In 2009, as the Pakistani Taliban continued to brutally mute any opposition in the nation’s northwest Swat region, the organizers of Pakistan Fashion Week made sure one trend came through loud and clear: A look of defiance.
That’s when seasoned photojournalist Sarah Caron turned her camera toward the runway.
“I understood this Fashion Week was a message,” Caron said.
The French photographer had been covering the turbulent political situation in Pakistan for various international outlets since 2007, but she quickly became enamored with the country’s emerging fashion scene — and its associated symbolism.
“I had prejudices about Pakistani fashion, having always seen in the streets the same type of clothes,” Caron said.
During that first Fashion Week, which had been postponed and relocated because of security concerns, models strutted down the runway like the best of them in the fashion capitals of Paris, Milan and New York.
While many of the designers enveloped models in traditional yet reimagined burqa- and tunic-like silhouettes, there was also an army of bare legs, bare shoulders and bare heads on display — a rare sight amid the traditionally modest garb of the Muslim-majority nation.
In her book “Movida Massala,” Caron decided to take some of those models and designs onto the streets of Karachi, Pakistan, where how a person dresses plays a major role in the social system.
“The designers and models felt uncomfortable at the beginning because they were used to studio shoots,” said Caron, whose project is being launched this week at the Visa pour l'Image festival in Perpignan, France.
She said it was important to her to juxtapose these modern looks of Pakistan in natural light amid the more traditional scenes of Karachi life.
“What I find interesting in this attempt to create a Pakistani haute couture is its freshness and eccentricity,” Caron said. “They have no financial pressure and are taking part in the society’s evolution and shifts.”
Despite the country’s growing public interest in fashion, Caron says she still recognizes certain styles aren’t for everyone, whether for religious or economic reasons.
“Some of my pictures could not be published in Pakistan,” she said.
- Sarah LeTrent, CNN