Fashion ka hai yeh jalwa, a song from a Bollywood flick Fashion, was on as 11 amateur models walked the ramp in a rare fashion show in violence-torn Kashmir on Sunday evening.
Stone-ramp with Kashmiri carpets rolled on, crewel work covering the ramp base and jamavar (a well-known shawl design from Kashmir) shawls hanging from the backdrop in a well-lit open-air theatre was a rare sight in a state where life used to come to a standstill just with the sundown. But the fashion show started dot 7:10 pm in the evening till 9 pm at Zabarwan Park, with Zabarwan hills providing a natural backdrop.
It is the same hills that witnessed a four-day encounter between the army and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba militants two days ago, where one local militant was killed and two army jawans were injured. But the mood post-encounter was different on Sunday evening with people, interestingly women, cheering as the first model appeared from the tall white partitions, with bonfire flames going up in air in a well-timed choreographic act.
“I had my heart in mouth. I thought people will throw tomatoes and eggs. But the response was surprising in first-ever open air ramp walk,” said Shekh Imran Bashir, a co-organiser of the event. Bashir runs a media group in Srinagar. “I was told that I will get threaten calls from militant groups. I did not got any because the event is purely to create employment in Kashmir.”
Bashir’s sole aim is to promote fashion as an industry in Kashmir. “After Mumbai, fashion comes to Kashmir. We have the most handsome models but they lack exposure and don’t have support. This show not only provided the models a rare chance to hone their skills but a chance to promote our outfits,” said Bashir.
The range of clothes included kurta-pyjamas with varied designs, casuals and formals in the free-entry show. For most of the models, it was for the first time they were facing ramp lights. “We were nervous in the beginning but then it was easy,” said 21-year-old Hamid Ali Bhat. He is quick to add “it was not a vulgar show.”What kepty them pepped up was DJ Athar, playing santoor fusion of renowned santoor maestro Bhajan Sopori. Bhat who wants to make it big in fashion industry is a student 12th Class student from Government Higher Secondary School Pulwama. "I want to pursue modelling as a career," said nervous Bhat, with his voice shaking .
Most of the models were in their early twenties and also had a show-stopper range of clothes and faces. “I want to do something for Kashmir. I believe fashion industry can help reduce employment here. We are apolitical people. We just represent fashion,” said Umer Ali (21), known as Maddy among his colleagues.
The Royal Concepts, the organising group, now plans to organise a fashion show in Mumbai next year. “We are going to promote traditional Kashmiri dress in Mumbai like pheran (a loose cloak worn during winters) and yazaar (loose pyjamas). I hope we are going to leave a mark in the fashion industry of the country,” said Bashir.