‘l’m not Deepak Perwani’

Images catches up with the globetrotting designer who can’t stop showing off

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You’ve been travelling a lot during the past couple of months, showing at a lot of places. What’s up with that?

I’m the kind of person who reacts to everything and feels a lot. So pertaining to what’s going on in Pakistan right now, I’ve agreed to accept every foreign assignment that comes my way.

I was in London and Cairo, and missed a flight to show in Geneva. Then I decided to go to Malaysia Fashion Week and on to Bangalore Fashion Week, Colombo Fashion Week and now I’m leaving on the Feb 19 for Dubai Fashion Week.

How was the experience of showing in Colombo?

Colombo’s always been fantastic because you get to see a lot of fantastic designers’ shows. I think the Malaysian designers are super-talented. What’s also nice about Kuala Lumpur is that as a fashion arena, it has international designers who show and they’re kind enough to invite designers from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh… so they’re not thinking of it just as their fashion week. They look at fashion as ‘Asia rather than as just being Malaysia, and I guess that’s why it works.

What did you show there?

This year the theme for Malaysia Fashion Week was ‘Love’ and I think everybody has their own interpretation of it.

You showed a dastarkhwaan-inspired collection at the Colombo Fashion Week recently. Why?

Why not? You only have to pick up something quintessentially Pakistani. I did the truck art collection 12 years ago. I did the ajrak, kantha and the rilli, in sort of spurts of creativity. This year I’ve stressed on dastarkhwaan because it’s something that I find very colourful, mad and it makes me happy. Plus, it’s regionally inspiring and it is what all Pakistanis are familiar with but have never taken as inspiration.

Ideas come from little things in life and not large things. You can look at a picture of Ali Khurshid’s and maybe draw inspiration from it immediately. Inspiration does not take long and inspiration is not expensive — I don’t look at it that way. I wanted to do something Pakistani for the longest time and I have over the years. I also think that as a brand ambassador and an ambassador for Pakistan when I’m going abroad, I’m not just projecting clothes, I’m projecting the country’s image. With the prevailing times that we live in, whether we are progressive, modern, or not progressive, it all depends on the kind of clothes that we show abroad. And I want to come across as a very progressive designer from an equally progressive country.

Something interesting happened when you were in Colombo I believe?

When we were there, Tapu (Javeri) called me up at 8.00am and asked me to walk out to the balcony. We were staying at the Taj which is right across the beach — the entire shoreline is there — and for the first time I saw tanks and rocket launchers and thousands of troops marching by and I thought: ‘Oh, my god! The war has finally arrived and the Tamil Tigers are going to attack’.

It made me realise that we are still better off; we’re not going through such trying times. We’re just being projected wrongly in the media abroad and in such a manner that we have a negative image. Pakistan is not about Waziristan, Balochistan and the NWFP. I’m sorry we have that part and I think every country has such problems. I’m sure India has those problems, too, along with Sri Lanka and Thailand. The US has insurgents everywhere — everybody has their own terrorists and their bombers. Surprisingly, anything that happens in the world Pakistan bears the blame for it. All of a sudden Pakistan is just so ripe and in the middle of everything. We need to project ourselves better; we need to love our country.

I was telling my friends the other day that it would be easy for us, if tomorrow something should happen, to just pack up our bags and move to Dubai. But what about the rest? Where are they going to go? What’s going to happen?

I’m sitting here, I’m comfortable in Defence and Clifton but for the first time, I’m scared. I’m not just scared for myself, I’m scared for everybody around me — my friends, family, the karigars who work for me and their livelihoods. I’m scared ke kal unko kuch hogaya to woh kahan jaen gay? They’ve been with me for 12 years.

When I talk about Deepak Perwani, I don’t talk about myself. I always say ‘we’. A lot of people find that very amusing and people find that absolutely crazy because I’m not Deepak Perwani, there are 150 people who are Deepak Perwani, who are a part of the organisation, who work there every day and create the designs that have helped me become what I am today. Full credit goes to my karigars, masters, assistants and my parents — everybody who’s taken s*** from me over the years — and my friends and people in fashion who work with me, who love me and hate me.

What approach would you suggest to people who’re trying to break into the industry now?

Have lots and lots of money. Because you’ll be putting in lots and lots of it into it before you even see it. Secondly, have hope: You must really love this job to be into it. If you don’t love it, then you have to become a great marketeer. But other than that, you must really love your job to be designing because it’s going to frustrate you, it’s going to make you mad, it’s going to make you crazy and at times you’re going to hate it.

At the end of the day, you’re carrying a huge burden on your shoulders, you’re not just selling clothes, but you’re selling an idea, a dream, an inspiration, a lifestyle and everything that is you.

I see myself as a non-conformist to Pakistani fashion because I’ve always believed that I’m designing — call it arrogance or my own satisfaction to my own creativity — what I’ve liked to design. Whether you understand it or not, or like it or not, that’s your problem. As far as I’m concerned, the global village or the global world understands me very well.

What can we expect from your label in the next couple of months?

Lots of stuff. A couple of our plans have gotten messed up because we were opening three new shops this year and I wanted to penetrate the other-side-of-the-bridge market but because of the times right now, those plans have come to a halt. After coming back form Dubai Fashion Week, we’ll start supplying to New York, Colombo, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, etc.

So you’re going global?

It has to be that way. Otherwise I think I would be wasting my time. I don’t want to be a big fish in small pond. I would love to be a minute fish in a big pond because that’s where the fun is.

It’s kind of boring to be a big fish in Pakistan because after a while there is no capacity to grow, there’s no capacity for fun. I’m a much bigger person than that. I have the capacity to embrace the world. The question is whether the world is ready to embrace me.

-- Photography by Tapu Javeri

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