New Emissary

I am not a Terrorist

Fashion concepts, not bombs, erupt on Pakistan’s runways.

‘Education not bombs’ and ‘Stay alive 2010’ were a couple slogans making bold statements on t-shirts worn by models at last week’s second-ever Pakistan fashion week.

And it seems that despite the ever-present threat of a terrorist attack throughout the four-day event, it’s now being summed up by sources (with sighs of relief?) as a measurable success.

The still-fresh Sunsilk Fashion Week celebrated the work of 32 national designers at an upscale country club in Lahore. Christian Science Monitor summed up the featured fashion nicely, noting it consisted of, ‘exotic blends of Western, Pakistani and Middle Eastern dress,’ while also making special mention of the appearance of ‘creative oversized interpretations of the traditional Islamic “hijab.”’ This, to me, is something conceptually fascinating–a clear attempt at subverting one of the iconic fixtures of everyday Muslim tradition. At the same time, in contrast, one of the main focuses of the event was also the preservation of traditions from some of the hardest-hit areas of the country by promoting their ‘indigenous designs,’ such as ‘Swat valley embroidery.’

Times Online reports that this is a big step forward for the Pakistani fashion industry, for this is, after all, a country where a decade ago the word ‘fashion,’ was allegedly prohibited and had to be covered up with monikers such as ‘cultural event with clothes.’ Moreover, 2010’s fashion week could have simply been destined for success, considering that it was for the first time supported by the government (Ministry of Commerce) and put on by the government-recognized Pakistan Fashion Design Council.

Personally, I was uplifted to know that fashion, the arts and freedom of expression could be enjoyed by some in the tumultuous region (though keeping in mind attendees consisted of an elite and privileged few with a bomb squad standing by to keep out ‘uninvited guests.’) And according to Salman Masood for The New York Times, the scene was: ‘eight shows every day … mad screams, applause, boisterous cheering and blaring music…. There was enough of a display of cleavage, navel and skin to infuriate the country’s conservative mullahs.’

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My favourite moment? A male model who strutted down the runway wearing a stark white t-shirt adorned with the French words: ‘Je ne suis pas terroriste.’ Translation: ‘I am not a terrorist.’