Spotlight: Fayez Ahmed Agariah

Fayez Ahmed Agariah, fashion designer extraordinaire graduated from London College of Fashion. His creations have a distinctly unique identity and serve as a visual testament to the mind behind them. Hot on the heels of his vibrant celebration of androgyny at Fashion Week Pakistan 2010, Fayez sat down with The Missing Slate on what makes him the artist he is.

Have you always known you wanted to be a designer?

Honestly, I had no idea what I wanted to be. I was studying medicine on the direction of my parents, but I’d always been more inclined towards the arts and used to paint frequently.  During my A-levels, a friend pushed me to go for what I was really passionate about, as opposed to falling into the same old pattern of doing what my parents wanted me to do. I had no idea that I’d end up in fashion at the time; I attended Naheed Raza’s ‘Studio Art’ to polish my basics and realized that fashion was my true calling.

Why choose LCF (London College of Fashion)?

London College of Fashion was actually my second choice. I got into an art school in Miami but I couldn’t get the visa. LCF has one of the most coveted design degrees in the world and London is one of Europe’s fashion centers, so I was not at all displeased with ending up there.  As I spent more time there, I began to realize that London really was the city for me. Its rich cultural and artistic history offers endless inspiration to anyone and everyone who is pursuing the arts.

How has your family been about your decision to pursue art?

To be honest? They were horrified. Like I’ve said before, they wanted me to become a doctor and the 180 degree turn to art was not welcomed. I had to keep on fighting with them till after I’d already graduated from LCF. It was only after I started getting recognition for my work, that they started to wrap their heads around the idea of their son being a designer.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration for me comes from anything at any place, any time. It could be something as overdone as a pretty face or just the feel of a fabric. I cannot pinpoint the sources for my inspiration because I never go looking for it—it always manages to find me on its own and I couldn’t be happier with our little arrangement.

Are there any designers in particular that you greatly admire?

Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Gaultier, Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Rei Kwa Kobo of Comme des Garcon top the list. Others would include Gareth Pugh and Haider Ackermann.

Thoughts on Pakistan’s local fashion scene?

Try asking me that again when there actually IS a fashion ‘scene’.  At this point we’re between the chicken and the egg. It’s just a daily performance of Mean Girls with mannequins and measuring tape thrown in. If you’re someone who’s ripped off another designer’s work or collection you’ll manage to wow your audience, but step away from the pre-set creations and what they embody, and you’re pushed into the backrooms of the industry. There is no understanding in the consumers here of what fashion really means—it’s simply two distinct camps—one hailing the glitz and glamor of it all and the other booing all that is avant-garde.

How would you describe your work?

Constant slow evolution. My work is not static. That’s just the way I like it.

We have it on good authority that you worked with Vivienne Westwood in London for quite some time but that you refuse to talk about that now? Any particular reasons?

It was almost a decade ago. The subject’s been canvassed (often thoroughly), in every interview I’ve given since. Although I’m always going to feel lucky that I had that opportunity but for that to be my calling card, is pushing it. Various designers have worked with the big names out there, but to cash in on that name, and to weave it into every conversation is not really my way of going about things.

You’ve always been known to be a bit of a recluse in the industry and you’re almost never seen mingling at the heart of the local ‘scene’. Why is that?

I wasn’t exactly a recluse when I entered the fashion scene in 2000. My work was acclaimed for its out-of-the-box aesthetics and the first taste of fame did make me lose my mind for a short while. But during that time, I got acquainted with the usual set of peers from the nonexistent industry, which at that time cheered and jeered simultaneously, confusing naive little me into becoming a recluse over the next decade that followed. Over the years I slowly and gradually collected myself inwards and disappeared into my own world, which felt less threatening and relatively safer than the sharks out there—ready to devour anyone who does/did not carry the social graces of a ‘professional’ butterfly.

You’ve only shown two collections in a career spanning twelve years and they were both avant-garde. Why avant-garde?

Fashion in its true sense is avant-garde. I am a purist and my aesthetics do not allow me to create anything which is highly commercial and easily acceptable. I like questioning the intelligence of the person who looks at my work. There is no fun in creating an outfit which just looks pretty. A pretty ensemble is boring to me; it’s not that I don’t appreciate pretty clothes but they never leave a lasting impact on my memory. In art and design anything edgy and out of the ordinary catches my attention, so I like to create things which are out of the box thus my style of work automatically becomes avant-garde.

What do you have to say about the personal style of Pakistani people?

Confusion a la carte! Pakistan’s style is the epitome of a rat race which has started simultaneously in all directions after a long suppressed period. The information overload has made us oblivious to our identity which was never established in the first place. Frankly speaking, we are experimenting continuously and quite paradoxically, perhaps wishing silently to come across a moment of rapturous discovery which we can miraculously coin as our own. Till then we will continue to be:  ‘Holly-Bolly-Lolly-woody-betcha-by-golly-me-pretty-you-ugly-me-rich-you-bitch!’

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