Pakistan’s move towards inclusive fashion seems to be getting stronger with multiple innovative ideas taking over campaigns and runways.
Brands like Generation have made strong statements of inclusivity, showing how fashion is not limited to a certain age group, body size or gender. More recently, Pakistan Sunsilk Fashion Week last month saw a transgender model walk the runway in a first of its kind inclusive statement! Taking things further, the upcoming Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) will see a group of real women replace models on the runway for designer Cheena Chhapra.
The designer has previously been working for a niche clientele, and with her FPW debut she plans to bring forth fashion that all regular Pakistani women want to see. We spoke to Cheena Chhapra about her upcoming collection, and the philosophy behind bringing ‘real women’ to the runway.
EDITION: You have been designing clothes for regular Pakistani women since a while now, what prompted you to take this a step further?
Cheena Chhapra: Since this was a niche market that wasn’t being met, I saw it as an opportunity to provide fabulous clothes for the everyday, working, plus sized woman at an affordable cost.
E: What sort of response have you received with your clientele so far?
CC: Overwhelmingly positive. Generally plus sized women are given very few options of colours and designs to choose from, so catering to the great majority whose demands were not met has given me a positive feedback, a new outlook and more motivation to keep on going!
E: We see plus size models on international runways regularly, how do you feel your idea can contribute to making that happen locally too?
CC: Statistically the models that are represented in the fashion community worldwide are either too skinny or overly plus size. The middle ground is not being met, age wise and size wise. That’s where I come in, hopefully providing a new horizon for the average woman that is not a size zero or a size twenty two– not saying that I’m not willing to dabble in all body shapes, sizes and structures!
E: What are your expectations on how the general public, or even other Pakistani women, will receive this? As we know, a lot of them can be pretty unkind, especially on social media forums.
CC: Before focusing on the scrutiny that could take place, we have to discuss the personal insecurities these women who feel the need to put down other women have. Surprisingly enough, women put down women more than men do at times. I’m not worried about any scrutiny because as the saying goes “too many cooks spoil the broth”. So in my “kitchen” I am the only “chef” and God is the greatest provider. The only critique that matters to me is that of the people that I am closest to.
E: What age group are you targeting with your campaign and this show? Do you feel it is needed more for the younger girls?
CC: I don’t feel a need to target an age, I’m looking to target an ideology that is strongly imbedded in our society. Every woman of every age of every body size, height and structure has the right to be beautiful, confident and proud of what God has given her. So for me the factor of appealing to the younger demographic is with the hope that they can take something from my collection as a heirloom, which they can pass down to their future generations.
E: What would your advice be to parents of young girls who are victims of bullying and body shaming?
CC: The mental strain words can have on young minds, when they persistently berate young girls with these kind of stereotypes, is very strong. It gives the idea that their bodies aren’t their own and they are open to outside opinions about it. Just protect your children, let them know that they are loved. Show them what true self-value is. Give them the courage to talk back, challenge these stereotypes and reclaim their body, mind and sanity.
E: What are the 3 most important changes you would like to see in Pakistani media, to help our girls develop a confident and healthy relationship with their physical appearance?
CC: More visual representation, more outspokenness, and lesser opinions conducted on a girl’s looks.
E: Lastly, what will we be seeing in your collection?
CC: I always believe in the traditional works of art so I try to sustain the art of Phulkari, Gara and Block Printing.