Everything I hate about the Pakistani fashion industry

Published: March 21, 2015
Email

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.