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The Fashion Industry in Pakistan

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Despite having a conservative society, Pakistan has never been devoid of fashion since its inception. Every era brought its own unique styles and designs fit for that time both for women and men. But this style and designs have only revolved around the traditional dress, shalwar kameez with dupatta for women and just shalwar kameez for men. Fashion designers don’t have enough room to make many variations with the conventional pair of shalwar kameez. So the limitation is that they have to keep to a certain clothing form and profile for the customers taste.

Fashion in Pakistan can merely be pinned down to one instance, of being heavily influenced by the Mughal courts in the sub-continental era. Speaking of the 1800-1900, gold and silver ivory threaded robes were spun, paired with Salim Shahi shoe named after Queen Nur Jehan’s husband. As the area later came under the influence of the British, both, the Mughal and the British Empire were the biggest influences on the fashion in this region. While the men sported minimalist cut, lean trouser with classic trenches, the women busied themselves with weaving zardosi thread onto mid-riff baring, cropped top with a voluminous ankle length ghagra choli, which whispered ethnic sophistication of Rajistani and Gujrati women of 1872.

Later, this attire was also sported by the notable Fatima Jinnah. For the longest period of time, Pakistani fashion was dominated by ornaments that epitomized ethnic glamour. Angrakhaas worn by Rajisthani men on festivities swayed its way into Women’s wardrobe paired with Kundan accessories and quirky coloured mathapatti. Hand embroidered kotis, duchesse patterned bodice with delicate kamdani thread-work and kaleidoscopic crochet were also in vogue. In many ways however, Pakistani fashion and the exponential rise in its industry cannot be viewed in isolation from the political unrest and upheavals. Over the years of different governments, fashion proved to be a form of escapism for the masses. Pakistani cinema was an all-time high in the sixties, and the masses enjoyed the shamrock and rose patterned bodices and tunics smothered in sequins. There was also a ranging trend of short poppy accented shirts paired with choridaars and heels. With the lapse of time, Pakistan made an interesting 360 degree turn in fashion.

There was a sudden boom and bombshells designers, like Sehyr Saigol, Maheen Khan, Bunto Kazmi, Faiza Samee, Nilofer Shahid, Rizwan Beyg, Shamaeel Ansari, Sana Safinaz, Amir Adnan and Body Focus Museum took the centre stage with their bespoke designs and exuberant silhouettes. This was when art seeped into the sheer body-skimming layers of a floor length gown that riffed romantically as one walked. Elaborate head gears, billowing dramatic versions and intricate glasswork bodices were used to portray the poetic rawness and oppressed emotions. But along with that, there was also a rise in rich gem coloured trousseaus, which growled with sensuality and yet retained an aura of inheritance. It was also during this time, when the heavily British-influenced men, ditched the trousers for the national suit. This revolutionized the menswear in the Pakistani fashion industry. And from thereon, more and more designers took up the mantle of making the masses test their faith in designer’s sartorial creed. They diligently paired together waistcoat, achkan and sherwani with the shalwar kameez or with churidar pajama, to create Pakistan’s national look. Moreover, “Teejays” also took up the responsibility of bringing Bhutto’s awami suit into the lime light. It brought forward tasteful tailoring and classical silhouettes in shalwar kameez which whispered elegance in its very warp and weft. Culturally and aesthetically, rich fashion was on the rise, with a fair share of credit being allotted to the Pakistani media, film industry and print media (i.e. fashion magazines) which played the biggest role in promoting fashion industry in Pakistan.

In the early 60’s, “SHE”, Pakistan’s first Women’s fashion and lifestyle magazine started its publication, closely followed by “Women’s Own”, and hardline magazines like “Herald” which started publishing fashion related stories. Newspapers also began to cover fashion in special supplements like “Instep” and “Images”. Till date, grave security conditions seem to steer Pakistan’s fashion industry which is booming, despite all odds. Alongside veteran designers, newcomers have also stepped into the field to play out their aesthetical senses to not just revive but also extrapolate upcoming trends. Be it the colour palate, the fabric, the texture or the print, they are meshed together into a designer’s master craftsmanship. The eccentric collections and/or theatrical fashion performance envision the forthcoming trends, and perfectly display the genius lay in a designer’s clever layering of colour and prints. It can proudly be stated as a fact that, with new and foreign investors viewing Pakistani soil as one that may come bearing fruits and profits for their business venture, the fashion industry is surely on the right path to achieve an unprecedented success globally.

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