On the 6th of December, we held our fashion exhibition to celebrate 20 years in business at the Old Brompton Gallery. I was quite apprehensive as we only planned it in September 2019. I understand that to curate an exhibition it can take years not months to put together. However, I have always been a doer and when I set my mind to do something- I just dive into the deep end and take the plunge.
My first point of call was to bring in whoever has experience in curation on the table. I was fortunate to have a friend who works at UAL and has been curating exhibitions for years. His valuable input helped me to put a checklist of all the dos and don’ts of putting an exhibition together. His best advice was to keep it simple, with a clear message, identify the audience and let the work speak for itself.
I knew after taking the decision to no longer put on fashion shows, I had to find an alternative to showcasing my work. I believe in Dries Van Noten’s quote that ‘Fashion has no rules.’ I totally believe in this. I know that I don’t follow rules and sometimes I follow them to break them. Being the underdog of the fashion world has placed me in a privileged position as I am not confined to be defined and this was the core message of the exhibition.
The title of the exhibition is The Inbetweeners:
We as humans have different shades to our personalities and this exhibition is an attempt to unravel how we can be different things to different people simultaneously as well as how the perception of others and who we interact with brings out different sides to our own persona. Clothing can either be a mirror or a mask to showcasing our inner feelings, strengths as well as weaknesses and hidden conflicts.
Throughout this process, one question endures: how can we be defined without being confined?
This constant self-inquiry has led Barjis to realise that she herself is neither one or the other and rather than be ‘confined’ within today’s fashion industry’s ‘norm’ – she chooses to step out of any ‘definement’ into creativity borne from leadership dipping beautifully between the mainstream & Asian markets, not adopting one culture to fit the other and without feeling confined to choosing either!
Now that I had a clear message, it was time to dig out which pieces I wanted to show and why. I wanted to show a journey from my first design to the latest designs. However showing too much can kill the message, hence it was important to show the special milestones of the journey.
My wedding dress was one of the first designs I created so showing this was a must!
The ‘Wedding dress’ was designed in 1997 as part of my MA final dissertation. I wanted to capture my British and Pakistani heritage and reflect my love for vintage Victorian silhouettes and intricate Asian embellishments. In order to ensure that the workers were treated well, I made an unexpected visit to the village where my dress was being embroidered. It was in a little village on the outskirts of Karachi. I was worried that I will see children working on intricate embroidery. Unfortunately, child labour is a common attribute in South Asian countries as children are used for detailed work due to their small fingers. Luckily there were no children involved.
The next point was the marketing of the event. This was a tall order as I was competing with the Christmas party season. It was a challenge to market the event but somehow I had built a network and through word of mouth, I received a good flow of traffic during the 2-day event.
I must confess that the event was an eye-opener and it did give me sleepless nights. I was thrown out of my comfort zone and learned new skills as I went along. If there is anything that I have learned from this experience is to get your work and team ready at least a year in advance. Hire a good PR company to market your event and never hold it during the Christmas season!
There were plenty of positives; I reacquainted with old contacts, made new contacts and customers and provided with new opportunities. I learned that there are different ways of showcasing your work and when you are passionate about the message behind your work, only then will you attract the right people. The location was perfect and I was right in front of my audience, who happened to be from different parts of the world such as South Korea, China, the USA, Morocco, and Germany. This cemented my conviction that Barjis is for the multicultural woman and that having pop-ups and exhibitions in different locations is a key for BARJIS.
The Barjis woman is not defined by ethnicity, location, physical appearance or culture. She is an open-minded global jet setter who embraces different cultures and makes it her own.
BTW the food from Spice Village was the icing on the cake and of course being broadcasted on Ary, Hum TV, Islam Channel, UK44 and Dunya TV in Karachi! It was lovely to be on television in Pakistan. We also had a visit from The Business of Fashion. I feel blessed!
Our hot sellers are our sustainable notebooks, we have 15 different prints, all made from the offcuts of our fabrics. It’s a great way of recycling fabrics that end up in landfills. They are a perfect gift for your loved ones and can be purchased on our website www.barjislondon.com
My advice to anyone who is thinking of doing an event or following their dreams… Just do it! Make mistakes and keep on moving forward.