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Instep, May 10, 2010

Nightmares that haunt me these days are of me, rejecting a potential daughter in law, on the basis of the style she carries. Or fails to carry.

Style. It isn’t the kind of thing that makes or breaks marriages but style and the way you wear your clothes does say a lot about the kind of person you are. And as a potential mother in law, I don’t see how I’m going to breath if my boys bring home brides in atrocious joras, nine inch finger nails painted in French manicures (which I associate with gold diggers and blond porn stars) and God forbid, platform shoes. My only consolation is that the boys are young and there is enough time to brainwash them to think like me. There is hope. But it’ll be a cold day in hell before I pass on my fashion heirlooms – the antique gold, python skin Alexander McQueen knuckle duster I’m after, for example – so easily. No way. They’ll have to make do with the family heirlooms. Kyunke saas bhi kabhi bahu thee (hear evil laughter in the background)!

Style. As a fashion journalist I am not about to judge people on the basis of having good style or bad style. If my neighbour wants to wear horizontal black and yellow stripes despite being a 100 pounds in excess baggage, then that is her look to keep. Even if it makes her look like a bumble bee. Her style will undoubtedly reflect her loud, no ‘buzzing’ personality…pun intended! If my fashionable friend insists on gelling his hair up straight to look like a Mohawk, even when he’s heading to the mosque for Friday prayers (perching his white cap on top like the snow on Mount Fuji) then that’s his choice to make. Who am I to stop him? There are crimes of fashion, which the tabloids will pick up, but in my eyes the only crime of fashion is having no style and not caring about what you wear.

Style. This brings the debate to the love triangle between Karachi, Lahore and fashion. We all attended fashion weeks in Karachi, then in Lahore. We saw the TRC Carnival de Couture unravel in Karachi and then take its glamorous red carpet to Bedian Road in Lahore. Though I didn’t go to Lahore for the show last week, a lot of reports on Lahore’s “loud” red carpet showdown came back. It was “tacky,” many Karachiites reported, “unglamorous and you saw women wearing three piece silk joras (with half sleeve shirts) to the show and who on earth dresses like that to a fashion show?” they gasped in shock! It was style snobbery at its very best.

The same thing happened at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week, where the red carpet – already hijacked by electronic appliances generously lent by a sponsor – was further adulterated by herds of women who looked the same…as if they were walking into a valima reception. Now that, I would refer to, as their style statement. The quintessential Lahori style statement is loud, blingy and OTT. And what’s wrong with that? We do acknowledge Anna Piaggi for who she is, right?

The general consensus, by all and sundry, is and has always been that style and fashion has always been more exciting in Karachi. But I beg to differ. The styles are just different. While some of us may agree with the sand washed beige and white Karachi palette – we observe that women here love dressing in either white, beige or black to most public events – we must also learn to appreciate Lahore’s love for colour. The only shade of beige Lahore loves is blond, that too in the hair! But generally, Lahori style indicates a more passionate love for life. It reveals a love for dressing up. And I may not want to be caught dead wearing all seven colours of the rainbow but that said, I would be bored beyond life if I saw a cookie cutter trail of women wearing ecru in Lahore too. It would be so monotonous and dull. It would be such a buzz kill.

Women in Karachi are mostly (and I talk of the tiny upper middle class percentage that represent the fashionable) nonchalant about what they wear; at least that is the image they like to let out. Lahore, on the other hand, loves its clothes and anyone will bear witness to the fact that clothes and diamonds are the two most frequently discussed topics at kitty parties and coffee mornings. So there’s the loud and there’s the sublime and then there are fashion characters (most of them directly associated with the industry) that conform to neither and usually dress to shock. These are just different spectrums of style and to any fashion journalist, variety is the spice of life. Let there be life on the red carpet, I say, let it shuffle between the good, the bad and the weird.

My home, now, is another story altogether. Do I want a tutti-fruiti as a daughter in law or someone who conforms to the Rizwan ‘Beige’ Beyg philosophy of style? I’d go with the latter and surely not with a girl who doesn’t want to conform. Not for my boys at least. I’m sure my mother in law has had a nightmare or two.

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