Contrary to all the ardently propagated stereotypes, Pakistanis are not just people clad in burqahs, salwars slight above the ankles and caps. People of Pakistan are vigorously in love with colours and beauties of life and their various cultural attires reflect this attribute. Not only our traditional dresses and jewelleries are exquisite, Pakistan’s fashion industry has been showcasing its unique and elegant creations to the world from quite a long period of time now. Style and fashion are two words on the lips of every Pakistani today, no matter from what walk of life, social status, gender or age they belong to. Pakistan has faced dilemma regarding working women in the past, and many parts of our society still conserve that outlook. The acceptance of fashion designing as a career choice for women is growing speedily – we need to see in what ways this industry may or may not be helping empower women, and what areas are still problematic.
Not every walk of the Pakistani society readily accepts women being shown on the media as a fashion designer; so being a top level designer who can display her work at ramps and other such platforms might not be a simple dream to achieve for some. At various levels the fashion industry accommodates female workers, such as the ones that work for the designers in the production of dresses, motifs and embroideries etc. It is traditionally a norm for the women of rural areas to learn embroidery and dress making; crafts of such women are also used by fashion designers. What’s tragic is that though designers attract a huge amount of customers by showcasing such craft, the women who produce them receive little profit compared to what the designers earn.
The fashion industry has been under-rewarding many behind the materialization of much demanded designs. Still, a large number of artisans find the industry crucial to get better remuneration for their skills. The industry, however, needs to project its opportunities to the least rewarded workers in a way that their skills become a force to help them out of poverty and unemployment.
Apart from the mainstream fashion industry, a growing trend in Pakistani women is to develop their own small outfit business. As fashion is not something bound with the elite, the demand for affordable fashion is at its peak; this benefits such startups a large number of which are run by women. These entrepreneurs don’t need any specific training in the field of fashion designing – such startups are present at many levels; from small business dealt at home to boutiques and fashion houses. Though this trend has also elevated the production of replicas of popular designer works – I am not sure how the mainstream designers feel about it. Despite all the aspects, women of Pakistan are being drawn towards entrepreneurship by this trend, which might be the answer to many of their problems.
Despite the financial benefits (not overlooking the dilemma of low paid workers), the empowering role of the fashion industry needs some consideration. Pakistan is a multicultural region with diverse social and religious beliefs. Like other parts of the world, women face the impasse of being objectified due to the mindless promotion of beauty standards. Workplace harassment encountered by women is also something we can relate to the way the fashion industry is presented on the media. The media as well as the fashion industry of Pakistan need to evaluate their functions in a society like Pakistan, where women are courageously trying to fight stereotypes and gender roles. Fashion Industry of Pakistan should be flexible and broad in function so it can accommodate all categories of Pakistani culture and social classes. This can assert that the field of fashion is not about being traditional or edgy; it has place for the representatives of all kind of style. This should be the approach of media as well, so more women can be comfortable with coming to the front row and express their talents.