Tuesday Sep 24, 2019
In a moment that will surely go down in history as landmark for Pakistani fashion, two of the country’s top models – Mushk Kaleem and Alicia Khan – walked the catwalk for Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jean, whose Spring/Summer 2020 collection at Milan Fashion Week incorporated elements of handcrafted embroideries from Hunza, Kailash and Chitral. Blousons that several models wore were marked Chitral 20 and one is already looking for ways to access and wear it here, back home.
Stella Jean is a designer who’s been working actively to use fashion as a tool for development; titled Laboratory of Nations, this project aims to create a bridge between Italy and nine mission destinations, one of which is Pakistan. The designer thus came to Pakistan earlier this year with an aim to promote Strategic Development Goals (SDG) and empower rural women. She lived in Chitral for two weeks, researching the embroidery techniques, which are on the verge of extinction. Fascinated by the colours, design elements and embroidery techniques indigenous to Chitral, Kalash and Hunza, she worked with the women to preserve them, primarily by incorporating them in her collection, allowing the craft international exposure.
The show was covered extensively in the foreign press. According to Vogue, “For several weeks, 46 women in the centre embroidered more than 4,000 meters of material. On the runway inside Milan’s Palazzo Arengario, the colorful stitching wrapped around dresses, adorned belts, and decorated the hemlines of Jean’s summer dresses. According to a press release, it was the first time the embroideries were ever produced for use outside the Kalash community.”
“Jean should be more than proud of her ability to use her fashion for good,” the publication added. “Her activism goes far beyond slogan tees and hashtags and actually incites economic and social change. Waisted sundresses in crisp stripes, logoed sports jerseys, and slim tailoring are signatures on her runways, as are bright embroideries and even brighter prints. Her sense of shape and silhouette is her most exciting calling card – women in the front row today bloomed in Jean’s bubble skirts and frocks.”
For this project, Stella Jean collaborated with the Chitral Women’s Handicrafts Centre – founded by the 22-year-old Karishma Ali and the entire mission was facilitated by the government. Invited by His Excellency Mr. Nadeem Riaz, Ambassador of Pakistan in Italy, the designer’s visit was organized in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), under the patronage of the Ministry of Commerce. The project had the full support of Secretary Commerce, Sardar Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera and was tied together by Zahir Rahimtoola.
Giving a glimpse of what inspired her, Stella Jean took to Instagram and shared three different art forms that paved for Pakistani craft to shine at the prestigious show. One mood board, for example, was inspired by a truck art design made by artists in Lahore under the artistic supervision of Professor Mazhar Rizvi, Head of Department of the National College of Arts, Lahore.
Pakistani model Mushk Kaleem opened the show for Stella Jean, clad in an outfit that boasted colours of the Kailash region. Alicia Khan walked the runway in a luxe jersey that read CHITRAL 20 in bold across the front. Standing in front of the Duomo Di Milano, the two models posted an update amidst their big break, chanting Pakistan Zindabad, and thanking people at home for supporting them and making it possible. “We are very excited; thank you for your love and support,” they said.