With a deeply conservative society, there isn’t much of a fashion scene in Pakistan. High fashion – if you can call it that – is affordable to a tiny fraction of the urban elite.

In terms of women’s fashion, there are only a handful of good original fashion designers. The rest just make do with cheap knock-offs of prevalent clothing designs. After all, there are only a few ways you can redesign Shalwar Kameez – a loose fitting shirt stretching to the knees paired with loose fitting pajamas that is much like a burqa only without the headdress. In terms of men’s wear, even elite shopping malls in affluent parts of the urban areas sell knock off of famous design ware from the West.

The nascent fashion industry comprises pseudo – fashion designers, who take their queue from international fashion magazines. Above forty-years-old effeminate men dressed in Abercrombie & Fitch outfits, pass themselves off as pioneers of the fashion industry – that has very little original stuff to offer.

Fashion shows in Pakistan, which supposedly are meant for designers to showcase their work to open it up for critique and display their prowess to potential clients, are held at inauguration ceremonies of restaurants, cafes and hookah bars.

A dearth of women willing to parade in restaurants to the cheers of gawking men, has in turn led to a dearth of good models. Majority of the models who appear on glossy fashion magazines have been around for decades – some of them in their late forties. Apparently, with a patriarchal society and subservient women, Pakistan is especially short of new faces.

Their job is, apparently, to appear every now and then in the society pages of weekly newspapers, dressed in casual western wear, for events that range from a premier of the pre-teen blockbuster, “twilight zone” to wedding parties – the only allowable forms of entertainment where the threat of fanatics raiding your party always looms large on the organizers.

The fashion industry – like the rest of the country – is beholden to a tiny elite who go out of their way to imitate western celebrities as they perceive them on cable channels – now widely available in Pakistan. There’s little reason to be enamored by a fashion industry when its linchpins idolize Paris Hilton and Britney Spears as fashion icons.

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