Forget celebs on the catwalk; Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) may just manage to shake things up tonight by having Mukhtaran Mai walk its runway.
Fashion week first-timer Rozina Munib has chosen to have the gang rape survivor and women’s rights spokesperson featured in her show, on a suggestion pitched to her by her PR strategist Frieha Altaf.
“I told Rozina that the idea could backfire; that people may accuse her of using Mukhtaran as a publicity gimmick,” says Frieha. “But Rozina said that she believed in the cause that she was highlighting and didn’t care what people thought. As a first-timer, I think it was incredibly brave of her.”
"The purpose behind bringing Mukhtaran Mai to Karachi and making her a part of my show is to tell her story so that it gives courage to other women. I could have easily gone down the typical route of paying a celebrity to be part of my show. I just felt that it would be so much better to spend the same money on a cause that was close to my heart," says Rozina Munib
Mukhataran will be wearing traditional wedding wear designed by Rozina, her head remaining covered the way it does in real life.
“I have no intention of glamourising her into a model for the show,” explains the designer. “She will be wearing the kind of clothes that she would normally wear to a wedding. The purpose behind bringing her to Karachi and making her a part of my show is to tell her story so that it gives courage to other women.
"Mukhtaran suffered terribly but instead of committing suicide or succumbing to depression she stood up for her rights. She won against all odds and moved on with her life. She has remarried now and runs a sanctuary where she provides shelter to women and helps them in becoming self-sufficient.”
“It is Mukhtaran’s story that inspired me to call my collection ‘Zindagi ke Rang’. Life brings its share of pain but one has to be strong enough to rise above it. I could have easily gone down the typical route of paying a celebrity to be part of my show. I just felt that it would be so much better to spend the same money on a cause that was close to my heart.”
It’s a refreshing change from the usual slew of stars and starlets that take to the catwalk and it makes sense – fashion has now evolved to the point that it needs to move beyond merely pandering to the lives of the rich and the beautiful.
“I think fashion needs to care,” observes Frieha. “It’s become a booming industry and thereby, has an ethical responsibility to place focus on significant causes. I was very impressed by Ali Xeeshan’s show at the PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week this year. Ali’s always loved a good tamasha but he worked the same showmanship into dedicating a collection that spoke against child marriages. More brands need to do the same."
“I think fashion needs to care,” observes Frieha. “It’s become a booming industry and thereby, has an ethical responsibility to place focus on significant causes. It shouldn’t be demeaned to become a platform for showing teasers to dramas; it should have important things to say that are relevant to society," says Frieha Altaf
"A fashion week shouldn’t be demeaned to become a platform for showing teasers to dramas; it should have important things to say that are relevant to society,” she explains, making a pointed jibe at the recent Kosem Sultan costumery that was shown on the first day of FPW.
Showcased along with Rozina’s collection will be a video centered around Mukhtaran Mai, shot by filmmaker Asad-ul-Haq.
“I requested Asad and his crew to visit Mukhtaran’s village, which is a few hours away from Multan,” says Frieha. “This is just something I want to do from now on. My organisation even has an entity within it called Catwalk Cares where we work purely on CSR projects.”
While Frieha and Rozina may have their hearts in the right places, there’s no denying that Mukhtaran’s presence will have the show noticed. On its own, the debut – unless spectacular – would have simply blended inconspicuously into the FPW line-up. It’s a win-win situation and one doesn’t see any harm in it, as long as it’s for a good cause.
Will the fashion be good in Rozina’s showcase? We don’t know – but we’ll still be cheering.