Just after the Friday prayers, when youth on Kashmir’s streets were keeping security forces busy in pitched stone-pelting battles, far away in New Delhi a Kashmiri youth was scripting a different plot.
No, not a terrorist plot.
He was busy, meticulously dressing his models for the ramp to display his works at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week.
Zubair Kirmani, 29, is the first Kashmiri Muslim to hit the ramp with his models. It has not been easy for him to establish himself. Once an engineering student at a Bangalore engineering college, it took Kirmani a lot of effort to convince his parents and Kashmir’s conservative society to pursue something after his heart — fashion.
“In school, I used to draw on T-shirts. Most of the time, it was the maple leaf or chinar leaf, as it is known in Kashmir. I would tinker with jeans,” says Kirmani, now the owner of brand Boonipun, which means chinar leaf.
Like his peers in Kashmir, Kirmani grew up amid blasts and bloodbath. In 1989, while a 6th standard student, he had gone to the cool climes of Gulmarg with the Biscoe School’s annual summer camp. All of a sudden, he and his schoolmates were bundled into Army vehicles instead of their school bus. Explosions and gunshots had rattled Srinagar.
The incident split Kirmani’s life in two. One, full of hazy images of peaceful times, and the other half full of gore, uncertainty and despair. “That summer camp was probably the last one I attended. Because thereafter schools stopped extracurricular activities, like camps, in the upper reaches of the Valley,” says Kirmani.
Before arriving in Delhi, just after completing a course in fashion designing from Bangalore, he had apprehensions about being able to make it big, on account of being a Kashmiri Muslim.
“Relatives advised me not to reveal my name and ethnicity, as it would hamper my career graph,” recalls Kirmani. “But here, I saw people thinking beyond nationalities. My work got me the recognition I deserved as a fashion designer.”
Charting a success story, Kirmani now aims big for his people: “I want to work for Kashmiri artisans and their art. I am planning things and hope to see a better tomorrow for our Kashmiri artisans,” says Kirmani, who plans to open a factory in Kashmir. “I want to provide better working atmosphere for artisans in Kashmir.”
Kirmani not only earned favourable critical response to his works from the fashion Mecca, Paris, but he also established a clientele in Europe, Hongkong and Dubai. He’s designed clothes for stars like music maestro A.R. Rehman.
What brought about the shift in his palette, from the trademark greys and whites to bright reds and blues, this year? “These are colours of hope and happiness,” says Kirmani.