A Journey of Cultural Representation

Adnan Ansari’s Riwayat is known for having created the longest ramp, and spectacular experiments with new ideas

By Ghazala Tikki Zaman and Tabassum Vally

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Published: Mon 25 Mar 2024, 10:51 AM

Adnan Ansari is the dynamic, multi-talented and creative CEO of Riwayat, a company that has presented Pakistan, in every cultural sphere, including fashion, art, literature and music. Ansari started his career in Pakistan as a fashion designer and with a vast experience in designing, media, television and art, he became the founder of Riwayat.

The inception of Riwayat, 14 years ago made it possible for Ansari to showcase the magical cultural heritage of his country on an international platform. “Fashion was always in me. I mixed fashion, music and art which are powerful forms of expression in my culture,” says Ansari. Ansari saw a lack of quality in fashion shows, and he vowed to make major improvements.

While pursuing his dream Ansari faced many challenges, mostly related to finance, sponsorship and support. It was not easy to assemble a production team, lighting crew, models and with a lack of social media, Ansari had to face many challenges. “I never compromised on the quality of venue, the brands, models and the production,” he says. Ansari had a high standard and he adhered to it. In the past Ansari’s main challenge was to persuade brands and build a trust with the designers as they knew little about his work. Today things are very different as now it is prestigious for a brand to be represented by Riwayat. Ansari has felt that competition in his field is growing and there is always a pressure to create bigger and better shows.

Commenting on the new designers, Ansari expressed that there is a surge in young designers and he enjoys working with them, as they are, full of creative ideas. Most young designers are embracing the idea of blending South Asian and other cultural influences and trends. They are very receptive to advice and with their flair they are producing amazing pieces.

The success of Ansari’s fashion shows is attributed to his choice of brands, styling, high quality production, and the stunning venues with impressive architecture. The choreography, the lighting, music all add to the splendour of his events. Riwayat is known for having created the longest ramp, and spectacular experiments with new ideas.

The concept of creating videos, reels and short snippets of real fashion on real life models is very effective in attracting audiences. One of the reasons given by Ansari as to why his fashion shows stand out in the fashion industry is that they showcase and enhance the outfits through their styling, which often adds a lot more glamour and creativity.

Fashion shows nowadays are more professional and focused on the production, the set and lighting. The models have also changed. Ansari’s fashion shows bring diverse mix of ethnicities, body types and ages. Commenting on the modelling industry, Ansari remarked that women not only in Pakistan but everywhere have become more confident and progressive in the modelling industry but the career has shortened.

“The selection process has become challenging for us, as there is no clear guideline or criteria when choosing a model. Unfortunately, this is mostly a temporary career for most women due to its short duration of career.”

Amongst Ansari’s achievements are the fashion show held at the prestigious venue of Lancaster House, a historic palace filled with stunning detailed architecture. Ansari has also presented shows at the United Nations Headquarters and the WIPO in Geneva, the Zofeen Palace in Prague, and the parliament of Canada in Ottawa.

“We designed Pakistani themed London buses for the New Year’s parade by her majesty the late queen. Another highlight in of my career, was being invited to Buckingham Palace by the Duchess of Cambridge, where I met some of my role models, like Naomi Campbell.”

Showcasing at the Lancaster House was a huge challenge for Ansari as the ramp was four hundred feet long and spanned three rooms. It was hard to direct the show and choreograph the models. Ansari recalls that lighting was tricky and they had to be very cautious. They were not allowed to touch the walls or move the furniture. “We knew it was an honour to showcase at such a venue and we knew we just had to deliver. Being a fashion icon and an event organiser is very challenging. I want my work to reflect my personality, my thoughts, and my creativity. I have to constantly improve myself to stay on top of the game. Fashion is evolving rapidly, so I have to be alert and competitive. Fashion is also becoming more affordable and accessible, but that may affect the quality. Fashion shows are more realistic, but that makes it harder to stand out among the crowd.”

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