Everything I hate about the Pakistani fashion industry

Published: March 21, 2015

You’ll learn to thoosofy the words “sartorial”, “quirky”, “edgy” and “aesthetic” in every headline.

If you are a young struggling female journalist in Pakistan with big dreams of reporting stories that matter, you will probably spend a few years reporting all the stories that don’t matter!

Among all those literary masterpieces you pen will be an array of pieces on:

  • Designers who have made it big
  • Designers who have not made it big but have a great PR agency
  • The 4363778 lawn launches
  • Fashion “weeks” that are three-days long

You will get to meet loads of glazed out designers and hear them talk about a lawn jora like it’s the cure for cancer. You’ll learn to thoosofy the words “sartorial”, “quirky”, “edgy” and “aesthetic” in every headline.

For instance:

“Designer (insert Bawani, Hashwani, Lakhwani, Lakhani, Dewani) sartorial splendour displays a unique aesthetic.”

Don’t worry if you have seen said ‘aesthetic’ at Ashiana, Gulf, Tariq Road, and even on runways in Paris and New York. You don’t want to be kicked out from the fashion weeks and have nothing to report on, do you?

So here is a list of things I learnt and grew to hate from my time reporting on fashion in Pakistan:

1. The blow-dry begums and golden gurriyas

Making your hair fancy in Pakistan means one thing – burn/bleach your hair with peroxide and then stiffen it further with an over-the-top Bridget Bardot-curly blow-dry. It’s the ultimate go-to hairstyle for celebs and socialites. You’ll hardly ever see a successful, “fashionable” Pakistani woman at an event sporting a messy bun, a pixie, a Mohawk or maybe even a hat.

Photo: Saba Khalid

Need help replicating the look; refer to Good Times and Sunday Times galleries for inspiration. Add fake or real LV bag to complete look. Botox on your face is hazb-zaiqa!

2. The conventional (read: boring) models

I don’t encourage underage anorexic models and it’s completely okay if majority of Pakistani female models are old enough to have grandkids who can model themselves for teen brands. They can slowly sashay on the runway with a walking stick for all I care. They can wear flats if it helps their arthritis, it doesn’t matter to me!

What really bothers me is the fact that they’re so darn catalogue-y and conventional looking. Internationally, you’ve got diverse and striking models with rare skin conditions, plus-sized models, petite models, models with prosthetic legs, transgender models, full-body tattooed models, Albino models. But a dark-skinned model is the ‘edgiest’ a model can be in Pakistan.

Photo: Saba Khalid

3. The trashy ill-fitting western wear attempts

Pakistani designers, let’s admit something. You can’t do western wear. So that little black dress you made with jamawar looks like the model is wearing her nani’s tikozi. So please, put your scissors away because that chunri jumpsuit looks like rainbow barf. You’re good at eastern wear, embrace your niche and stick to it.

Photo: Saba Khalid

And socialites please accept something. All the western wear you wear from Pakistani designers fits badly and looks ugly. If you really want to farangi it out, get your western attire from abroad or stick to the ikka dukka high street international brands available locally.

4. Feminine clothing for men

Yes, we know you designers want to be avant garde and all that jazz! And it’s hard to be that way with the eastern silhouette for men. But it’s unfair to send a male model down the runway with a tika, gharara and dupatta. It’s wrong and evil! And because of you, the model’s parents pretend they don’t know him in public or on Facebook.

Photo: Saba Khalid

5. How un-fashionable the fashion journalists are

So many people with no fashion background or good taste are reporting on fashion that it baffles me. The list includes me! It baffles me even more how easily fashion journalists are bought! Send a girl a free bag and she’ll write an erotic 50 shades series on your label.

FYI, this pointer should serve as a reminder to NEFER and Rema, still waiting on those bags ladies!

Photo: Saba Khalid

6. The pretend friendships and the cattiness

This incident is all too common. A designer in the audience gives a standing ovation for a collection and claps as the bashful designer walks at the end of the show. The lights dim and that same appreciative designer turns to his fashion journalist friend and says:

“Tobah, kitni bakwaas line thee!

“Good heavens, what a terrible collection that was!”

The fashion-challenged journalist (who is wearing his friend’s design to the event) quickly jots down the comment and trashes that line the next day in her piece.

Photo: Saba Khalid

7. The mafia

It kills me to know that the fashion mafia in Pakistan is so strong that new designers or artists can’t really shine through. Brands tend to work with certain PR companies and these agencies promote certain designers, makeup artists, hairstylists. And these creatives only go on to work with certain models only.

The result of all this mafia business is we only see clones of golden gurriyas, stale fashion and boring models on the runway and red carpet.

Photo: Saba Khalid

Just like the politics, politicians and the corrupt system of the country, the fashion industry needs an overhaul. Just because your husband or father has the money to buy you a lawn mill and your designer wardrobe, doesn’t make you a designer. And we shouldn’t be swayed to wear whatever atrocities these designers put out as “fashion”.

Sometimes a vintage outfit created from pieces picked out from Sunday Bazaar can be more avant garde and creative than some of the stuff these designers put out. Let’s bring in unconventional looking models, change our limited definition of beauty and support those young struggling designers/artists who can’t catch a break because of the mafia or don’t have daddies and hubbies to support their shauq.

Saba Khalid

Saba Khalid

A blogger for Rolling Stone magazine, a contributor to Kulturaustauch and Musikexpres, Saba is an Institute for Foreign Affairs (IFA) Cross Culture scholar for the year 2012 who also teaches creative writing to young aspiring writers. She blogs at www.thecityalive.com and can be found on instagram as @thecityalive

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sinwan Maryam Zahid

    Hahahahahahahah behtareen!Recommend

  • Samar

    Immensely judgemental, immensely nasty, immensely distasteful. It worries me to see news heads like tribune permitting such irrelevant and amateur journalism. The writer obviously has been ignored by some designer. Recommend

  • Aviator

    Haha! Pakistan fashion ‘industry’ seems very conservative.Recommend

  • maya ahmed

    lolz.what an interesting read.I totally agree.love:)Recommend

  • Parvez

    Great piece, made me laugh……but reality is that fashion thrives on vanity in humans……….and that is something the Lord above isn’t changing soon.Recommend

  • mashal

    Best piece I’ve read in AGES. Well done Saba!Recommend

  • Aania

    I don’t think you’re right when it comes to our Pakistani designers making western clothes. I’ve seen many who have a real talent in designing and executing western clothes. Instead of dismissing their efforts, one should appreciate their talent. You may not like something, another may love it. There is a market for each and every designer out there.

    Coming to the women with blonde hair etc- I think that was in very bad taste. Eventhough I would never turn to blonde streaks, I don’t get how you so blatantly be so obnoxious. It doesn’t reflect well on who you are. Live and let live. If they like it, they do- I don’t think they’re living their life taking jabs at how you look.

    I also do not agree with the fact that new designers not being given room to shine. I’ve seen quite a few pop up in the last couple of years. Yes, some choose to use PR companies and some have not- yet they have made their way into the fashion industry. You should definitely do some research before you put such statements out there.

    To me, this article is straight up obnoxious leaning towards a very mean girl attitude. Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/faddie.k Fahad Khan

    Thank God, you mentioned NEFER’s useless beg collection :DRecommend

  • tiya

    ” And we shouldn’t be swayed to wear whatever atrocities these designers put out as “fashion”. true that !
    although some designers really do awesome work … it is true that it’s only a business for most ..especially the lawn now a days .Recommend

  • Anthony

    I only had to see that it was Saba Khalid writing this and I knew it would be a holier than thou judgmental piece of crap. Recommend

  • Mocker

    Well all good articles in the world are judgemental if you have read any that is. Secondly it’s probably the most honest article I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a while which is very rare in Pakistan to begin with, thirdly I think you are exactly the kind of mind that the article is mocking. I think one bad comment like yours can’t really undermine all the appreciation or the good comments that are there above and under. Stay mafia!Recommend

  • Queen

    Very insightful blog about our fashion industry.Recommend

  • Ruby

    Add fake or real LV bag to complete look. Botox on your face is hazb-zaiqa!

    Lol. Just RoflRecommend

  • Sheena Malik

    My thoughts exactly Saba…Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    hahahahahha. tooo funny. To be honest there is no “fashion industry” in Pakistan. Only a handful of posh people who play dress up. I recently saw a story on the nine o’clock news which was about a fashion “show” in Karachi. The entire “show” was confined to one room. Patheticus MaximusRecommend

  • http://hinasafdar.wordpress.com/ Hinasafi

    That’s just brilliant. As a blogger I feel the same.Recommend

  • asfee

    I really enjoyed the article specially the golden guriya, men bridal clothing and weird western wear part. All the fashion shows are same lack versatility.Recommend

  • Mahreen


  • Lost

    Funny seeing author being so haughty and catty about people in fashion industry being the same Recommend

  • Zara

    Some of the pointers might, just might be thought-provocative, but only one word popped up in mind when I finished reading this-very-evidently-Pak-fashion-trashing piece, i.e., BITTER! What is up with ‘for all i care-crap?’. Seriously? That’s one ridiculous piece of amateur journalism. Not that I find Pakistan’s fashion inspiring, but this piece should be more accurately retitled as the ‘memoirs of an outcast-anywhere for that matter-article.’. Pakistan’s fashion is just like any other underdeveloped industry of this underdeveloped country, period.
    Also, please do not compare the standards of vanity of this country’s fashion industry with the international norm. Their excruciating threshold for what’s even remotely acceptable will shake you to the core if u begin ‘actual research for a more knowledgeably-finessed piece’. Or watch devil wears the Prada for beiginners. Fashion has never been about inner beauty.Recommend

  • Ammara

    I am in love with u. Awesome piece. U just gave the words to my thoughts….!Recommend

  • Javeria Shuja

    a very well put piece, =)Recommend

  • Zuni

    Totally agree !!! Someone finally said my dil ki baat !!Recommend

  • Hira

    Cudnt agree more to the fact that fashion journalists have pathetic fashion sense. Seeing their Instagram posts in this lawn season makes me sick. Just one Free Ka jora and they will do anything for you. Like anything!Recommend

  • Khaled Anam

    Great writing. Recommend

  • nha


  • Pakistani

    You just confirmed what she has written the true! Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Bravo! High time someone said it as it was. Great piece Recommend

  • ut

    What are you talking about? This is spot on…call a spade a spade instead of giving into such knee jerk reactions just because you are a part of this superficial industry. Recommend

  • shaheennouman

    This was hilarious!!!Recommend

  • umair qazi

    Amazing article…. saba khalid you nailed it perfectly…..Recommend

  • Anugrah

    Could not decide whether the author is being sarcastic or telling the truth. Excellent work. Same true this side of the fence too.Recommend

  • dknight xs

    1st id like to commend on this article and your writing skills..i simply loved it.. you made perhaps the most boring thing (pakistani fashion industry) fun for me :).
    2ndly i agree with pretty much…no wait..i simply agree with everything.
    what really pushes me over the edge (in terms of anger/disappointment) is the fact all these so called designers preted that they r the most perfect human beings..that they can do no wrong…there r times when my wife drags me to these shows and i pretty much snooze through the whole borefest. same bloody stuff over and over again…the most highest rated male model..should b voted as the most untidy.
    3rdly i am bloody sick of these same ol lines which all these wannabes recite over and over “its a food fresh change…oh look i am speaking in English” or ” its good to see such a fashion week in pakistan” oh wait i just attended 4 of those last week.

    lol i am getting carried away..anyway
    saba i look fwd to other articles by u :)
    your writing style is like a breath of fresh air jn this mundane pakistani journalism.Recommend

  • Magnanimity

    Bravo !!
    Thank God, somebody has finally exposed the corruption in our fashion industry.Recommend

  • Maryum Farhan

    There’s nothing to hate about the fashion industry darling. From what my eyes are reading it’s the same cut throat money culture as here in NYC fashion scene.
    Models are definitely better looking here.
    Manufacturers work with a limited set of fabrics.
    Public likes a limited set of colors and prints.
    Media trashes the pieces after the catwalks regularly. That’s publicity.
    PR rules the game.

    I see that our country is economically evolving. It’s always tough to break into the market.Recommend

  • Rebellious

    ahahhaha that was a wonderful piece of Pakistani fashion phobia … It was something worth reading really enjoyed it .. Thumbs up :DRecommend

  • Ash

    LOL this was hilarious! Didnt know there was a fashion mafia also, but then again, its a given!Recommend

  • Azeem

    Are these clothes for male models for real? I mean seriously not even the gayest models in new york or paris would consider it appropriate for men,…..being a fashionable man doesn’t mean one should dress up as a dulhan.Recommend

  • Tahir

    YARRRRRRRR … khush ker dya …. having worked for 22 years in the media and having seen the circus that passes off for the fashion industry in Pakistan, I have never seen anyone lampoon it from the inside like this. bless you.lRecommend

  • Dante

    So you blog for Rolling Stones? The magazine that wrote a completely false article about the rape incident at University of Virginia? I heard that journalist is refusing to back out from that article.Recommend

  • shehryar

    very entertaining.

    i agree that we can’t do western wear. but that’s not a comment on our designers’ creativity; it’s about the lack of technical skill among our dressmakers. eastern wear can get by on bling n kaam, but for western wear u need to have an in-depth understanding of fabrics n what’s happening ‘under the hood’ – i.e.flawlessly nailing the mechanics of tailoring. those skills r missing among our craftsmen.

    i disagree about the models though. those funky characters u’v pictured would never be top models in the west either. they could get editorial work in some edgy magazine, but u’d never see them in vogue or on valentino’s runway.Recommend

  • SJ

    Bahahaha omg the blow dry begums and be golden gurriyas! Ahahaha I’ve been saying the same stuff for over a decade. I will never understand why desi women are obsessed with this blond hair business. It looks awful on our skin tone. Recommend

  • qudsya

    “You will get to meet loads of glazed out designers and hear them talk about a lawn jora like it’s the cure for cancer.” hahahahaha hilarious and spot on — except for the fact that you’ve forgotton about the patrons of these 5988963583 lawns who also talk about lawn joras as they finally brought the cure home after a shopping spree :DRecommend

  • Aliya

    Most on point article. It’s like the mutual admiration society for the sub par, wish I could be global but I’ll settle for lowering the standard so I can justify my existence club. Recommend

  • Reem C.

    Thank you for this. My favorite part: Just like the politics, politicians and the corrupt system of the country, the fashion industryneeds an overhaul. Just because your husband or father has the money to buy you a lawn mill and your designer wardrobe, doesn’t make you a designer. And we shouldn’t be swayed to wear whatever atrocities these designers put out as “fashion”.Recommend

  • Yasir

    The most critical part of this article revolves around point 7. The mafia! That’s a problem with every industry in the country that has to do with art/ skill. The cricket team. The TV/film industry. The DJ “scene”.
    If u notice there is actually a lack of skills/art in our country ( some of you might claim nai ji our country has a lot of talent but let’s be honest we are light years behind compared to the world when it comes to creativity/humor/art/acting/singing/fashion ..take the lame short video clips our “talented” comedians insist on calling vines, for example – its been 2 freaking Years and there’s no better topic than foreign ABC vs desi ABC).

    The mafia mentality is murdering creativity in every field and is the number 1 reason why ideas like men in sadhis are seeing the light of day.

    Please boycott this culture wherever possible!Recommend

  • http://www.allthingsgirlish.blogspot.com/ Maila

    Being bombarded day in and out on social media with over-hyped collections, outraeous prices and same old familiar face of Pakistani fashion Industry, this article is like a breath of fresh air!! Love your ‘quirky’ writing style and all the points you made. I am now a fan of yours, you woke us up to the reality of our Industry, kudos and get ready to by stalked big time by me!!!

  • Dat Bro

    You try to appear liberal and accepting of other’s lifestyles and claim there should be more alternative and less catalogue-y models. In the very next point you poke fun of male models for wearing feminine clothes.

    I would suggest you clear out your head and then try your hand are writing this article again, as it seems you don’t have a clear idea of what you want the industry to be, and you’re just making criticism for criticism’s sake. My guess is you have low self-esteem and like to bash people who are confident about their own looks because it makes you feel better.

  • Wajeeh Kazmi

    You spoke my heart out! 10/10Recommend

  • Maoui

    So, you have pointed out the evils and the problems. Awareness I agree is a big step and more and more people are becoming aware of the ills of our society. BUT, and there is a big BUT here: is something being done to help the novice designer or model? Is there some local newspaper willing to host and sponsor untried and untested talent in Pakistan?Recommend

  • Rimsha Khalid Malik

    nani’s tikozi….rainbow barf….. i’m ROFLing and LMFAOing like crazy!!! loved this piece it drips honesty!!!Recommend

  • Khurram Farooqi

    Why Eraj is still there Pakistan got young and Beautiful girls who are eager to work in Fashion Industry then why sticking Eraj and all old Grand MaasssRecommend

  • Telebrand Pk

    Good Fashion

  • Maira Khan

    Fashion is a tool… to compete in life outside the home. People like you better, without knowing why, because people always react well to a person they like the looks of.

  • anke cut out boots black

    Thanks for sharing this informative information i must say its very cool…Recommend

  • Saba Malik

    hahahahhahahha finally exposed the corruption in our fashion industry.Recommend