A phone call from a good friend compelled us to sit in front of the telly to watch the anticipated Maldivian Fashion week last Tuesday, but as the live telecast continued in its rather slow pace we waited impatiently for the show to end. As we had posted before the Fashion week was focused entirely on one brand and that was ‘Truly Maldives’ three collections of resort wear, evening wear and color mix was designed by Aishath Ali – the designer who is mostly known for Mariyam Waheeda’s outfits for the Friday show Heyyanbo on MNBC1. The show was indeed highly anticipated, and why not, after all it was a showcase of Maldivian talent! However, presenting the collection of only one designer is a high-risk endeavor as the exhibition of the nation’s fashion talent rests upon Aishath Ali’s petite shoulders. As the Maldivian mannequins sashayed down a white narrow carpet (instead of a customary catwalk) in front of less than 100 guests the collection seemed to start off in a promising manner with the resort wear in pastel colors. It was published that the outfits would be about presenting a ‘piece of Maldives’ and the designer had indeed made an attempt to reflect Maldives with some outfits imitating the designs of thundu kunaa, the libaas and the Maldivian underwaterlife.Though, after the first three outfits the charm of the first round of collection seemed to wane as it continued in its unimpressive beat with mainly loose silhouettes that seemed to befit ‘expecting’ mothers. Further on, ‘luxury’ – an element that normally epitomizes resort wear was almost non-existent.
Remixed local songs boomed in the background and around 20 models who changed into their evening wear came strutting down in purples and lemon yellows – a palette that seemed to have continued to the third collection (color mix) as well. Did the models forget their accessories like clutches and shoes for their evening? Lacking completeness without the full exhibition of accessories was a flagrant error for the brand. Perhaps the feet could have been interestingly accessorized with anklets to rule out the no-shoes-zone that the brand was trying to portray. The continuity of the same color palette for ‘color mix’ was ideal, though it lacked the zing to entice the audience of a fashion week. It is always tricky to play with too many colors and Truly Maldives, with inspirations from dhigu hedhun and libaas pattern cuttings paired with the motley matched colors had a lack of aesthetic quality, giving the effect of rag-doll patchwork; a style that was obviously reminiscent of the Bangkok/Indian flea market kurthees – perhaps a better remake of the style could have worked. The amateur hand painted designs in tint-less colors made us wince every time-a blatant misstep for a fashion exhibition that had to showcase craftsmanship. The use of bottled fabric colors perhaps did not give justice to the intricate traditional designs found in Maldivian craftsmanship of stone and wood carvings.
At the end of the show the designer looked relieved as she made her appearance in a dhiguhedhun that she herself designed, we sincerely believe that only a few designers like Aishath Ali would have the courage to debut solo for the first fashion week, in a fast-paced fashion world where harsh critics would most likely label the collection as ‘amateur’ and ‘worse than a student’s fashion show’. We sure hope to see more of Truly Maldives designs and wish Aishath Ali all the best in future! We hope to see more designers next year and who knows? Maldivians are talented and skilled, there could be an undiscovered fashion designer in this small community to challenge Asia’s if not the world’s fashion creators! That faint glimmer of hope still shines.