Pakistan fashion week

The Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) and Sunsilk held their second fashion week in Karachi in mid November. The event featured over 24 designers from across the country and was extremely well attended – not only by the local fashion and media lot, but also a  surprisingly high attendance from international buyers and media from Europe, India and the Middle East.

Those of you who’ve been following my blog will immediately understand that this is the ‘other side of Pakistan’ – the side that seldom gets covered by the international media, and which I have been tried to introduce to those of my readers in the Western hemisphere. Pakistan has a fledgling fashion industry that, which while flourishing domestically, has been unable so far to break into the West. Now, using the platform of the PFDC, Pakistani designers are starting to become more savvy to the needs and requirements of Western audiences and have started designing their collections keeping such consumers in mind (something I find personally interesting as a marketer, as it demonstrates the ability to define oneself in line with one’s target audience/consumer). This fashion week put on display a truly dizzying array of designs – from traditional Pakistani pret to western cruise and summer wear – there were short dresses with funky folk embroideries, jumpsuits in lovely chiffon with long embroidered open front coats, a few saris, as well as traditional Pakistani long kameezes. 

Karachi has been called the least livable city in the world… Perhaps this is one reason why Pakistanis have been dubbed the world’s most resilient nation – this was certainly evident to me when mere seconds after the second day of the show kicked off, we heard news that Karachi had experienced what was later reported as the second largest bomb blast in the country to date. The fear and nervousness was visible in the audience – and yet the show went on. Not only the day of the blast, but also the subsequent two days. The hotel where I (as well as the designers, models and international media and buyers) was staying was literally opposite the site of the bomb… The windows in the lobby and some of the upper floors were shattered and a nearby government building collapsed from the force of the blast. What I found truly incredible however was not only the resilience of the show organisers and city inhabitants, but the solidarity and support demonstrated by the foreigners, who chose to stick around – even opting to stay in the hotel despite being offered alternative accommodation. Perhaps their attitude was best summed up by one of the French journalists who said – we’re here for fashion week and the show must go on. And so it did.

Needless to say, we sat through the show with heavy hearts – watching models walk down the ramp even as half an hour away the city was rocked… But what was crystalized for me was that we have no other choice. Terrorism is about causing terror – and if we cease to live our lives and give in to the horror that is perpetrated upon us, then we’ve already lost. Yes, we live in the most dangerous place on earth – but that is precisely why we need to go on with our lives and continue – not in blind ignorance, but in the knowledge that by continuing our lives, we are carrying out and winning OUR battles. As a friend of mine said to the journalists,  “Just by being here and carrying on with our lives – that’s OUR protest.”