Backstage is where the fashion is

April 25, 2013

Karachi, Pakistan

By Insiya Syed

A few days after I photographed my second Fashion Week story in Karachi over the course of a month, a friend of mine asked me a legitimate question: “Why do these organizers call it “week” when it’s never a week? Why not just call it a month then? Or a millennium? Pakistan Fashion Millennium! That sounds so nice.”

Each year, Pakistan has a few of these events: Pakistan Fashion Week, Karachi Fashion Week, Pakistan Fashion Design Council Fashion Week… And then there’s Bridal Couture Week, which I’ve now had the opportunity to cover two years in a row.

Every year, and with every fashion show, I face the same struggle to obtain full backstage access – my primary area of interest – and I find myself making the same promises to remain an unobtrusive photographer.

But the struggle is worth it because one thing is for sure: backstage is where you really find all the fashion. It’s where all the gossip happens, where the chaos begins and ends, and is the source of all the mad rushing and pushing around. This is where it all starts.

Over the course of the three-day Bridal Couture Week, one of the many designers, Zainab Chottani, showed bridal wear ranging in price from $3000 to $8000, while the most expensive piece of jewelry designed by Nadia Chotani was priced at $2000. These are significant quantities of cash in Pakistan where, according to UNICEF statistics, around 23 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day.

Some of the models on the catwalk during Bridal Couture Week earn their living as dentists, DJs or teachers, while others lead lives as students or housewives. They can make between $50 to $600 a day, although – just as with any profession – salary and money matters are kept strictly confidential.

While I was shooting, I kept imagining the models as girls getting their kids ready for school or preparing tea for their ailing grandmother. But for most people they would appear as a species found only on the catwalk. While fashion week is going on, glamour is everywhere.

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