Pakistan takes to the fashion runways

KARACHI Thu Nov 5, 2009 9:15am EST

1 of 5. Fashion model Iraj, wearing a creation by Pakistani designer Sonya Battla, is photographed backstage before taking the catwalk during Fashion Pakistan Week in Karachi November 4, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Adrees Latif

KARACHI (Reuters Life!) - Pakistan took fashion to the runways this week hoping to promote a more glamorous side of a nation better-known worldwide for violence and militant extremism.

Twice delayed over security concerns, the four-day Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) opened on Wednesday to show off the wares of 30 of the country's top designers along with 30 of its top models.

The dash of Milan in the conservative Muslim nation's financial capital comes against the backdrop of rising attacks by Taliban militants in retaliation to an army offensive against its stronghold in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

"We are being proactive rather than reactive and so the show must go on," said Rizwan Beyg, a member of Fashion Pakistan and one of the country's leading designers. "Pakistan is much more than Kalashinkovs and bombs."

Models strutted in short or backless dresses or showed bare midriffs, as they displayed the brightly colored designs, which qualified as racy by Pakistani standards.

"Life goes on and we have to live," said Ayesha Tammy Haq, chief executive of FPW. "We need jobs to continue, we need the job market to grow ... fashion is a big thing. Let's make it bigger."

Although there is a war going on in Pakistan and FPW could be a target, most of those present seemed relaxed, even if there was some concern before the show began.

"I am definitely scared," said Nadia Hussain, one Pakistan's top female models, as she got ready to take to the runway.

One victim of the security concerns was the presence of journalists from fashion magazines like Vogue, who had been scheduled to cover the show but canceled.

FPW also aims to create a trade facility for the local industry by providing international buyers links to see what Pakistan is offering, Beyg said.

Miami International Fashion week and Creations Fashion Week Dubai will also choose one designer each to attend their shows, giving Pakistan's fashion industry more global exposure.

"We want to show that there is positivity in Pakistan, that there is hope for people to continue living at least a certain kind of life even in the face of terror," said Sanam Agha, a young and upcoming designer.

(Editing by Bryson Hull)

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