Fashion Week Pakistan - Showing Pakistan's progressive side
The fashion industry in Pakistan is still in a fledgling phase in comparison to India, whose fashion designers have made it big in the West. But events like the Fashion Pakistan week show: Pakistan is a country with a lot of fashion and rich in craft. Read More
Pakistani fashion designers say theirs is a very difficult task in a country struggling with issues of terrorism, religious fundamentalism and militancy.
But events like the Fashion Pakistan week show: Pakistan is a country with a lot of fashion and rich in craft.
Many people in Pakistan think of designer fashion as something reserved for the privileged elite. But that doesn’t necessarily hold true for the entire Pakistani fashion industry.
Fashion journalist Mohsin Sayeed explains that the Pakistani fashion industry makes use of local culture and art. “It reflects the whole of Pakistani society because when fashion designers prepare their collections, they rely on cultural traditions and craft,” he says.
“For example, what Warda Saleem, a Karachi-based fashion designer, showcases in fashion exhibitions is an inspiration from the culture of Sindh. She infuses the ancient craft of block-printing and handmade cut-work with textile traditions in a very bohemian way with an international appeal.”
Sayeed is hopeful that this kind of promotion of art and culture could make Pakistan a more tolerant and progressive place.
There is a positive side to Pakistan. Through these fashion weeks we can build a softer image of our country.
Image-making Warda Saleem exhibits on events such as the Fashion Pakistan Week. According to her, these events are making the world realize that Pakistan is not just about fanaticism. “Unfortunately, all the bad things about Pakistan are being highlighted (in the media),” she says, adding that “these kinds of fashion weeks really help in showing to the world that Pakistan is a country with a lot of fashion and is rich in craft.”
Iram Muzaffar, editor of You, The News’ women’s magazine, says the fashion events are important for Pakistan’s image. “Through these fashion weeks we can build a softer image of our country. Take the example of India. It has been able to project a liberal image through its movies and media.”
One fashion week for “ten bombings”
The fashion industry has often been the subject of criticism by the conservative sections of Pakistani society.
Religious groups usually accuse fashion designers and models of promoting “Western culture”, which they say should not be allowed in an Islamic state. There have been instances of right-wing groups blackening the billboards and advertisements displaying pictures of female models. They even go as far as to make public threats to members of the fashion industry.
Religious groups usually accuse fashion designers and models of promoting “Western culture”.
But despite threats from extremists, Sayeed says he does not feel intimidated. “It is not just extremist groups; even conservative sections of society oppose fashion. There is a group which is against using women models for promoting clothes. But do we feel threatened? No. The fashion industry in Pakistan took off in General Zia’s (Pakistan's Islamist military dictator of the 1980s) era. If we could survive Zia’s era, we can survive against these people as well.”
But Fatima Niazi, a student, who also works for The News, thinks that things are not as simple as most fashion journalists and designers like to depict. She says that she feels “suffocated” as a young female journalist in a conservative society. “There are too many restrictions on the way you talk, on what you wear, when you go around interviewing people,” she says.
Niazi believes that fashion shows alone will never be enough to change the reality of Pakistan. “One fashion week and then perhaps ten bomb blasts after that; I think things will remain the same,” says Niazi.
Shamil did research on this topic for DeutscheWelle.