RECAP: It is December 2006 in Karachi. It is the Lux Carnivalle de Couture, an annual fundraiser event for the Teacher’s Resource Centre.
One local designer Rizwan Beyg is party to the event and two Indian designers are also there. Enters Tarun Tahiliani, an Indian designer, with local models adorning his outfits and then a Bollywood star in their midst appears, Shilpa Shetty as the showstopper, sums up the collection and one can’t help notice that the crowd goes mad cheering the Bollywood diva. At this very same event Bollywood actress Urmila Matondkar, a vision in a white dress with glittery embellishments, closed the segment for Indian designer Manish Malhotra.
Likewise celebs from the Pakistani entertainment industry have also had their fair share of experiencing the runway. Shaan modelled for Umar Sayeed at the TRC Carnival de Couture earlier in 2010. At the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week in November 2010, designer Sahar Atif’s label Saai showcased the pop duo Strings who sang live on the ramp!
The 2010 PFDC Fashion Week also witnessed Lollywood actress Sana displaying Shaiyanne Malik’s outfit. Hajra Hayat’s collection at the same event featured Lollywood actor Moammar Rana and his wife. On the second day of the event Resham walked on stage dressed in a pink sequinned outfit for Lajwanti’s finale piece. Reema decked up in a bridal outfit, dazzled the runway for the HSY collection. At the Dubai Fashion Week last year, Ali Zafar walked the ramp for HSY and received much applause. Since fashion weeks have become a regular fixture, several Lollywood stars have taken to the ramp.
When the Bridal Couture Week 2011 took place this year in April, the third day’s event introduced Deepak Perwani’s chic bridal collection and the first face which came forth was, none other than, renowned fashion photographer Tapu Javeri .The showstopper for Perwani’s segment was none other than the Pakistani starlet Mona Lisa, who’s recently appeared in Bollywood and gained wide recognition.
When celebrities walk down the ramp, how does a local, grossly underpaid model feel?
Talking to The Express Tribune Frieha Altaf, former model and now CEO of Catwalk Productions (an event management company) says: “I would imagine that the next goal for each model would be to become a star and a showstopper”. She further added that: “Nothing sells more brands than a Bollywood star. Even multinationals in Pakistan are using Bollywood stars to sell their brands, for instance: Katrina Kaif for Lux and Veet!”
What is a designer’s focus when they bring forth a first face or a showstopper in the form of a celebrity? Is it for creating hype about the label or to gain fame? Altaf adds: “The designer looks for his or her muse, the inspiration, the perfect fit. That is the criteria and also affects the marketability of the product.”
Zhalay Sarhadi, now an actor but previously a model says: “I took it as a job, but I feel when celebrities walk down the ramp, I never used to get intimidated by them, I am in no competition with them. I used to model to satisfy my creative talent.” Why do designers take to celebrities for a first face or a show stopper? Sarhadi says: “[It’s a] theatrical gesture as that personality will grab all the attention. The chief ambition of the designer is to promote, his or her product, for that, celebs are just a means to an end!”
On similar lines, Rubya Chaudhry, another model says: “It’s always delightful. It’s very sweet and nice [to share the ramp with the celebs].” For she believes, “There is no such insecurity, until and unless you have something personal against the celebrity.” Chaudhry feels secure in her skin.
But Syed Rizwanullah, the fashion designer who often models for other designers, has a different version of the story to share: “Modelling is not an easy job. The models don’t take it very well. You must remember there are two types of people: those who know how to walk the ramp and those who don’t know how to, but walk the ramp anyway!”
He says: “People believe in star power, it adds that extra buzz to the illusionary world of fashion that we all live in.” Moreover Rizwanullah says: “Look, I am a designer but I often walk the ramp for the other designers, I do it with such respect that the rest of the models love me for it.” More so, “When celebrities participate it is all about them, when it should mostly be about the designer. Here in Pakistan, the models are not treated with respect, people treat them like cheap labour, when they should be treated like a flower.” Rizwanullah believes: “The ramp is a different world, it might not ask for beautiful faces but it does ask for confidence.”
The final word comes from Frieha Altaf. When asked which celebrity has the star power to be a show stopper and the next big thing for fashion shows here in Pakistan, she replies without hesitation: “Shahid Afridi, for sure.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2011.
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