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How many fashion models are catwalking into television, consequently stripping fashion of its glamorous mystique!

When I sit at a fashion show I do not see ‘models strutting their stuff down the ramp’ as so many people like to call it. I see rows of disgruntled daughters-in-law, rebellious siblings, abused wives, estranged lovers and in some unfortunate instances even housemaids, helpers and domestic staff. Such is the line up of Pakistani fashion models. Most of them are all these characters because thanks to their greater involvement in television serials, they are acknowledged by their acting profile rather than their modeling. Almost every fashion model, with the exception of a handful, has stuck her finger in too many pies. The result is the proverbial thaali ka baingan…not flattering? Exactly!

Amna Ilyas is a promising new model, defined by her presence on the catwalk

The fashion model is no longer a fashion model. Women like Aliya Zaidi, Attiya Khan and Bibi are still more enigmatic than the girls who have inherited the legacy from them. Pakistan’s golden girls can return to the catwalks any day and strike a pose that’ll be worth a million shots more than what we have to endure. So what exactly is wrong with today’s fashion models, you might ask?

A whole lot.

With the exception of Iraj – the last supermodel standing, someone who has stayed away from television and thus kept her mystique alive – fashion models have become a strange hybrid of multi tasking women. Most of them appear on TV shows, cookery shows, they are married and/or have children. All this put together deprives them of the oomph that is imperative to becoming a style icon. Compare their CVs to any successful models’ in the world and you’ll understand why Pakistani catwalks are being stripped of any chutzpah they might have had. Can you imagine Gisele Bundchen (who, according to Forbes is the highest paid model in the world today) acting in a saas bahu saga? The two movie roles she did accept were that of a sexy bank robber (in Taxi, which she later regretted) and then a cameo in The Devil Wears Prada (fashion-centric, it made sense).

So what kind of TV/film assignments would be acceptable for fashion models? Well, glamorous cameos that might help enhance their fashion identity, appearances in music videos (remember the line up of supers in George Michael’s ‘Freedom’?) or if pushed to the edge then even talk shows (not the Maachis variety that indulges in domestic disputes though).

There was a time when the fashion industry’s economics were down, shows would not take place and work was scarce. At that time models had to moonlight as actresses to make ends meet and it was regrettably understandable. But the role reversal is an anomaly from hell. Now it appears that actresses moonlight as models and they are dragging sordid stories from drama serials onto the catwalks. This continues despite the fact that fashion is thriving with an unprecedented pulse these days. With several fashion weeks, sponsored shows and showings galore, fashion has never been this lucrative in Pakistan. And with your average fashion model earning around thirty to forty thousand rupees per show, there is no need to multi task for money anymore! There are fashion shoots, fashion shows, fashion weeks, editorial shoots, commercial advertisements and endorsements to benefit from.

We need people to envision models as women who get by in life simply by being alluring. They are women who never have a bad hair day, a pimple or never chip their manicures. They are picture perfect on the catwalk, the red carpet or on the arms of high profile, successful men. While some of the world’s best models are mere clothes hangers, the super models rise as the elite handful (whose names we actually know) that manage to carve their identity beyond the catwalk while retaining their oomph. Which brings us to the second issue. Are all of Pakistan’s fashion models glamorous enough? Unfortunately not.

For a second, dismiss the desperate need for models to be from educated backgrounds (so they can proceed to be brand ambassadors), forget the fact that they need to be young, tall and well toned. Just think of the girls the industry offers as the only ones who’ll step into the controversial, often salacious, realm of fashion. Even they can be polished and buffed to a vast improvement…

  1. Models need to get manicures and pedicures before fashion shows. It is not pleasant to see cracked heels at eye level. Elbow checks would be appreciated too.
  2. Models need to wear high heels (unless the show theme requires otherwise) and should not be seen in ugly, clunky footwear. If you can’t walk in high heels, you don’t deserve to be on the catwalk.
  3. Models with less than perfectly well toned midriffs should not be given revealing clothes to wear. And even when they are slim and well defined, stylists need to indulge liberally in body makeup to conceal imperfections.
  4. Noticed especially during the back to back fashion weeks: models need to start taking care of their legs if they are going to show them off. That, or start wearing panty hose because scruffy unbuffed legs (as seen on one girl in particular) can completely kill the outfit.
  5. Invest in quality undergarments. As pointed out in the current fashion week special of Xpoze magazine, plastic straps are not invisible. Fashion models must be well stocked with strapless, backless and specialized lingerie. Body tape is also recommended to hold up the often-precariously perched corsets (that I have witnessed fall down in more than one wardrobe malfunction) or strapless shirts.

Until Pakistani fashion cannot tune its fashion models to be sixteen year old, tall and youthfully perfect prototypes, it should at least fine-tune the stock it has. The responsibility falls on the shoulders of event managers and stylists since there are still not many modeling agencies in Pakistan. Until then, it’ll the thaali kay baingan on the catwalks. Watch this space next week for a round up of Pakistan’s best models!

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