Fashion may have just found some new supporters in the scions of the Bhutto dynasty, Bilawal and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari. With the sartorial declaration, ‘Meri ajrak, mera style’, they launched into an exuberant Sindh fest over the past two weeks.
Amongst the kite-flying on the beach, donkey races, song and dance performances from interior Sindh — kudos, to the political heavyweights who endeavoured to prove themselves to be true sons of the soil, by clapping their way through such routines — the fête also featured the one peg that promises celebrities, glamour and red carpet glitz — fashion.
On the most fundamental level, there was ajrak everywhere: as the pattern of the ‘Superman’ Sindh logo, as a wrap for Bakhtawar and peeping coquettishly from the front pocket of Bilalwal’s sherwani. Shehryar Taseer, of the long-time PPP stalwart ‘Taseer family, who spearheaded the fest’s fashion events, commented: “Our ajrak is beautiful, and yet people around the world aren’t really aware of its roots belonging to interior Sindh. This is our way of promoting it.”
Even sans the ajrak, though, the young politicos cut a dapper set. Sure, fashion doesn’t necessarily have to go hand in hand with politics, but compared to their older, staid counterparts, this bunch is a refreshing sight. At the much-acclaimed Sindh Fashion Festival, held at the gorgeous Hindu Gymkhana, Bilawal sported a classic black sherwani by designer Amir Adnan, Bakhtawar opted for pretty pastel shades and Shehryar suited up just fine. Nothing over-the-top; it was just well-tailored, elegant designer-wear.
Designer Amir Adnan, whose fashion segment that evening was dedicated to role models, featured Shehryar walking the catwalk in a finely tailored black sherwani. He said: “These are young people who may lead the country in the future. When Bilawal and Shehryar asked me to design for them I knew that while they needed to look good, their clothes also needed to fit into the dignified mould that they have set for themselves.”
Other than the fashion show, the festivities included a fashion museum exhibit, also at the Hindu Gymkhana, and a massive Fashion for Conservation sale at the Mohatta Palace, which managed to raise two million rupees for the Sindhu Heritage Fund by selling discounted designer-wear. One saw smatterings of Sindhi influences here and there: the ajrak, moustaches and Sindh-fest logos by T-Shirt Swag at the Fashion for Conservation sale; the ingenious shirt by Sania Maskatiya at the fashion museum exhibit, digitally printed with images of Madam Noor Jehan, Nazia Hassan and Benazir Bhutto; FnkAsia’s showcase featuring indigenous Sindhi craftsmanship and, of course, Zaheer Abbas’ fabulous ‘Ajrakistan’ where the designer moulded the traditional fabric into some very untraditional, avant-garde apparel, earrings and top hats! As Bilawal pointed out at the Fashion Festival, “We’re promoting fashion because it is, obviously, a part of our culture in Sindh.”
And yet, there wasn’t really anything intrinsically Sindhi about the many other designer collections that were on display. One got the feeling that designers just rustled up what they could — from bridals to luxury-prêt, prêt and dated collections donated charitably to the sale. Shehryar Taseer conceded, “This time, we literally put together the Sindh Festival in 90 days. There wasn’t enough time for us to ask designers to create thematic collections for us. Next year, though, we’re going to plan beforehand and make sure that the fashion showcases truly emulate the Sindhi culture.”
Shehryar — aided by Ayesha Tammy Haq and Tehmina Khaled — made sure that the designers featured were entirely from Sindh. The designer line-up at the fashion show, in fact, boasted some of the most prolific names in the region, ensuring that standards were high. Unlike our plethora of fashion weeks and the Trade Development Authority Pakistan’s (TDAP’s) erstwhile aims for fashion, there were no tall claims to generate business for the industry. Where Rabia Javeri of the TDAP talked about itemizing products on display and building business from the grass-root level, all the Sindh Fest professed to do was celebrate fashion.
And celebrate it did; designers were not even required to pay participation fees. Although considering the mileage generated from the events in print and electronic media, the events could easily boil down to business for participating designers. Designer Nomi Ansari’s showcase was scheduled for the second day of the fashion festival; however, it was postponed due to an attack on police officers that very day. He said, “Excerpts from the Fashion Festival are going to be aired repeatedly on all major TV channels. That’s great publicity!”
This, then, is the win-win combination that fashion struck with the Sindh fest this year — media-mileage for the former and the glossy veneer of designer-wear for the latter. If the celebrations extend on to next year, perhaps the fashion factor will become more attuned to Sindh. Shehryar Taseer speaks of bringing local Sindhi artisans to the fore in the future. That’s a great plan — We’ll applaud it when we see it happen!
Maliha Rehman is a fashion and lifestyle journalist with an obsessive, compulsive need to write. Log on for more updates on Twitter @maliharehman
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2014.