September 25, 2012

Male models may appear to be the fashion industry’s unwanted stepsisters but there have been a handful who made a place for themselves at the top of the pecking order (see sidebar below). And if we’re looking for the Pakistani male supermodel, one person who certainly lives up to the moniker is Nomi Qamar.

Back in 1995, Qamar was discovered at a party by stylist Shahzad Hafiz. Prior to that, Qamar had no interest in modelling but that little nudge into the fashion industry was all he needed.

He soon went on to become one of Pakistan’s biggest male models and after appearing in everything from fashion shows to music videos, he decided in 2002 to try his hand at producing. He, along with his brother, helped launch the fashion channel Style Dunya, which later joined hands with HUM to become Style 360. Qamar still does modelling projects on occasion but after nearly 17 years of walking the ramps and posing for fashion spreads, he much prefers to be the one behind the camera. Qamar has seen it all and he’s certainly not afraid to tell us exactly what he thinks about the industry…

Nomi on Money in Male Modelling:

Fashion_strip09-126“When I started working it used to be a joke. They’d say ‘kaprey leh kar karlo’ (just take the clothes and do the work). My first shoot was with Ather-Shahzad for which I was paid only a thousand rupees. For my first ramp show, which in a strange reversal had HSY as the choreographer and Khawar Riaz as the designer, we rehearsed for a month and I was only paid Rs 1,500. This was the nineties though and the pay scale has since improved. However, male models still get paid considerably less than the female models. The only way out of it is to become a personality, a celebrity — if you can do that you can charge a lot more. Today I’m in a position to be selective about my projects and I charge more than a lot of the girls.

On Agents and Stylists:

“It’s getting really pathetic. There are no guidelines, no networks for male models and agents such as Khawar Riaz mint money off the skin of their models. He doesn’t even give 20% to the models. Instead of helping the models grow, the pioneers are actually exploiting them.”

On the Casting Couch:

“It happens all over the world and it happens here too. Our eyebrows only go up because we like to think that we’re Pakistani and Muslim and therefore above such practices. In fact, some of the stylist and photographers share the young male models as ‘gifts’ with each other. However, I will say that I know people who do great work and don’t do such things. Also, if two people are willing to go with the casting couch business then why is it such a big deal? Kisi aur ko kia masla hai? Why are we so scandalised, specially since it happens everywhere else too?”

Nomi on the Lux Style Awards:

“I think awards are great because in this country we don’t recognise talent, and most of the time we’re just watching all the terrible news on Khabarnama. But the Lux Style Awards are just Frieha (Altaf) and her friends. They’ll give the award to whoever they are on good terms with. I do think we should have award shows but the jury must be authentic and transparent.”

On Men’s Fashion and the Average Pakistani Man:

“Pakistani men, from the big cities to the smaller towns, are definitely interested in fashion. Now someone’s style might consist of wearing a taweez or having karhai (embroidery) on his clothes but at least men are starting to think about their looks. I think Men’s Fashion Week is also a great idea but a lot also depends on how it is executed.”

Zehra Nabi is a graduate student in The Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at Newsline and The Express Tribune.