Mohsin Ali’s eclectic, brooding collection, which dexterously combined elements of the subaltern Hazara culture and married it to their vagabond state, made fashion insiders giddy with a new prospect of a creative maverick in their midst and delighted audiences with its unique desi bohemian aesthetic.
Even Britain’s greatest fashion authority, Hilary Alexander couldn’t resist the allure of his designs, and Parisian fashion consultant Alexandra Senes has been sporting Ali’s pieces in the world’s most chic city. What makes Ali’s designs so exciting is his manic sense of color and fabric draped with sincerity of wanting to narrate the tales and toils of his people.
Designing for a cause
“I am redefining what people had left of their heritage,” he speaks, warm and aglow with passion. “Life is in such a state of flux that people are compelled to forget the old and embrace the new. Hence, I want to bring that organic feel back.” Even a cursory glance at Ali’s collections thus far, denotes that it is massively culled from the bazaars in Quetta and the razai fabrics and patterns that have been an integral part in the childhood of many in Pakistan.
It’s this distinctive interpretation of culture that makes Ali’s work stand out to the extent that every showing ensures acclaim from fashionistas and prime real estate in the country’s most fashion forward publication. Yet, the humble green-eyed-boy says, “You have to be a personality to carry off these clothes. It’s the person who brings it alive.” And that’s for sure, as your average begum cannot carry off a Mohsin Ali creation. A vision and a maddening sense of fashion is required to be able to carry his ensembles off. Although he has recently forayed into making regular shalwar kameezes, they too have an inimitable desi funk.
Although, by and large, his design sense is Quetta and Hazara-centric, Ali admits that he never fit in there. “I’ve lived a sheltered life in Quetta amongst simple people with simple ambitions, and felt quite displaced there. In Lahore, I fit like a glove.” A graduate of the Pearl Insitute of Fashion in Quetta, Ali narrates jokingly how his teachers and peers would be astounded by his work and would never believe it was his own. Eventually a friend pushed him to apply to Lahore’s Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design and from there on, from his shining debut at the graduation show; there has been no looking back.
The controversy over his Lux Style Award nomination that got cancelled close to the event has left him feeling bitter. “I respect the process, but not the results. I don’t think I will apply for any nominations anymore,” says Ali and then closes the case by adding, “You are your best judge and your biggest critic.”
Home is where the heart is
With the recent brutality meted out to the Hazara community, Ali’s personal story takes on a new and pivotal role; interestingly, his father is a religious scholar who runs an all-girls school in the region. “My father’s always said and insisted on one thing: if you want to do something, then you must do it extremely well and be very sure about it. And just to please him, I work as hard as I possibly can.”
Perhaps it is this unconventional thought process of his father that led to his own avant-garde fashion sense. “He had no hang-ups about me pursuing something as unconventional as fashion designing, despite the fact that he wanted me to be a doctor,” says the young eccentric designer.
Ali’s next collection at the upcoming PFDC Sunsilk fashion week is also an ode to Quetta, reaped in from the blasts that shook the city on Eidul Fitr.