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Pakistan fashion designers attempt to cast off 'dark cloud' of extremism

PARIS--Mention the Taliban to Pakistan fashion designer Kamiar Rokni and his irritation is clear.

“One of the things we feel diminishes our work is whenever our story is linked to Talibanization and whether we are doing this to fight extremism,” he told AFP in Paris.

“We're not. We're doing this for the business of fashion!”

Tired of the country's “bombs and burqas” image, Rokni is far from alone in his desire to see fashion for fashion's sake.

Certain precautions are unavoidable however and the locations of fashion shows are never disclosed in advance.

“It's the one thing we do to protect ourselves,” said Rokni who runs his House of Kamiar Rokni label with two cousins.

“Apart from that you just have to have faith and carry on.”

Fellow designer Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, founder of the HSY label, is equally keen to distance himself from any political motive.

“We've been lumped up with a very bad dark cloud that's been over our heads ... but this really isn't our war,” he said.

Extremism aside, the designers — who recently held a catwalk show in Paris — say Pakistan fashion is finally starting to establish itself.

Fashion for Fashion's Sake

From an industry made up of just a handful of designers and models in the early 1990s, fashion shows, attracting foreign buyers, are now held regularly in Lahore and Karachi.

Its leading figures are gossip column and glossy magazine staples and not afraid to court controversy.

One designer, Safinaz Muneer, sparked outrage last year when she told Hello! magazine that Pakistan employees could spend 1,500 hours on embroidery that “will cost you nothing.”

The row failed to dent sales and the designer denounced critics demanding to know what they had contributed to the industry.

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