The Devil Wore Purdah

3808.kfwFaiza S. Khan on fashion in Pakistan in Open Magazine:

Karachi Fashion Week was held recently, showcasing the work of 32 Pakistani designers, the largest, but by no means only, event of its kind in the country. Occurring amid postponements and last minute changes of venue due to security concerns, for reasons that surely don’t require stating, it was eventually held at Karachi’s Marriott hotel, the Islamabad branch of which was brought crashing down last year, killing over 50 people. Every night for four nights, eight designers sent models down a blazing white runway in everything from shalwar kameez and gharara to skirts, jeans, shorts and, in one instance, something that looked suspiciously like my bedroom curtains, only worn with a belt, baring more or less the same amount of flesh one might expect to see at an opulent private party.

While the extent to which the exercise stimulated the economy remains to be seen, its effect on international media was instantaneous, with the event resulting in writers going head to head to claim the journalistic equivalent of the Golden Raspberry Award. It was with some bewilderment that one read in the papers the next day of the display of a bare back and some thigh hailed as “snubbing the Taliban”, regardless of the fact that it was done in a private, carefully contained environment filled with people who were not remotely like the Taliban, i.e. socialites, designers, buyers and the inevitable twerp in gigantic sunglasses in the dead of night. There was the de rigueur cliché of how daring it was to see skimpily dressed models in a society where women generally cover up, entirely omitting to mention that distinctions exist between those people who cover up and those who don’t, and fashion models fall quite clearly into the latter category. One scribe wrote of how heroic it was to show exposed navels while war is simultaneously waged in Waziristan, as if these two are somehow connected, as if, perhaps, the navels were being bared in Waziristan or that the war would be won should the military choose to spend its budget on tank-tops rather than tanks.