Prior to watching Hailey Gates’ documentary, States of Undress, I was most familiar with traditional or religious Pakistan fashion. I was completely unaware of Karachi Fashion Week in Pakistan, which marked an important shift in Pakistan society that began back in 2009.
Hailey Gates’s experience of Karachi Fashion Week can be explained through Heidegger’s theory of Unheimlichkeit, which literally means “unhomelike”, where as you don’t have the quality of being home, and are left with a feeling that you don’t belong. Hailey did not anticipate the elite type of dress she saw people wearing during Karachi Fashion Week. Therefore, she packed all her most conservative clothing and no heels for her trip to Pakistan. She felt extremely uncomfortable and underdressed among everyone else who wore extravagant clothing.
Conflicting views on Pakistani fashion were clearly seen through the clothing displayed on the runway during Karachi, Pakistan Fashion Week. The majority of Pakistani fashion shown on the runway focused on modest conservative dress, using traditional fabrics and embroidery to cover the whole body. However, one collection of bondage inspired leather pieces were a risky exception to the runway by two Pakistani designers who aimed to make a statement to the people of Pakistan afraid of fashion.
Many people in Pakistan are against this idea of fashion, especially among women. In the interview Hailey conducted with a Pakistan cleric he said, “If a woman reveals herself, destruction spreads.” Many Pakistani men believe through the Islamic law a woman should always be covered. Many husbands have the mindset that if their wives do not obey this law (by following the latest fashions), they deserve to be punished. It is a tragedy, 160 women a year are victims of acid attacks in Pakistan for wearing the latest fashion. It is clear fashion means more than clothing in Pakistan; it is about defending a choice or not having a choice.
As an Islamic republic, Karachi Fashion Week is an event that shows progress in an oppressed country with cultural differences, it symbolizes the increasing role fashion plays in Pakistani culture. ‘States of Undress’ discusses fashion within religion in one of the most dangerous parts of the world where there are so many different viewpoints on fashion. The documentary is a deeper look into the fashion worlds of people in Pakistan who have to think about what they wear as more than clothing, but as a political statement.
Fashion is a freedom of which many of us take for granted. It is surreal that in other parts of the world, such as Pakistan, participating in the latest fashion trends have death or life circumstances.