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The Shiny Happy People that make Fashion “Oh So Fabulous”!

The most frequently asked question in my fifteen-year career as a fashion journalist has been, “why are all male fashion designers gay?” And I have patiently always given the same answer, broken down in two parts:

1)    It’s the same way all over the world because gay men usually have heightened (and better) aesthetics which makes them perfect for fashion, and

2)    It’s really none of your business unless you’re thinking of marrying one.

We as a nation absolutely love to dig into peoples’ personal lives, their sexualities especially and form an opinionated moral brigade to deal with our own insecurities or shortcomings. Why should anyone be bothered about anyone’s sexual preferences unless they are going out on a blind date with them? But it’ll usually be the podgy auntie with peroxide hair who’ll refer to her sexy young neighbour as ‘doa number’. It’s usually the balding young man with a premature paunch who’ll look at the hot dude who jogs past him every day as ‘hai hai so metrosexual, so gay na?’

The only thing that should concern people about fashion designers is the kind of clothes they are designing. And as far as I’ve experienced, it’s always the ones leaning a little left to the centre who have creative brilliance. That applies to men and women.

As for those on morally high horses, next time you want to judge please keep your eyes open when you’re driving down the road because 99.9 per cent of all boys will be walking hand in hand in the land of the pure. The wandering masseuses jiggling their little vials of oil, will be picked up by men. And most truck drivers will have young boys with them for company. It’s a disturbing thought when ‘relationships’ cross over to ‘exploitation’ but again, we as a nation have not educated ourselves enough to know the difference. All those worried about morality should perhaps be more concerned about the hundreds of children who get molested in religious institutions – which should be beacons of morality – in Pakistan. The fashion industry is not a beacon of morality and should not be held accountable for anything beyond design and work ethics.

Over to fashion and life on the lighter side, nothing disturbs me more than a straight designer. Not straight as in the opposite of gay but a designer who has absolutely no flair for fashion and no heightened aesthetic for creativity. Don’t you just hate it when you pay through your teeth for an outfit that is nothing better than a kameez with kaam on the neckline? That, a fashion designer does not make!

And what, you might ask, separates the ghorras from the gadhaas? Fashion designers are people who predict and dictate trends. They have distinct signatures, which stand out if you have the eye to spot them. One can easily spot a Chanel, a Versace, an Armani, a Sana Safinaz, a Body Focus or a Kamiar Rokni outfit. Designers educate people about their clothes through the collections they make and promote at fashion shows. Ideally at fashion weeks. Whenever you’ll see a distressed karandi outfit making a warrior statement, you’ll think Sonya Battla. When you see the sequined drop hemline or the handkerchief kimono tunic with criss-cross bands you’ll automatically think Maheen Karim and Sadaf Malaterre respectively. Colourful truck art will throw you back to Deepak Perwani and clothes decorated with henna stains will remind you of Rizwanullah’s fashion week collection. Good or bad, fashion in its true element will always have persona. And the better it is, the harder it’ll hit you with an impact.

That unfortunately cannot be said of the hundreds of women who step into fashion as a post-marital-boredom-induced-garage-business. It’s the ‘my kids grew up and I had nothing better to do’ syndrome that does no favours to fashion. I do not wish ill unto their businesses but they cannot be called designers until they have achieved exactly what a fashion designer needs to achieve.

As a post note, I hope that fashion weeks that are rolling into Pakistan will at least set the record straight. While it has taken every important fashion week in the world time to establish credibility, the foundation needs to be right for the building to rise right. Fashion week designers must work on developing coherent collections; those collections must eventually be seen selling at stores. Designers must work on production capacities and expansion. What’s the use of showing clothes that you cannot recreate for the market? And even if foreign buyers do not come and/or place orders for the next two years, it’s alright because it will take that much time to fine tune the show. It’ll be interesting to see how much of an improvement – if at all – Lahore’s fashion week will be on Karachi.

(This article was first published in March, 2010 in Instep. It has been slightly updated.)

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