British fashion in Pakistan: When fashion meets culture

Published: March 12, 2012
FnkAsia showcased a vibrant collection at the opening night of British Council’s Reconstruction: Cultural Heritage and the Making of Contemporary Fashion. PHOTO: PGP

FnkAsia showcased a vibrant collection at the opening night of British Council’s Reconstruction: Cultural Heritage and the Making of Contemporary Fashion. PHOTO: PGP

FnkAsia showcased a vibrant collection at the opening night of British Council’s Reconstruction: Cultural Heritage and the Making of Contemporary Fashion. PHOTO: PGP FnkAsia showcased a vibrant collection at the opening night of British Council’s Reconstruction: Cultural Heritage and the Making of Contemporary Fashion. PHOTO: PGP

Reconstruction is as synonymous with fashion as smoke is with fire. Indeed, there can be no creation without an ingenious process of construction and reconstruction, of constant borrowing and building.

The most recent effort to create a cultural melange came from British Council, that has managed to bring British fashion to Pakistan with their project ‘Reconstruction: Cultural Heritage and the Making of Contemporary Fashion’. The project’s opening night was held at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) on March 10 and featured a cameo fashion show by FnkAsia, a retail brand that has spearheaded the inclusion of ethnic in fashion.

It’s so easy to discredit fashion as a highbrow element of our culture; one that we would like to believe exists at the fringes of society rather than existing as a force that can affect mainstream popular culture. But if the British Council’s efforts are to have any credence, one begins to truly appreciate the power of fashion not only as a medium of art, but also as a relevant, tangible and ostentatious expression of culture.

“There’s a lot of interest in what is happening here in Pakistan and several British journalists have visited the country specifically for the fashion weeks,” says Martin Fryer, the Director of Programmes at the British Council, whose larger interest in this project is to encourage young designers to draw on their own culture to create exciting fashion statements. “The aim of this exhibit is to specifically stimulate a discussion of culture in modern design,” he adds. Thus the choice of FnkAsia to represent Pakistan at the opening night with a flute player romancing the audience seemed like the perfect way to kick-start the exhibit that is due to run from March 11 to 16.

The fashion exhibit features some of British fashion’s most renowned and exciting names such as Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith amongst a coterie of designers who form the Diaspora in Britain such as the Cypriot-born Hussein Chalayan, the Sacandanavian Peter Jensen, the Greek Sophia Kokosalaki and Osman Yousefzada of Afghan roots. This travelling exhibition that began its journey from the UK and showcased in cities like Kazakistan, Bangladesh, now Pakistan en route to Russia, comes at a rather interesting time: a period of reconstruction of British society, where, in the aftermath of the London riots, the issues of identity and immigration have risen, contested and given new dynamics to contemporary art.

Director Fryer further explains this analysis, “Even though London is the quintessential British city, it is still a stimulating place to study design, art and fashion. The interaction of different designers coming from different cultures has resulted in a vibrant contemporary fashion scene in London.”

When asked why British Council chose fashion over ‘art’, Fryer states, “You see an influence and passion for art in all these works. Hussain Chalayan, for example, is a visual artist but he is still embracing fashion, which shows that more and more people are bridging the gap between fine art and design.”

One can see the depth in design philosophies through the designers’ mood boards, visual clips of their fashion show, along with their actual garments that are on display at the exhibition. The showpieces aim to create the ‘feel’ of their work and to show, how each of these individuals brings forth their past to ‘transform heritage into contemporary currency’.

In a nutshell, the exhibit is an excellent tool for young fashion students to understand the meaning of fusion and construction and how to fuse identity to construct a garment that is a social and artistic metaphor.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Mar 13, 2012 - 12:30AM

    They seem to be wearing Kohla Puri chappals the way I design them.


  • khalid shinwari
    Mar 13, 2012 - 2:20AM

    cm on ppl.from which angle these dress represents our culture…not even fusion…..clothes are supposed to cover our body not to xpose…else animals r always naked…….


  • shahbaz
    Mar 13, 2012 - 7:23AM

    Vewwy vewy bwittish indeed.


  • Waqas Rafiq
    Mar 13, 2012 - 9:57AM

    who said this is our CULTURE? we are just adopting western clothing, picking some element from our culture, and forgetting our own style, the way we actually used to be. I am really sorry for this. I think you need to revise our culture again!


  • jasmine
    Mar 13, 2012 - 12:12PM

    When people suddenly come out and talk about “our culture” and “western culture”, it amazes me how we define both. As far as the culture of this sub-continents land goes, it has been a mix of all sorts of “nakedness” and sickening practices.. so maybe that is not the culture we are talking about. If we talk about the culture of the conquerers of this land , that is again strangely filled with all sorts of deviations. So which culture are we talking about ?

    Maybe modesty is what people want to talk about, but then in our society prostitutes wear burqas too.
    My suggestion would be that maybe define what you mean by culture, modesty etc. meanwhile let the people practice/do whatever they wish to do.


  • Ali11
    Mar 13, 2012 - 5:45PM

    “when Fashion meets culture” or when Fashion becomes Fahashiyat/Nudity?


  • Ali11
    Mar 13, 2012 - 5:58PM

    Ppl are most welcome to practice inside whatever they want. But when they do it in public by promoting vulgarity/nudity/immodesty then there is a problem. If some prostitutes in Pakistan are misusing burqa it doesn’t mean ppl should defame it and don’t use it.

    Its like are Muslims and they drink and do everything doesn’t mean we all should do it and not criticize them.

    Freedom does not mean to go out and do whatever one wants but do everything which is not affecting the society in a negative manner. Our society was modest. Thanks to Indian media and our own inferiority complex we have made it immodest.

    Once a person loose his/her shame then there is no coming back as now he/she does everything wrong and doesn’t even realize if anything is wrong in committing it.

    For e.g. if First time I had to bribe police I did had that element of guilt/shame. Now I do it every time I don’t even anything wrong. Its now part of the culture.

    The same way we have lost good morals and now cannot even differentiate between right or wrong or in Islamic terms Haram or Halal.Recommend

  • BC Buster
    Mar 14, 2012 - 4:06PM

    What a pathetic waste of UK Taxpayers money. This event has no benefit to the UK taxpayer it is just an excuse for British Council staff to have a night out. And The gullible Pakistani media fall for the Council’s hype. Paul Smith etc are multi millionaires and do not need UK tax payers subsidies.

    Note: The British Council’s Regional Director for Pakistan doesn’t live in The Region because he doesn’t like it.


  • Apr 3, 2012 - 1:03PM

    Hi do you know from where i can get the news about latest fashion in pakistan?


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