There was a splash of neon. Stripes in vibrant multi-colours. Shade-blocked strips of silk and organza joined up collectively to type lengthy column shirts. Thick bunches of sequins forming eccentric floral patterns. Octopuses and psychedelic fish wading down from the shoulder to the sleeve.

Electrical. New age. Unapologetically fashionable. You would delve deeper into the style lexicon to search out extra methods of describing Hussain Rehar’s preliminary work, again in 2017. It was such an anomaly in comparison with the beautiful sartorial finery that dominated the style scene that it made folks sit up and take discover.

Freshly graduated from the Pakistan Institute of Vogue Design (PIFD) and after a number of months’ stint working with designer Khadijah Shah, Hussain launched on his personal with an eponymous label. His aesthetic was so distinctive that it instantly caught the attention. Who’s the designer, you Married, as you noticed a few of the designs whereas scrolling down Instagram.

This question was rapidly adopted by a survey of his costs, the place he stocked and whether or not his garments might be bought simply. “[He] might turn out to be considered one of trend’s future trendsetters,” I wrote, in my very first evaluate of his work.

Shortly afterwards — in March 2018 to be exact — Hussain made his catwalk debut on the PFDC Sunsilk Vogue Week (PSFW) in Lahore. Strolling out on the finish of the present with a coterie of fashions, Hussain was fairly as trendy as the garments that he created. Wearing a striped jumpsuit with a zipper down the entrance, he grinned bashfully as he took a bow.

Since then, Hussain has turn out to be a everlasting fixture within the Lahore trend circuit, making waves again when trend weeks had been nonetheless useful and even driving out the pandemic with aptitude, rolling out successive collections on-line for his rising buyer base.

So far, his private trend statements are usually at par with the style that’s his declare to fame: outsized blazers in eye-popping colors, energy fits, unfastened kurta pajamas all complemented by a tasty array of equipment. It is a wardrobe to die for — and it is testomony to how a lot this younger boy from Gujranwala loves garments.

Lengthy earlier than he made trend design his raison d’etre, a younger Hussain Rehar would combine and match his garments and gown up for household gatherings. The kin could be enthralled. Probably, Gujranwala — metropolis of sun-baked fields and wrestlers grappling in dusty akhaaras — hadn’t skilled such a trend savant earlier than!

“I’ve all the time liked placing an outfit collectively,” he tells me. “The wardrobes in my houses are chock full with garments that I continually purchase after which put on in numerous methods. I like to decorate up and go locations!”

This admission makes me curious: what did he do in the course of the coronavirus lockdown when nobody was going anyplace? “I’d gown up and go have dinner with my mom,” Hussain laughs.

The private penchant for standing out has translated to creating garments that stand out. Over a six-odd-years-long profession, Hussain has honed his craft, labored on sample and finishings and mastered the balancing act between design that’s commercially viable and but distinctive.

He is gained two awards — Designer of the Yr Demi-Couture at 2019’s Hum Fashion Awards and Achievement in Vogue Design (Luxurious Pret) on the Lux Fashion Awards final yr — and put out a solo present in 2020 at a time when Covid-19 had briefly been at bay.

Despite the fact that the coronavirus has typically introduced down gross sales for luxurious fashion-wear, Hussain’s enterprise has continued to mushroom. His garments are seen in all places — at events, weddings and worn by celebrities — and he has streamlined his enterprise module, syncing it to the omnipresent demand for quick trend. He has his many followers — and in addition, some critics.

“I have never been in a position to plan out a [second] solo present as a result of enterprise has been doing so properly,” Hussain says. “Clients need to see new collections each few weeks. There is a fixed strain to maintain creating new designs and there hasn’t been sufficient time to conceptualise and create a set for the catwalk.”

His debut solo present, which occurred at a time when most designers had been nonetheless attempting to recuperate from losses incurred in the course of the pandemic, had taken folks unexpectedly. On a brisk winter afternoon, Hussain had remodeled a yard at a non-public residence in Lahore into his catwalk. A tree, proper on the centre, had fashioned the principle focus; the fashions walked round it and gathered beneath it for pictures.

There was dhol dhamaka and a whirl of colors, with the gathering delving into the various festivities that comprise a standard Pakistani wedding ceremony. Not like most solo exhibits, the set-up had not been elaborate or excessive. As an alternative, it was easy and efficient, a fledgling model selecting to flex its trend muscle groups all by itself, with out the help of trend councils.

Did flying solo, when earlier he had solely proven in collective trend weeks, assist Hussain’s model? “It positively helped construct extra consciousness of the model,” he says. “It confirmed that we had been prepared to face within the highlight on our personal, with out the hype generated by a collective designer present at trend week. Nothing in any respect was taking place within the native trend scene on the time. My present was one of many very first exhibits to happen for the reason that pandemic had damaged out. I feel folks discovered that refreshing. It gave them hope that issues had been going to get higher.”

However the present occurred virtually two years in the past. Since then, Hussain has been off the catwalk, though he’s churning out a number of collections that run the gamut from heavy obligation formals to funkier luxury-wear to unstitched material. His designs are distinctive and actually fairly pretty, however they definitely aren’t as avant-garde as his preliminary collections was once. Has Hussain toned down his wacky aspect in a bid to haul in additional enterprise?

“I nonetheless benefit from the edgy design however, finally, the garments ought to promote,” he admits. “Even internationally, designers might make loopy statements on the catwalk, however they may make extra delicate variations of the garments for retail. With no trend weeks going down, my precedence proper now could be to create garments which are totally different however, on the similar time, client-friendly.”

He continues, “I feel my purchasers admire my model ideology, the way in which I fuse conventional hand embroideries with trendy silhouettes and colors. It could be market-friendly however it is not boring. I guarantee that the material and embroideries are of nice high quality and I attempt to maintain costs aggressive.

“After which, there’s all the time a lot selection. Each assortment has a special vibe and aesthetic from the earlier one. Even earlier than I create a set, I take into consideration how I need to promote it, the mannequin and the styling for the shoot. As soon as the idea is in sync with the designs, the photographs turn out to be extra impactful. The shoot would not should be elaborate. I choose product-oriented images which remains to be distinctive.”

I agree that the imagery he creates may be very eye-catching, calculated to make you need to make a beeline for his on-line retailer. And but, a few of these shoots — not all — have sometimes been critiqued for being too just like these of different designers. A latest assortment, launched final fall, for instance, drew instant comparisons with a global model’s shoot additionally launched that very same yr. The colours and the styling had been uncannily comparable.

It has additionally typically been identified that Hussain is way too ‘impressed’ by sure main manufacturers from throughout the border. How impressed is he, actually?

“I feel that it’s totally regular to get impressed,” he says. “We spend a lot time flipping via trend magazines, that typically we are going to subconsciously register sure photos. Now that my model has turn out to be extra established, I’ve turn out to be very involved that there ought to be no replications. Nonetheless, I do not thoughts getting impressed by a model and styling a shoot a specific manner or inserting jewelery in a sure model. Above all, the design ought to be my very own.”

Connoisseurs of handcrafted gildings have additionally typically critiqued that Hussain might have a manner with bling and stone-work however his embroideries do not need delicacy and finesse. Does he agree?

In fact, he would not. In actual fact, he begins to chortle. “I’ve my very own aesthetic. If Elie Saab creates delicate gildings and Alexander McQueen goes over-the-top with thick layers of sequins, does that imply that one is inferior to the opposite? My model could also be totally different from others — really, that is how I would prefer to be!

“After I create luxury-wear, I would like it to be glamorous and sparkly. I will put collectively sequins and stones in sure patterns to create that look and purpose for a specific value bracket. However, the normal bridal-wear that I create has very delicate hand embroideries and is priced accordingly.”

He is additionally dipped his toes into the crowded marketplace for unstitched material, releasing seasonal collections of garden and winter-wear. How’s that doing?

“Very properly,” he says, “the marketplace for unstitched material is big. Certainly one of my brothers is dealing with simply the unstitched material market. The opposite one seems over the funds total.” His is a family-run enterprise, evidently. “Sure, I’m not good with numbers, so my brothers joined me.”

There was no strain to return residence to Gujranwala as soon as he had graduated from the Pakistan Institute of Vogue Design (PIFD)?

“No, my household and I all the time knew that I’d be beginning my enterprise in Lahore.”

He has just one brick and mortar retailer in Lahore thus far. Has he thought of increasing to extra shops or is he focusing extra on on-line progress?

“Up to now, we’re pleased with the studio in Lahore,” says Hussain. “It caters not simply to Lahore however to all the encircling cities in Punjab. And the web world is superb, it may possibly’t be beat. You set up a clock on Instagram that counts right down to the launch of a brand new assortment and, out of the blue, you faucet right into a worldwide market.

“It is such a excessive when orders filter in in a single day, proper after you’ve got launched a brand new line. It signifies that you are doing one thing proper. We’re very vigilant about ensuring that we ship on time. We would like the client to come back again to us once more.”

How does he suppose that he has improved over time? “I positively know my market higher. After I began out, I wished to continually experiment and check out new strategies. Now, I perceive that, most significantly, the garments must be wearable.

“I’ve additionally turn out to be extra skilled on the subject of deciding on embroideries and material. Proper at first, I’d use the incorrect thread and typically it would not be capable to maintain sequins in place and they’d fall off. I do know a lot better now!”

The threads definitely aren’t falling off anymore and the sequins are proper in place, twinkling away. Fashionable. Mystical. Eclectic. Excessive trend simmered and tweaked for the desi palette. As I mentioned earlier, one might go on.

Initially printed in Daybreak, ICON, July 24, 2022