Lahore Fashion Week Takes on Talibanization in Pakistan

By Ahmed, Issam | The Christian Science Monitor, February 19, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Lahore Fashion Week Takes on Talibanization in Pakistan

Ahmed, Issam, The Christian Science Monitor

Lahore, Pakistan's cultural capital, may have its share of militants. But Lahore fashion week defied rumors of Talibanization in the country's cultural capital.

Pakistan's traditional cultural capital of Lahore received a much- needed dose of glamour this week as it played host to the country's second-ever fashion week.Amid a backdrop of tight security including armed guards, police and airport-style scanning, dozens of models took to the catwalk to showcase the works of Pakistan's top 32 designers at the city's Royal Palm Golf and Country Club.

Over the past year or so, several cultural events, including the annual World Performing Arts festival, have been canceled after receiving bomb threats from vigilante groups sympathetic to the Taliban. Last April, the Sri Lankan cricket team fled the country after coming under machine-gun and bazooka fire from terrorists in an attack that left eight dead.

"We're here to make sure the mullahs don't make plans to attack you," a policeman told the Monitor wryly.

Models sashayed down the aisle with bare arms and, in some cases, legs (at least to mid-thigh level), in stark contrast to the modest Islamic dress worn by most women in the country. As they posed for the cameras and completed their pirouettes, the enthusiastic and fashion-starved audiences responded with roars of approval.

The haute couture on display featured exotic blends of Western, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern dress, including creative oversized interpretations of the traditional Islamic "hijab" worn with revealing sleeveless tunics and thigh-high boots.

A male model wearing a simple white t-shirt emblazoned with "Je ne suis pas terroriste" [I am not a terrorist] brought into focus the show's political themes, or at least the self-awareness exhibited by some designers.

One of the main focuses of the show is promoting "indigenous design" to preserve the heritage of some of Pakistan's poor and conflict-hit areas such as Swat, a former tourist idyll that was the scene of an Army operation last year, and the crafts of southern Punjab, said designer and organizer Hassan Shehryar Yasin.

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