When did we break up with the fashion editorial? | Instep - Upsmag - Magazine News


When did we break up with the fashion editorial? | Instep

As an artist, Javeri takes to new media easily, which perhaps is the reason for his longevity in the industry. – Tapu Javeri for Deepak Perwani

o you remember the first time, when as a child, you tasted mint for the first time? In the 1980s, Polo was a curiosity. What was this flavor, so sharp, cool, bright like starlight in your mouth?

40 odd years later, mint may remain a favorite taste, but has lost its luminescence.

Pakistani fashion may not be comparable to mint at all, but the more style evolves in the country, the demurer our fashion houses and retail brands seem to be with their presentation. While in 1986, a heavily-kohled, red-lipped Atiya Khan might have stirred emotions and imaginations, including those of the far right, in 2022, we’ve seen it all and done it all and everyone has an established sense of what they want to see more or less of.

We may have forgotten that fun campaigns existed too.  Sometimes just a lawn shoot can make more noise.– Khawar Riaz for Bonanza
We may have forgotten that fun campaigns existed too. Sometimes just a lawn shoot can make more noise.– Khawar Riaz for Bonanza

When did the fashion editorial become a luxury we can no longer afford? We have seen fashion shoots in Pakistan’s print from the times when it was just Teejay’s, Generation, Sundip, to when fashion giants like Maheen Khan and Rizwan Beyg made their presence known. ’90s lightheartedness brought with it fun street shoots, with models enjoying breezy phone calls on Telecard payphones, or the stark minimalism of neutrals shot against a plain background. All modern, all fun, all about the post-’80s buoyancy.

The 2000s saw incredible photographers like Rizwanul Haq and Kohi Marri join the ranks of fashion and art photographers like Tapu Javeri, Arif Mahmood, Khawar Riaz and Ather Shehzad.

Photography was going digital. There were so many more ways to manipulate light. There was great work to be done in and out of the studio. The fashion was constantly challenging us to keep up, the styling of shoots – whether dark or more bubblegum pop – demanded attention. Post-edits were a ‘thing’. For fashion in Pakistan, the previous decade proved to be more fertile.

As the years have worn on though, we have to say that while the fashion has evolved, become more forward-looking, even more accessible, it has become more goal-oriented. The goal, of course, is to make sure experiments have more finesse, and the top and bottom lines are aligned. This means, brands have to make more sales. To make more sales, of which digital transactions saw a 45% growth in the last year in Pakistan (source: ecommerceDB.com), landing cumulative sales at almost $5.9 billion, brands must, and should, focus on ensuring their customers know what they’re buying. For that, we will need to see a front, back, profile and detail shot. And since that is where we want to grow the market, some – or most – brands will be content just putting out a technically correct, aesthetically pleasing catalog shoot of their wares.

Fashion editorials don't have to be elaborate, they just have to bear a little attention to detail.  - Shahbaz Shazi for Umar Sayeed
Fashion editorials don’t have to be elaborate, they just have to bear a little attention to detail. – Shahbaz Shazi for Umar Sayeed

Stylist Tabesh Khoja expands on this: “I have suggested to different designers to make a capsule collection and build a shoot around it, but I’m usually told ‘no’. They’re fine with what they’re putting out as long as it is getting sold.”

Khoja collaborated with designer Adnan Pardesy just recently for an editorial featuring denim. The initiative wasn’t Pardesy’s as one expected, but Khoja’s, who prompted the designer to create a few pieces for an editorial he had in mind.

“As people in the public eye, I feel like we have to kind of lead by example. When I curate my own Insta feed, I will make sure I’m putting out what my style, or my ‘brand’ if I may, is. Doesn’t it make sense for actual fashion labels to do the same?”

Here the debate forks into two different paths: one is digital curation to establish brand identity, the other, of how brands present their actual product. Some labels – albeit not couture brands – have remained committed to revitalizing their look and feel to fit the consumer they are catering to. Outfitters is a great example of this. Always a youthful label, in the last few years the retail fashion brand has changed the visual language, and actual language to communicate with the demographic they’re focusing on. The bright and shiny images of 10 years ago have been replaced with moody sets, moodier models, and a definite shift towards more androgynous looks.

Then there is the digital curation: if you haven’t already seen it, GENERATION’s Khadija Rehman has a gorgeous Instagram presence, with carefully composed grids and beautiful individual images. Similarly, photographer Tapu Javeri’s Instagram is bright and light: travel photos, fashion throwbacks, casual hangs. Without knowing either in any depth, you can easily pick on Rehman’s very artistic bent, and Javeri’s adventurous, tongue-in-cheek one.

Javeri has had perhaps more than everyone’s share of fun and creativity in fashion, his career beginning with more notable arcs in Pakistan’s fashion history. His work has gone from glam to experimental to really taking to digital manipulation. Of course his Instagram is stunning.

What you won’t really see anymore is a fashion shoot by Tapu Javeri. Javeri is very clear on the fact that fashion editorials have ceased to exist, and the reasons why as well.

Younger labels like Rastah are more willing to experiment with their campaigns.  - Shayan Sherwani for Rastah
Younger labels like Rastah are more willing to experiment with their campaigns. – Shayan Sherwani for Rastah

“It’s simple,” says Javeri. “Print isn’t exactly around to support the kinds of visuals that a fashion editorial is made of. I have recently seen a very good-looking issue of Destinations Magazine, so if we get more of that kind of platform, the editorial might just make a comeback.”

Along with brands being able to sell online, photographers, stylists, and makeup artists can now also publish their own work. Work done off-assignment will always be freer and bear more of the artist’s mark than a client’s. If we quickly look up fashion photographers currently on major social platforms, we will find their work beautiful, but won’t see a similar quality in the formal shoots that are put forward.

Labels like Rastah will still take a chance with an offbeat shoot; a well-established couture designer with one iron in the retail fire will prefer to catalog.

“In recent years the ‘campaigns’ that are shot are for lawn,” says Javeri, “after you’ve done a few, you’re done. Me, Arif (Mahmood), we are sort of done with that kind of work.” Javeri does point out that he shot one of Wardha Saleem’s latest campaigns because it was offering a different look at locations in Pakistan.

That said, if we are to pay attention to Aamna Isani, Pakistan’s foremost authority on fashion, there are plenty of fashion editorials still being shot.

“Lots of stylists working with younger photographers would disagree that editorial shoots have died,” she says. “Lawn brands would insist that they spend millions on the creative development of their annual summer lawn shoots. At the end of the day, the editorial shoot looks dead because fashion innovation is dead.”

The '90s shoots were all about minimalism, stark backdrops, often stark outfits and styling, but always with an undercurrent of wanting to claim space and be in your face.  – GENERATION
The ’90s shoots were all about minimalism, stark backdrops, often stark outfits and styling, but always with an undercurrent of wanting to claim space and be in your face. – GENERATION

Isani has a point, but again, just because a shoot’s cost went into millions, doesn’t mean it was fashion forward in any way. Even beautifully shot in the most exotic surroundings, a lawn catalog remains a catalog.

As print becomes somewhat secondary to digital, though not completely, younger creatives do want to work untethered and promote their style on their own terms. There are a lot more people spilling into all creative fields, and they demand fair compensation for their work. Fashion or photography or styling is no longer a side hustle: it’s a full-time career.

Ultimately though, as Tapu Javeri puts it, “all creativity needs an outlet. I don’t like looking at things on Instagram myself, unless I must, and then too it’s on my iPad. That 2×2 pane somehow doesn’t have the pull of seeing your work – or anyone else’s – in print. So, you never know.”

Khoja is a little more unforgiving.

“There are still creative people who want to work on more creative projects,” he says. “We don’t need a fashion glossy to put out the kind of work that we want to do. We can put it online, or we can find likeminded cohorts who will find a way to give the work a solid presence.”

This may seem like a lot of bellyaching just because brands are being smart with their assets and capital, and putting them into worthy endeavors like bigger stores, or a more persistent digital media presence, but it comes from a place of love.

For anyone who has ever looked at and to a Vogue, Elle, or ever Cosmopolitan with devotion, catalog-style editorials are – how can one put this eloquently – just sad. We want to see the clothes, but we also want to see the essence of the brand, the soul of the clothes, be compelled to replicate that look, know what to aim for when we are in that mood, and sometimes just to look at another artist’s work. Fashion is aspirational, sure, but it is more inspirational, at least to the masses, and we need a source point to understand what every turn and curve means. Yes, there are bigger problems in the world, but you still gotta dress up to face them, right?

While fashion in Pakistan has evolved, become more forward-looking, even more accessible, it has become more goal-oriented. The goal, of course, is to make sure experiments have more finesse, and the top and bottom lines are aligned. This means, brands have to make more sales. And since that is where we want to grow the market, some – or most – brands will be content just putting out a technically correct, aesthetically pleasing catalog shoot of their wares.

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