On Thursday, September 17, I had the pleasure of attending Deepak Perwani’s fashion show presented by Mokah, an organization that is dedicated to building the market of Pakistan and bridging its cultural gap with the United States. It took place at the Bohemian National Hall at 321 East 73rd Street.
Having arrived right on time, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were already there. The first thing that caught my eye was a table with beautiful handbags that were being sold by Bliss, a social enterprise that keeps adolescent Pakistani girls in school. The young women design the colorfully embroidered handbags, and it provides them with a sustainable livelihood. They were impressive to say the least!
The reception lasted for a little over an hour before the fashion show, and attendees enjoyed chatting and drinking wine. The guests included Pakistan Deputy Ambassador Robin Raphel, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Her Excellency Sherry Rehman as well as Deputy Assistant United States Trade Representative Mara Burr.
The fashion show started out with a slide-show including a description of how Mokah utilizes fashion as a platform to bridge cultures. Deepak Perwani’s designs transcend the traditional and present a glimpse into the progressive society that is the other side of Pakistan. Thereby facilitating the access to U.S. markets for the products designed and produced in Pakistan, Mokah showcases a culture working toward changing the preconceived notions and perceptions about Pakistan.
Building markets requires a vibrant private sector, which can generate growth and economic opportunities for the Pakistani people. Although foreign aid plays a role, real progress must be achieved through the development and expansion of new and existing industries. By partnering with fashion designers and fashion schools, Mokah is educating and creating opportunities while expanding the international market for Pakistan’s exports. Since trade has long been a way of moving millions of people out of poverty, it is one of the best ways the United States can assist Pakistan.
Shannon Grewer, the founder of Fashion for Pakistan Flood Relief, gave a speech before the show. She talked about the first time she visited Pakistan and not having enough space on the way back to the states for all of the clothes she had bought. Shannon explained the importance of having Pakistani goods sold in the U.S. and then introduced Mara Burr who gave a speech.
Mara Burr emphasized working on our relationship with Pakistan and wanting to see more of an investment between our two nations. She remarked on the great ingenuity, design and creativity of the Pakistani designers and how it can cement the relationship between our two countries based on something so fundamental to all of us, namely fashion. In conclusion, she said that we are allies and friends and to work hard at respecting one another.
The presentation showcased bright colors and bejeweled tunics and dresses. Deekpak Perwani’s models, (Shannon included) sparkled on the runway and wore their hair up with chandelier earrings. The tunics were ornate with a beautiful accompaniment of colors. Some of the dresses were also in the style of a tunic replete with brocade, floral or eclectic prints. The designs were classy, elegant and feminine. There were also Perwani clutches, one of which had a gold gun on it shooting out a peacock feather. This was a favorite of mine. Peacock feathers have been known to symbolize a universal healing energy that can lead to an awakening. How suiting!
Before leaving, I got a chance to meet the designer himself and wanted to know which state or country buys most of his clothing. His response was Signapore, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Chicago, London and Dubai. Indeed, his collection is a culmination of Pakistani clothes being fashionable around the world.