai-based serial entrepreneur Iman Allana, who has also walked the ramp for Dolce & Gabbana, says Manan has become the voice of South Asian designers in the Middle East. "No other designer from the subcontinent has achieved this."

There is considerable truth in that claim. Over the years, the couturier has been part of shows and events in Beirut and Bahrain. "I would like to be known as a regional fashion designer, bringing the best of South Asia and Middle East together," says Manan.

This was precisely the reason Manan turned to Dubai to set up his first store outside Pakistan six years ago. "Dubai is the ultimate melting pot of cultures. Its geographical location and metropolitan culture have made it an ideal choice for my first international store," he says. Whether it is his store staff or his aesthetics, Manan believes everything must reflect his regional take on fashion, blending the best of the subcontinent with that of this region and adding a Western touch to the patterns. Be it the fine zardozi (metal) and resham (thread) embroideries from Pakistan or gota (a lacing technique of metal strips) or chikankari (an intricate hand embroidery technique based on the running stitch) from India, he handpicks the best of both countries and makes it relevant to an Arab as well as a South Asian woman. As one of his stylish patrons, Abu Dhabi-based businesswoman Asma Al Fatim says: "He is very connected to his roots, but has managed to give them a global voice."

Manan's bespoke bridal outfits also command popularity. Indian fashion designer and style icon Pernia Qureshi recently wore a Faraz Manan outfit for her wedding, flying from Delhi to Dubai for her fittings. "I discovered Faraz two years before my wedding and told him then that I am definitely wearing him if and when that happens," says Qureshi. "I love his clothes for the sophistication, intricacy and use of colour. He strikes the right balance between sensuality and femininity. Somehow, there is subtlety and restraint in the way he presents glamour."

No wonder then celebrities like Pakistani actress Mahira Khan and Indian actress Kiara Advani have been spotted in his ensembles at wedding functions. Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor Khan is his muse. Manan says she became a friend and a muse right from their first interaction. "We bond over love for family, food and fun things in life. I would like to see her in my creation for my next fashion show." Kapoor has worn many of Manan's pieces over the years at numerous events.

At his Dubai store, you can find ready-to-wear and occasion wear pieces on the ground floor, while upstairs, there are bridal collections and a private shopping room too. This is where Manan meets his clients. Attention to details can be seen in the smallest elements of his garments - from zips that have his name embossed on the side or rope belts backed with silk velvet linings. "I have special love for haute couture, which is inherently occasion-based and yet timeless. I am bringing the same philosophy in my ready-to-wear pieces, creating garments which have a dynamic and universal appeal," he says. All this comes at a cost too - with prices starting from Dh7,000 for simple occasion wear. His clothes are investment buys.

Weddings also turned out to be important to his scheme of things during the pandemic. The timelessness of his designs meant women did not mind spending on his creations for their special day. He travelled to Dubai whenever possible to meet his clients. "He is very involved with the whole process," comments Al Fahim.

Looking at a post-pandemic future, Manan has his gaze fixed on further widening his customer base in the region, and then taking the brand to Western shores. "We are gradually working to increase our footprint in the region and establishing a global presence as we speak," says Manan. He is confident that the day we see a Faraz Manan outfit on the Oscars red carpet is not really far off.

Faraz Manan's top tips for Eid dressing:

Less is always moreOpt for summer sorbet coloursChoose effortless chic classic silhouettes (that can be worn again and again)Go for pure breathable fabrics (with soft light silks)

The Journey:

2010 - Opens his flagship store in Lahore

2011 - Launches his first-ever prints collection nationwide with Karisma Kapoor as the face of the brand

2012 - Showcases his first solo bridal couture collection in Lahore

2013 - Kareena Kapoor becomes the face of the brand

2015 - Launches his first international flagship store in Dubai with a solo fashion show at Four Seasons, Jumeirah

2018 - Leading Bollywood celebrities like Madhuri Dixit, Priyanka Chopra, Jacqueline Fernandez, Shraddha Kapoor and Janhvi Kapoor dress up in Faraz Manan Couture

2019 - Faraz Manan showcases his collection at an awards function with Kareena Kapoor Khan as the showstopper

2020 - First Harper's Bazaar Arabia cover with Shanina Shaik

wknd@khaleejtimes.com

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