AAMER WAQAS CHAUDHARY says the stage was set for a big change in the fashion arena when Gen Musharraf took over
No doubt President Musharraf’s October 12th take-over five years ago was a welcome change due to numerous reasons, both social and political. Nevertheless, quasi-democratic moves were materialised, but our society was all the time at the receiving end. Obviously, during one-man’s rule, it is only the ‘man’ who is all important. The same happened to the society too where ‘men in uniform’ and ‘men with designs’ held their sway. The society remained more or less directionless and stooped into deeper confusion. It is evident in fashion, architecture, sports and arts as well.
After Gen. Zia’s 11 years rule and 'democratic' shuffles of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif under the constant vigilance and with the support of the clergy, a change in arts, fashion and culture was desperately needed. This started off with the opening of a large number of ‘branded’ boutiques and shoe outlets in all metropolises. A stage came when one could see designers and stylists crawling out from under every stone. They got a response from the otherwise unrecognised-though-moneyed lot, which has culminated into a æDesigner ManiaÆ of today. Now every person even with the minimum fashion sense is trying to make a statement. A lot of æfashion gurusÆ are earning huge sums of money with stupendous spendings by the fashion crazy people, who want to be recognised as the æinÆ people. Chains and outlets of young designersûwith least understanding of their ambience and indigenous requirementsûare here to stay. No one can object to their demand till they are tested by time.
Pervez Musharraf went for the Agra Summit and brought to light Amir Adnan, who designed his sherwani for the first ‘show’ in India–now an established name in today’s fashion industry. Liked by a few and deemed as ‘absurd’ by the rest, his sherwani made an interesting statement. Later, former PM Vajpayee visited Pakistan and the same designer was asked to design sherwanis for him as well. So the fad of ‘hiring’ designers for heads of state came up.
Recently, parties of all hues-from three Ds to birthdays (even birthday ‘boys’ can be in their 60s)-are in vogue. The attendees can be seen in casuals-sometimes nothing formal, jeans and T-shirts with interesting phrases like ‘I am stupid so what’ ‘Wanna go mad with ME…’ ‘Sick chick’ etc. A few are also ‘carrying brands’ with a marked pronouncement.
Presently, brides prefer to choose designers' dresses at exorbitant prices. A designer's name is more important than anything else as it becomes known in the immediate family and if luckier, ‘talk of the town’. Many a time, brides are least bothered about the price and ‘exposure’. ‘It’ll suit you’ is the primary concern. Stuff that the designers promote and the elite in particular and the masses in general follow, does not have an air of simplicity about it. It has to be fairly expensive even if it is a casual dress. Gone are the days when men liked to wear cotton or Lattha Kurta Shalwar. Now, men love to wear suits even in June. Now you wonÆt be able to find any woman, even a housewife, wearing any cheap stuff. Designer lawns, silks and chaiffons have become an essential part of womenÆs wardrobes. Simplicity-that was there in the massesÆ lives-does not exist anymore. Now there is a rat race to strive for the best designer wear for special occasions. Gone are the days when women were too pre-occupied with their domestic chores and had no time for themselves. Bitter fact regarding peopleÆs changing attitudes is that they are getting spend thrift in their dressing attitude. It has to be nothing less than a designer lawn or at least a silk or georgette outfit, with expensive laces and artificial pearls further enhancing the look of the dressûto show off if someone visits you or if you are out to visit someone. As people have moved away from the burger mania to æSpanish and Italian CuisineÆ, the same is true for dresses too. Less of American and more of European seem to be the rule!
Formal meetings and ceremonies have a dress code-suits for men and designer shalwaar kameez for women. It wasn’t as much in vogue during the last decade of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif rule because they were carrying a hangover of Zia’s era.
A large number of professional women-a visible rise since October 12, 1999-have shown a drastic change in their dressing too, which is more or less inspired by the west, but it marks a conservative look. It imparts an impression of a vigilant and professional executive, which was otherwise uncommon earlier.
Fashion on the ramps and the street is closing the gap between the wearability and non-wearability, which were otherwise objectionable to the society at large. Girls wearing jeans is normal now. Liberalisation of the previous insinuating attitudes is a thumb rule to be modern. People have always made efforts to do away with these earlier, but now this has happened with a big bang.
Media, both print and electronic, has changed drastically. The cable TV has brought liberalism and openness to bedrooms of the viewers, who are facing a ceaseless and one-way bombardment of international channels and ads. It has become impossible for them to resist, who don’t have an alternative except to follow them.
Social acceptability is there as against yesteryears' living when the society used to make its own impression. Now the society is on the receiving end, and individuals are making larger-than-society impressions. Probably, it is a reaction to a dictator’s eleven years of illegal rule and extremism, which was condemned internationally, and Pakistan did not have any choice except disowning them and joining the coterie of the west. Our fashion has a lot to do with this.