Open Playing Field

Open Playing Field
It was just a matter of time before Karma hit the split and though at face value the timing maybe at a disadvantage, it doesn't come as a shock that Kamiar Rokni and Maheen Kardar decided to part ways before Pakistan Fashion Week

By Aamna Haider Isani

Pakistan's fashion industry is very small compared to fashion industries of the world and Pakistan Fashion Week seems to be approaching like a very big storm brewing in this very small tea cup. And it has just a little more than two months to strike the face of Pakistan, full throttle. The industry is going to change forever.

But no need to sound ominous. It's a good thing, this storm, as it rides on the waves of creativity and brings construction instead of destruction. And it's much needed to unearth the fashion industry out of complacency. Some will rise through it and others will fall; some will be wiped out of existence completely. But no one will be unaffected by it, not even those who decided to stay away from the show this year.

The hustle bustle has begun and one can safely assume that Pakistan Fashion Week plays a role in things as big as label splits, (yes one is referring to Karma) and even things as trivial as losing weight for the cameras. Fashion weeks anoint designers, they create stars and stars seldom like sharing the limelight. Even internationally, except for Dolce and Gabbana or the recent phenomena - Ksubi - designers like to work alone. Two people designing a collection is like two artists painting the same canvas and that doesn't work to anyone's advantage. More so, no creative person likes to be controlled. So it was just a matter of time before Karma hit the split and it doesn't come as a shock that they decided to do so before Pakistan Fashion Week.

Going separate ways will ensure that both Kamiar Rokni and Maheen Kardar Ali finally find their individual worth as designers. It may work to the benefit of Maheen Kardar Ali, who says she is ready to take her place as the new face of Karma. She is already organizing the next Karma solo show, scheduled for December or January after Pakistan Fashion Week, where she is hopeful she'll be representing Karma too. It will be the second self financed solo show Karma will do in seven years, the first being the hugely successful Goddess collection shown in Lahore a couple of years ago. And for her the relief will be in the fact that she will be able to show without the shadow of Kami's creativity looming over her. But then again, Karma without Kami may not be the same entity. For better or worse, its profile is bound to change.

"I know that all eyes will be on Karma's next collection that I design and everyone will want to know how the label does without Kami," she says, adding with confidence that Karma is going to go bigger than ever this year, with additional shops and a newly acquired garment unit to boot. There was never any doubt that Karma had the structure of a successful corporation, perhaps the first of its sort to kick into the fashion industry, but there was also never any doubt that Kamiar Rokni was the creative force behind that structure. Karma may do just as well without the creative genius of Kamiar Rokni, who can predict where Maheen manages to take it, but then again, it may lose its soul.

Kamiar Rokni's status faces a similar dichotomy. He has the creative energy and has been termed as "the most creative designer Pakistan has" but does he have the business acumen to take up the business of fashion? He certainly seems confident, not at all at a loss.

"It was my decision to no longer be part of a corporation," he told Instep. "I've learnt all that I could from being an employee and share holder of Karma and need to go out on my own now."
Kamiar Rokni is a swift worker and already has put a system into place. His label has been registered and his website is up. According to him, all he requires is a go-ahead from Fashion Week organizers, allowing him to debut at Pakistan Fashion Week.

"It's an unusual situation," says Simon Lock. "I've never come across a situation like this before. We have not discussed this yet but I would think we would ask both companies to re-submit their credentials and we would ask the National Selection Panel to reconsider. However, if the label remains the same and it's a matter of a designer leaving it, then it's another case. Gucci doesn't come to a halt if Tom Ford leaves Gucci. But we have to be fair and give both designers a fair chance. Like I said, this needs to be discussed internally before we can come to a conclusion."

Simon Lock's natural allusion would be to Gucci and Tom Ford but the case here is that Kamiar Rokni has always been bigger than Karma, unlike the Tom Ford-Gucci situation. With the finances and corporate structure of the label being someone else's headache, he had the liberty to concentrate on his forte - designing. Now with the additional baggage of managing his own brand, one only hopes with fingers crossed that this fiery designer doesn't lose his spark.

Other than his plans to become an entrepreneur as well as a fashion designer, Kami has mentioned that he is open to any other work that comes his way as 'Kamiar Rokni". With retailers sitting up and noticing the business prospects that will undoubtedly wash in with Pakistan Fashion Week, it won't be surprising if he does begin designing for another established brand. The world has Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, John Galliano for Dior and Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton. Why can't there be a Kamiar Rokni for a local label just as big in Pakistan? No reason at all.

In a nutshell, this division will go the advantage of both designers. The social/press mileage scene is so strong in Lahore that it was natural for Maheen Kardar to feel the disadvantage of Kami demanding the limelight every where they went. It was always Kami's opinion that people asked for, his creativity they praised. That could not have been easy for her to digest. For Kami, this split will come as independence and freedom. Let's hope they both manage to fly as high as their label did.
Pakistan Fashion Week will ensure that the best designers win

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