Among fashion circles, Pakistani designer Amir Adnan has been credited many times for giving the sherwani — the long coat-like robe popular in South Asia — a glamorous twist. With a client list that includes statesmen, Middle Eastern royalty and Hollywood celebrities, he recently showcased his Eid collection in Dubai, which is now on sale in the UAE.
The Directory caught up with him to talk fashion, trends and the future of the sherwani.
Q: You’ve done couture, a diffusion line and a business-wear line. Where do you want to take the Amir Adnan label next?
A: Every day I come across a number of men who need to establish an identity of their own. These are high achievers in their own fields of work and now need to look their part. They require appropriate clothing to establish their personality and create an impression which is commensurate with their success. Seeking image consultancy from a designer is as important as seeing a doctor when you have high blood pressure. A perfect wardrobe is as important as medicine or the right fleet of cars or the correct brand of watch or the right address. Hence, image consultancy is what we are offering as our latest product. From being a successful business person or a high profile executive to heading a country, all men need to wear the right kind of clothing.
Q: Which line has been the most successful?
A: We are most known for the revival and modernisation of traditional clothing like the sherwani and variations thereof. My philosophy is to design for high achievers and successful people and the best line that encapsulates this is couture, which is specially designed to suit the personality of my clients. The South Asian man is becoming progressively more prominent in the world and therefore needs an image which will subtlety distinguish him from the rest with the intention to elevate rather than simply blend.
Q: You’ve been in the UAE for a while. What have you learnt about the style needs and shopping trends of UAE men?
A: UAE men by and large are very progressive. In my opinion, Dubai is much like the rodeo bull of which only the fittest will survive. He finds himself in a milieu of cultural backgrounds and chances of him getting lost in the crowd are high. The need for a UAE male to have a distinctively edgy wardrobe is a lot more than any of his counterparts.
Q: Do you think fashionable men are underserved in the UAE?
A: Not necessarily. It is difficult to club all UAE men as one group. They have diverse needs, just as diverse as their origins. There are many options on the Western front, but the I see limited choices on the fusion side, especially for South Asians. More specialised variety will definitely be welcomed.
Q: Who is your target customer?
A: South Asia is a huge market and a lot of people around the world interface with it. This automatically rubs off its cultural influence onto other regions, just like our spicy curries and chicken tandoori has become popular in the West. Similarly, our clothing styles will also make headway into mainstream fashion. Hence, men all over the world who interact with our region are my target clients.
Q: You have designed for Jermaine Jackson. But do you think you’re limited to mostly an Asian customer base with your couture and diffusion lines?
A: Diffusion of style is inevitable with strengthening and prosperity of a region. It is a natural process. I just need to be there with the right interpretation for people to register my philosophy. Dressing up people like Jermaine Jackson and his wife Halima by Huma Adnan [his wife and designer] is a prime example of this movement. I had also introduced block printed jeans into the American rock bands. We continue to expose our clothes adapted to the Western culture so that it is easy for them to accept.
Q: What does one have to do to take the sherwani international?
A: The sherwani is simply an elegant and a more elaborate version of a long coat which is already present in almost all cultures. The only difference is that these long coats are not too common now, but fashion is cyclical and soon the time will be right for the sherwani to be the hottest men’s essential garment.
Q: You started in 1990. How have you seen men’s fashion evolve over the years?
A: When I started, men had accepted themselves as machines who were only suppose to earn for their wives to spend. It was taboo for a man to spend time and money on himself to look good. He honestly did not even have many options. I started designing ties for myself for sheer non-availability of the product. Once people saw me wearing vibrant accessories, the frenzy to own such ties caught on like wild fire. Men had woken up and a new trendy male came out who was not shy to explore. My trick was that I designed for myself as a client, which kept everything within a certain boundary of practicality and wearability. My designs did not make men look weird, but stand out for elegance.
Q: Tell us a little about your new collection and your inspirations behind it?
A: The new collection comprises warm and vibrant colours for Eid, along with a lot of pure whites to go for morning prayers and family gatherings. I specially like the overall embroidery textures on muslin, which look so serene — just the image most suited at the end of Ramadan. I have also experimented with block printing on mens kurtas, which look very different from the regular embroidery. Altogether, there is a sober and classic look about the entire collection.
Q: Are you involved at all with your other brand FNKAsia or is it all Huma’s?
A: FNKAsia is the brilliant brainchild of Huma and she does everything related to the brand. It totally depicts her personality. She digs deep into the realm of womanhood and comes out with what makes a woman feel like a woman without having to reveal her skin to do so.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: The house of Amir Adnan is continuously evolving. We are planning to extend our clothing philosophy into other regions like India, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Homeware is another region we are looking into. Working with a group [from an] impoverished village near our factories, we are converting our rags into beautiful rugs again incorporating the crudeness of unharnessed talent so abundantly available in our region. Empowering women is such a wonderful feeling.
*Amir Adnan is available at its own store in Dubai. Go to amiradnan.com for more.