While we earlier talked about the use of big Bollywood names in lawn campaigns, as well as the reluctance by some brands to use models altogether, our current focus is on the use of Caucasian models. The recent billboards of Gul Ahmed’s lovely cambric collection features a number of beautiful women posing in lawn outfits. If you look closer, you’ll realise that most of these women aren’t Pakistani. In fact, they are not even South Asian.
Sheeza Arif of Gul Ahmed says the models make all the difference. “We like to be fresh and different,” she tells The Express Tribune, explaining the decision to go for gori over desi models. “We bring out new collections every few months, and we try not to repeat faces. Thus, we end up photographing both local and international models. It’s the photographer who chooses the model, and we’ve had good feedback after our campaigns of foreign models,” she adds.
The ‘positive response’ to foreign models could well be a reflection of the South Asian obsession with fair complexions. But Arif points out a factor which could be another big reason for why these models are chosen. “It’s more financially feasible to simply procure a model within a foreign country [where the shoots take place] rather than flying out local models from Pakistan. “
Amir, a businessman based in Karachi, appreciates the vast number of billboards all over the city. “Gori larki ko to kuch bhi pehna do achi lagey gi!” he jokes, and in turn, receives a disapproving look from his wife.
She has a different opinion. “Every man appreciates a beautiful woman, but the purpose of lawn brands isn’t to appeal to men. Women need someone they can relate to.”
Another consumer says, “Why not? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a white girl in lawn. It shows that Pakistanis are open to diversity, and are willing to allow foreign people to advertise products meant for them.”
Saniya Ali, an undergraduate student, doesn’t like the idea of foreign models. “You can’t get the feel of an outfit if it’s not worn by a desi woman. I don’t understand why they [lawn brands] get goris to model; we have so many beautiful [Pakistani] models”
Zohra Ali Panjwani, an undergraduate student at LUMS, shares the sentiment. “Pakistanis are so in awe of the West that seeing a pretty gori in a lawn suit would probably appeal to us more than a desi face.”
While other lawn brands are scrambling to find the fairest of them all to be the face of their campaigns, undisputed lawn queens Sana Safinaz have stuck to dusky supermodel Neha. “[Our brand] has always set its own standard of beauty,” the designer duo tells The Express Tribune in an email. “We are not dictated by the traditional norms of Pakistani society. Neha epitomises Asian beauty not only with her flawless complexion but with effortless grace. Sana Safinaz is proud to have her as part of our campaign.”
After speaking to consumers and experts, it seems that foreign models do not affect buying power, and may even work against the brand. At a time where South Asians are going to extreme measures to lighten their skin tones, how are people to accept who they are, if society is hell bent saying that fair is beautiful?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2013.