In the luxurious surroundings of a top hotel, a parade of glamorous, impossibly slim women walk with gazelle-like grace down the catwalk. Bare midriffs and legs are proudly displayed in intricately embroidered golden fabrics, and there isn’t a veil in sight. This is Pakistan Fashion Week, the jewel in the country’s haute couture crown and an unrivalled glimpse into a creative industry that has surged in recent years. There’s just one thing that’s not quite as you might expect: Pakistan Fashion Week is not in Karachi or Islamabad but in London.
“The religious identity that is given to our country to some extent precedes the cultural identity. Many things that are beautiful in our culture are often suppressed and not prominent to their full extent at times,” says the fashion designer Fahad Hussayn. “There is a clash between the religious right and the cosmopolitan youth.” In Pakistan itself, the location of fashion shows is rarely publicised in advance and they are subject to strict security measures, meaning that they tend to be held in Europe and Dubai.