LAHORE: Ailar Ershadi is far cry from the image that one holds of models, she is tall and stunning but her Iranian and Azerbaijan roots lend her a warm beauty and a humility that is rare in the fashion industry. Her agent from ‘Idol Looks’, Amar Faiz, a Norwegian of Pakistani descent was responsible for pushing her to work outside Europe and subsequently bringing her to Pakistan.
Is this your first time in Pakistan?
No, I had come in 2008 to work with Libas magazine and modelled with Iman Ahmed for a Sunday magazine cover shoot as well as for several designer campaigns such as Sana Safinaz and Saadia Mirza. This time I am modelling for Gul Ahmed and Asia Bride and working alongside Athar Shahzad.
You have had the opportunity to work with the very best in the industry globally. What compelled you to work in Pakistan?
I enjoy travelling and discovering new places and meeting new people. Even though Pakistan is not at the same level as say Europe is with its fashion and modelling industry, it is a different experience, one that I will grow and learn from.
Would you encourage other international models to come and work in Pakistan?
I would definitely encourage them but I don’t think they would fit the profile. I’m half Iranian so I manage to look Pakistani enough to pull off traditional clothing. Also given Pakistan’s general image, people are always shocked when they hear that I am coming here for modelling assignments. But it’s been a great experience every time. I tell people back home that Pakistanis are just like any other nation but given its Islamic orientation, people tend to get frightened. It’s not just Pakistan though, in spite of Turkey’s modern image, most people in Europe are also apprehensive of going to Istanbul to model.
What advice would you give to those working in the fashion industry here?
I wish people wouldn’t team up so much here. It’s too small an industry for people to create groups and indulge in so many personal attacks. They will all learn from each other if they stop making these cliques. They should also go to other countries and work under professionals abroad.
What do the fashion shoots here need to be at par with what is being done internationally?
Shoots done here are fundamentally different from shoots done in Europe because we don’t have so much traditional clothing. So the focus is totally different. But generally, there needs to be more movement. There are too many shoots done in studios whereas abroad, studio shoots are just for beauty or head shots. Fashion photographers need to do more location shoots for catalogues.
What have you learnt from working in Pakistan, personally and professionally?
Professionally there hasn’t been much growth except for that I learnt how to pose with heavily embellished clothes and personally, I have learnt to be more patient. Reality slaps me hard in the face when I come here and it makes me appreciate my life and work.
The poverty and society makes me realise how fortunate I am to be where I am and am able to do the work that I want to do. Pakistan also reminds me of Turkey; people are so good to each other.
Which Pakistani models do you think have the talent to go international?
To be an international model, one needs to have a more cosmopolitan face. Also given the stringent criteria of measurements and weight very few models qualify. However Faiza Ansari is really good; she’s a chameleon and can fit in any role. Raabia Butt is stunning, she got the cover of Elle in Norway and was going to be the face of Mac in the Middle East but her mother passed away so she declined the offers.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2010.