January issue 2010
Jackboots on the Ramp
‘Men in uniform’ created quite a stir in Jane Austen’s society novels. Just the news of army men approaching the fringes of their town would send many a young girl’s heart aflutter. And it wasn’t the nobility inherent in defending their country that set these men apart in the women’s eyes. The fascination was literally skin-deep. Guys in uniform had sex appeal.
Many women will still be partial to men in uniform. And a woman clad in uniform may well appeal to the saucier fantasies of men. Here in Pakistan though, when we think specifically of military uniforms, we hardly think clean-cut cadets anymore. The khaki uniform only serves to remind one of dictators who came in uninvited and unannounced and paraded their unbridled powers before us. ISPR-funded hit television plays like Sunehray Din and Alpha Bravo Charlie, based on army life, helped redeem the image of the stiff-necked soldier as a lovable character, but as the army’s intervention in politics grew, the armed forces ceased to be part of the pop culture. But the revival of fads is inevitable. The military mania may have just made a comeback — but on a surprising platform. This time it is not television or government-sponsored ads or songs about the jawans that are glorifying the forces — it is our thriving high fashion industry. This season male and female models marched out on the ramp of Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) in outfits inspired by the men in uniform. Three designers received standing ovations for their military-styled regalia.
Designer Ismail Farid, known for menswear that is a cut above the rest, designed a collection titled, ‘Salute the Army’ purely as a tribute to the Pakistan Army. “In these recent times of the war on terror and the army operations in Swat and Waziristan, it is the armed forces who are being targeted in Pakistan as a consequence. In my own way I wanted to pay tribute to the men who lose their lives in the bombings, while they defend our country,” says Farid. This idea of supporting the country and its troops goes deeper for this designer. He also expressed nostalgia for the times when the armed forces were celebrated in our country and the sentiment of nationalism was much stronger. “I reminisce about the March 23 parades when I was younger, and woke up to the 21-gun salute that day. I remember the stickers you would get of the Pakistan Army with lines like, ‘We are here to protect you.’ And there were songs like ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’ by Vital Signs and ‘Jazba Junoon’ by Junoon which carried the nation’s sentiments and infused a sense of pride in being Pakistani.” So, more than just glorifying the army, it seems like Ismail Farid, by showcasing this collection at FPW, wished to arouse patriotic feelings among Pakistanis to be strong in these difficult times. Farid put together classic styles to bring out a “timeless” wardrobe, with an excessive use of black and white colours and sharp defining cuts.
Feeha Noor Jamshed, like Farid, has created a concept collection to highlight the service the army renders to the country. Speaking to her, it is evident that this young designer is passionate not just about clothes but her country as well.
When asked why she thought of an army-inspired collection, she said that the Mumbai attacks last year, and their aftermath, undermined the integrity of Pakistan. She wanted to show her support to the army by designing the ‘Ode to the Soldiers’ collection, clarifying that she meant to support only the institution and not war itself. She is a great believer in showing positivity amid all the chaos and standing by those who are sacrificing their lives in trying to fend off the enemy so that we may live in peace. Like her signature style which is easy to spot among the hordes of prÃªt lines, Jamshed’s tribute to the army also has its own edge. Where Farid is nostalgic about patriotism, what Jamshed wished to express through her designs is that a Pakistani Muslim woman can cover herself properly and still carry off high fashion. “It is not necessary to show skin to be called fashionable.” She brings back the Pakistani woman of the ’70s who was empowered and not restricted by society over what to wear. This specific collection recalls the shalwar kameez as the awami suit, making it representative of all classes, and is stitched in a slightly military style, perhaps, to convey that each one of us is a defender of the nation. “We ourselves are agents of change,” says Jamshed.
On a lighter note, Tayyab Bombal chose to create his ‘Bombal Army’ collection because he is personally fascinated with the black army and the secret mission service. He is drawn to the detailing and cuts from army uniforms of the 1940s British and German army, and also those of the Pakistani army. But in his collection, he too made a reference to Pakistan’s current situation. In a jacket that was half striped and half black, Bombal tried to show “the struggle between war and peace” in the country.
The sudden parade of men and women in army-inspired suits on the ramps of our war-torn country was in line with the message the fashion industry stated — and repeatedly so — before the foreign and local media that all is not rotten in Pakistan. An industry dealing with the aesthetics of appearance wants to drive home the point that it too serves the country by promoting a softer image. Choosing the army’s camp, it expressed appreciation for and its omnipresent military.
More photos from these three designers’ army-inspired collections can be found in Newsline‘s 2010 Annual issue, available on newsstands now.