LAHORE: “To stay on top of your game, one has to show sound judgement. I was very picky as a model and that’s what has made all the difference,” says Frieha Altaf, when asked how she managed to make it big in an industry that was too small. Her response is quite plausible, considering that Pakistani fashion industry would not be what it is today had it not been for her.
“There were six of us modelling back in the late 80s and early 90s. You could say we were the ones who created the fashion industry, so to speak,” she recalls. “I was part of this ‘Style Mafia’ which became somewhat of a hobby. It was like being part of a movement of sorts; very passionate and exciting. We were the first ones to do everything and so, everyone took notice.”
Arguably one of the earliest commercial models to emerge from the country, Altaf began her career back in 1986 after being spotted at an art exhibition. Her first cover was for Fashion Collection and the rest is history.
“I was very picky about everything. From who or what I wore, what my makeup looked like, which hairstyle I would sport and which director I was working with. I sort of got stuck to good quality work, that’s all.”
But soon enough, the supermodel got “bored” of modelling, having noticed the lack of respect and proper structure in the industry. “Honestly, I just got tired of it and wanted to do other things. In just three years of modelling, I realised that the fashion industry seriously lacked an infrastructure and so, I decided to create one,” shares Altaf, who now runs Catwalk Event Management & Catalyst PR.
“I strongly feel there’s a need to innovate, to give back to Pakistan and highlight aspects of its culture and tradition that have been forgotten.”
So does Altaf think she left modeling at the right time? “If a model works till she turns 40, there is so much criticism directed towards her. On the other hand, we see people like Kate Moss in campaigns and Andie MacDowell endorsing anti-ageing products. Yasmeen Lee Bou walked the ramps till she was 40!” Altaf responds. “Usually, models stop modelling and take up other professions like acting or establish their own brands.”
No stranger to hard work, Altaf has moulded herself into an icon of the local fashion circuit. Years of experience in the industry have made her a permanent feature at all industry events, be it fashion weeks, or simply, social gatherings. “A good look never means good luck. There is a lot of hard work needed. That’s why, when we did the first Model Hunt show, I made sure to put the contestants through the toughest of challenges.”
According to Altaf, being ambitious is the key to success in any industry, modelling in particular. “You see, every profession is tough if you are aiming to achieve something big out of it,” she explains. “People think modelling is easy but models have to work on a lot of things: body, face, diet, learning to take directions, etc. Life is not just about luck.”
As an industry veteran, Altaf naturally has plenty of wisdom to impart to current models. “Nowadays, there seems to be a lack of training and discipline, as well as education, knowledge and general exposure,” she says. “In my time, there were so few of us that we got all the attention. Also, we were genuinely passionate and didn’t worry about money as much.”
She strongly believes that one shouldn’t go astray after opting for such an ambitious profession. “Also, you must be open to learning and have good networking skills. It’s important to meet people and be seen on TV and social media. There is always an easy and a difficult way to do something. You must pick the right one.”
Throwback Thursday is a weekly feature in which we document the lives and careers of Pakistan’s veteran models.
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