• Shafaq Shah
  • Publish Date: Oct 10 2017 9:19PM
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  • Updated Date: Oct 10 2017 9:19PM


Pakistani designer wear is becoming quite popular with Kashmiri women

Guess what is all the rage in women’s apparel in Kashmir? Designs by Pakistani fashionistas such as Sana Safina, Junaid Jamsheed and Umar Syed.

In Srinagar particularly, women seemingly cannot have enough of empire silhouettes, embellished shirts, Chinese collars, kaftans and palazzo pants crafted by the masters across the border. Being seen in Pakistani creations at weddings, social functions, or even work is no less than a fashion statement.

“You wear what’s in vogue,” a group of women doctors at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in the city explain the trend. “Since Pakistani dresses are in demand now, we are lining up to buy them.”

Pakistani designer wear is characterised by heavy hand embroidery and use of pure cotton. It was popularised in Kashmir through social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram, says Insha Chatt, who runs a boutique in Karan Nagar called Glorea.

Insha should know. She started out in the business selling Pakistani apparel online, and success there encouraged her to open the boutique. “There are many pages promoting and selling Pakistani dresses. Today, you would rarely find women in Srinagar wearing Indian dresses. Pakistani dresses dominate the market,” she says. “People running these online pages are making a lot of money because their prices are fixed and they don’t have to invest in shops and such.”

Nausheen Rangrez, though, wasn’t introduced to Pakistani designer wear through social media. The undergraduate student developed her liking watching elegantly dressed Pakistani woman on talk shows.

“Pakistani dresses have been in vogue for some time now but it was after watching those anchors that I understood the designs and patterns of their dresses,” Nausheen says. “And I would copy them.” Now she also scans social media to “be aware of the trending brands”.

Such interest in Pakistani apparel is good news for Uzma Khan, who runs a boutique, Shams, in Hazratbal. She feels that Indian women’s fashion is losing the market in Kashmir to Pakistani designs. “They are trendy yet comfortable and that is why people are buying them,” she says. “A couple of months ago long shirts were in demand but now that girls in Pakistan have started wearing short shirts again, women in Kashmir are following the trend.”

Uzma, who has been in the business for many years now, scoffs at the suggestion that Kashmiri women’s liking for Pakistani dresses may have something to do with religion. “That’s not the reason at all as far as I know,” she says. “It is all about what is in vogue. Pakistani designers are ruling the market because they offer quality and there is a lot of variety in their designs. Tomorrow the trend may change and people may start wearing something else.”

But while the trend is hot, everyone is trying to cash in. From the pricey Lal Chowk to the congested lanes of downtown Srinagar, garment shops are prominently displaying designs from the neighbouring country. Online stores too are doing brisk business. “There are a lot of girls who have opened stores selling Pakistani dresses,” says a teacher at Government Women’s College, Srinagar. “For customers, it becomes easy to check dresses online, make the choice and buy. In an hour, you can sift through five-six stores, which is very convenient for working women like me.”

Lurking behind the pretty designs and the glamour, however, is an ugly reality: fake designs.

Insha claims unscrupulous boutiques “exploit the ignorance of people who can’t tell fake from original brands and sell stuff made in India.”

By the day, though, “thanks to the online pages promoting Pakistani designers people have become aware enough to figure out whether it a dress is an actual Junaid Jamsheed or a Sana Safina.”

One other way to tell a fake, says another boutique owner who asked not to be named, is to check for the spelling of the brand name. “They will add or change a letter in the name. Say, if the brand is Rangruz, the fake will spell Rangrez.”