Her name may fail to ring a bell for some but Atiya Khan’s face will surely take them back to the late 80s and early 90s, when the Pakistani fashion industry was gaining momentum and Atiya was at its forefront. She was considered among one of the first ‘proper’ models of the country when she was barely 20-years-old. But nationwide popularity could not satiate Atiya who wanted to do much more than just that. And so, she gave up modelling at just 21, only to return about two decades later as a showstopper for designer Maheen Khan at Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) 2015. Most recently, Atiya graced the Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) 2016 finale, walking the ramp in Shamaeel Ansari’s latest collection.
She enjoyed her second-coming as much as the local fashion community. “It was lots of fun and felt absolutely great,” said Atiya, whilst speaking to The Express Tribune. “I guess modelling is sort of like riding a bike – if you do it once, you can never forget it!” Considering her obvious knack for the profession, it seems strange that Atiya decided to forgo her career at its peak “I gave up being in front of the camera completely, be it walking the ramps, photo shoots or acting,” she clarified. “I actually wanted to focus more on my work behind the camera. I wanted to be producing and directing. Leaving modelling was actually quite easy for me as my top priority was neither fashion nor fame.”
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Despite her absence, Atiya still maintains a keen eye on the fashion world and has plenty to say about the changes it has undergone while she has been away. “Back in my day, modelling was all about breaking barriers and challenging the growing fundamentalism in Pakistani society. We saw ourselves as warriors taking risks and using fashion as a way to revolt,” she reminisced. “Nowadays, modeling has been reduced to nothing but sheer business. We worked very hard to make it a respectable profession but sadly, things seem to have deteriorated. For instance, there are many shady people taking advantage of the models today.” Atiya also seemed somewhat skeptical about the current crop of models in Pakistan. “I think grace is inborn — either you have it or you don’t. What I have noticed with today’s girls is that they are too stiff and conscious of themselves,” she stated. She thinks that models today try too hard to stand out and end up seeming fake instead. “In my time, each model had a personality and a half. They had attitude and strength, which came across on the ramp.”
20 years of experience have taught Atiya the importance of staying true to one’s roots, in every walk of life. When asked if she would like to impart any advice to aspiring models modelling, Atiya replied, “Stay away from all shady people and never, ever compromise on your principles. Knowing your values and respect is very important. Maintain it, always.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2016.
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