Is Pakistan fashion industry really empowering women?

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.

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7 Comments

  1. RK says

    good job by the author

  2. zahra says

    Thank you RK

  3. Zahayda says

    So the way to empowerment of a woman is through Fashion and fashion shows? Hm mm just in the same way man has always been empowered because he initially participated in fashion shows.It is illogical for one instance to think that women empowerment can be bought through fashion and fashion shows.The west have ridiculed women getting them to wear skimpy clothes all in the name of woman power and yet men run this industry , men do not have to wear such dressing and yet they still rule the world.Whatever this article is about it is an illusion.Women have rights given by Islam regardless they follow fashion or not we need to follow this.

    1. Insaan says

      you are one the few sensible people i have seen on the internet 🙂
      These so called educated (jahil in reality) people think that women who wear skirts or revealing clothes are somehow superior to women who wear burqah or traditional dress.

      Our media is naive or plain stupid if i may say, they only show 10-15% of Pakistan which is inspired by Bollywood movies or the west. They never show the REAL Pakistan, all these celebrities from the showbiz DO NOT represent the common people of Pakistan. These people get paid to reveal their body even though most of them don’t want to. Tv shows, especially Morning Shows are so vulgar that a person can’t even enjoy tv with their family. I personally feel really bad for these girls from the showbiz sometimes, they are portrayed as objects. Our media is all about money, they don’t care about culture or religion, leave that alone they don’t even care about their own mothers and daughters watching tv at home.

      Last point i want to add is that, is the showbiz only profession left for women to “empower” themselves? what about other working women in different fields and professions? are they not “empowered? like lady teachers, lady doctors, businesswomen etc…and many more.

      I pray that our media changes its mindset and starts educating our society in a better way rather than showing how to treat women as objects or how to talk vulgar on live tv.

  4. Zahra says

    Thank you all for your feedback. Your views mean a lot to us. However, this article was not a verdict neither meant to comment on what kind of clothes should fashion shows promote and in what way. Fashion Industry is a growing way to enable female entrepreneurs whether they are top level designers or women working from homes to be able to grow as independent human beings. Feel free to share your opinions (in rational and logical way).

  5. Talha Rizvi says

    Assalamu Alaikum, I totally agree with both Zahayda and Insaan, our media and especially the fashion industry has become total superficial, they have lost all their identity of a true Pakistan, it’s heritage, culture & tradition, what women empowerment are you talking about? you have given just one industry reference and as per your praising, what picture have you displayed, there is nothing that shows Pakistan tradition, ethnicity, except so called boldness, vulgarity, obscenity, where are we as a nation heading to? no educational programs, no quiz programs, no awareness programs, nothing that shows the development of a nation as a whole, all we have is total Indian influence, Vulgarity, nudity, dirty talks, dirty jokes, bad English and bad Urdu, common sense which is freely available is the hardest thing to find here and then we have journalist like you who are hard on promoting the negative aspect, you may find my statement either logical or illogical but again its my opinion… kindly promote and encourage our true tradition and values as Pakistan.

  6. online fashion says

    Very nice work done by the author really appreciating Thanks!

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