Tips For An Ethical Pakistani Wedding Season

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Ushah Kazi

Married to books, in a relationship with food, playing dress up since 1993. An unabashed pop-culture junkie. Come talk movies and lifestyle with me!

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I have been working on this post for some time now. And up until recently, I had decided against publishing it. Given the uptake in COVID-19 cases, I had assumed that the Pakistani wedding season would be delayed. Moreover, I didn’t want to publish a piece that feigned normalcy. It can be really dangerous to attend a wedding right now. And I don’t want you guys to think that I’m ignoring this or encouraging you to ignore it. 

But, since then, I have spoken to many friends and well wishers. Most importantly, I was approached by a bride to be. All of them had asked me some very specific tips, particularly with respect to the Pakistani wedding season. And I thought it would be really helpful to curate my responses into a list. I hope that this list helps you take stock of how we can do better in the future. 

The Pakistani Wedding Season: An Objective Perspective 

If you’ve never seen Pakistan’s annual season in full swing; let me set the scene. Picture exorbitant parties, choreographed dances, delectable food, and a ton of drool-worthy outfits. Now the last aspect of that equation, is a personal favourite. I’ve never been a bride myself. But, ask me to get dolled up like a Bollywood fantasy, and I shall comply; always. But, and I hope we can all agree, it can get a little too exorbitant. 

2020 forced all of us to reexamine and reconsider. And, as we move forward, I think that the Pakistani wedding season could also benefit from some of this hindsight. So, in honour of the ever lavish matrimonial celebrations, here are my tips for an ethical Pakistani wedding season. 

Mandatory Disclaimers

So, like I mentioned, I have never been a bride. What this means is that I cannot even begin to understand how daunting it is to plan a wedding. Thus, these tips are limited to those of us attending weddings as guests. That being said, when approached by the aforementioned bride to be, I shared the same advice with her. And, she did find it helpful. So, I’m hoping that everybody will find some value here!  

Additionally, my definition of ethical fashion encompasses both the environmental and human aspects. I try to be vary of how sustainable a garment is. But, because of Pakistan’s rich artistic history, I’m also passionate about supporting crafts. There is a lot of imperfection on the ground. The goal here, as is the case with my other articles, is to encourage you to be more aware. And hopefully, we can carry the conversation forward. With all of that out of the way, let’s go! 

1, Repeat An Outfit 

This is the easiest way of being more sustainable. In the spirit of buying less, and doing more with what you already own, simply wear an old outfit again. This is something I have done regularly.

Pakistani Wedding Season

True, you might encounter judgemental stares. But honestly, after the year we’ve all had; do we really care about busybodies any more? 

And in that same vein…

2, Repeat Accessories 

Much like repeating clothes, but so much simpler. Might I also suggest that, this is why investing in timeless accessories is a good idea. Also, get party accessories like clutches, shoes and handbags in colours that echo the colours of embellishments. This makes mixing and matching a breeze. 

3, Upcycle Clothes 

If you’re unsure about just wearing the same outfit again, try upcycling it into something else. Upcycling entails using materials, and garments, to create something else. Usually, the new creation is more valuable than the original. More significantly, this process increases the shelf-life of a garment so that it doesn’t end up in landfill sites. 

If you need some upcycling ideas, here is my list. 

4, Focus On More Sustainable Fabrics 

Some fabrics exact a heavier price on the environment than others. This is an area where Pakistan has a lot of catching up to do. It can be tricky to know whether or not something can be classified as sustainable, even if it is a natural fabric. 

Here is a list of sustainable fabrics. And if you go over it, you’ll see why Pakistan has a lot of ground to cover. Many sustainable fabrics (such as organic hemp) are very rarely used to create Pakistani clothes. Moreover, even finding organic replacements for industry favourites, like cotton, is difficult. 

The Pink Tree Company 

Thus, I do want to give a shout out to brands that are trying. For example, while they do not use organic cotton, The Pink Tree Company uses ‘kora. A local cotton variety that is not treated with chemicals. 

I also really love their aesthetic, and the fact that they use traditional crafts to embellish outfits. If you’re in the market for some gorgeous festive creations, shop their collections here

5, Support Brands That Support Artisans 

Speaking of traditional crafts. 

For me, conscious consumption has to be mindful when it comes to labour. In Pakistan, this also means being conscious of the craft traditions that we have inherited. Entire communities rely on some of these techniques. And the most dedicated players in Pakistan’s fashion scene, try to empower said communities. While you may not be spoilt for choice, there are some brands that prioritise local craft. 

Rizwan Beyg 

Right from the onset of his career, Rizwan Beyg has been working closely with craftsmen and women. In 2014, this culminated into his Bunyaad project, which provides training and employment opportunities for women in rural Punjab. As one of the biggest names in Pakistani fashion, his work also celebrates the timeless look.  You can read more about Bunyaad here, and shop Rizwan Beyg here

Behbud 

Working to preserve traditional crafts, Behbud’s vocational training initiative has trained thousands of women. In particular, they have trained over 100,000 home based women workers. Fusing traditional techniques with pastel hues and flowing silhouettes, this is your pick for effortless elegance.

You can read more about their workshop here, and shop Behbud here

6, Get Clothes Tailored From Artisan Collectives 

One of the worst off-shoots of fast fashion, is that we’re now so used to ‘cheap and cheerful’ clothing. This often also tends to be rather subpar. The term ‘disposable fashion’ is rather telling. That being said, I completely understand that price points can be quite exclusive at times. And so, should the brands mentioned here not fit into your budget, opt for tailoring instead. Your family might already have a favourite tailor. And if you do, please continue to support them. But if you don’t, look into supporting tailoring collectives. 

Andaaz Tailor 

This is one that my friend Anam Khan told me about some time ago. It’s an initiative that was established by the Akhter Hameed Khan Resource Centre in 2019. They offer both ready-made apparel, and custom tailoring. They work closely with Pakistani women, providing training and employment. And a percentage of their revenue goes to the tailors that work with them. You can read more about their efforts here, or place an order using these methods. They also have this really handy catalogue detailing shapes, and prices, available on their website. 

7, Purchase Handcrafted Pieces  

Handcrafted pieces, as part of the traditional crafts industry, are invariably linked to economic empowerment in Pakistan. According to the Indus Heritage Trust, crafts have “been a significant contributor to Pakistan’s economy. Providing almost 15% of formal sector employment. The contribution is twice as much in the informal sector, providing more than 30% of the jobs of which 54% are filled by women.”  Thus, whenever you can, support handmade in Pakistan. Here are some handcrafted options you could consider. 

Indus Heritage Trust – For Handbags and Clutches 

Working with women artisans in rural communities, the trust has a plethora of handcrafted pieces on offer. In particular, their bags and clutches could add a unique flare to your outfit. Find out more about their efforts here. Also, I’d also encourage you to support them through Polly and Other Stories. I’ve written about this marketplace before. But in a nutshell; they work with a retinue of artisans and collectives across the country. And they carry many of Indus Heritage’s pieces; you can shop for them here.  

Zam Zam Sindhi Embroidery – For Embroidered Fabric 

I must say that I am really proud of the small scale efforts that make up Pakistan’s counter fast-fashion scene. In particular, individual entrepreneurs that are bringing attention to craft. I was introduced to Zam Zam Sindhi Embroidery by a follower on Instagram. They offer hand-embroidered fabric, inspired by the traditional Sindhi aesthetic.

Should you want to get your own outfit tailored, such fabric could add a little something extra. You can contact them through their Facebook page here

Craft Stories by Huma Adnan – For Jewellery 

Another trend that I hope to see continue, is mainstream brands adopting more conscious projects. Let me be clear; this isn’t the end goal. And with conversations about ‘greenwashing’ dominating global headlines, we have to be really careful about who we support. But, I also realise that pushing the local fashion scene towards more ethical production is an arduous process. And so, I do want to bring your attention to local brands that are making noticeable shifts. 

For example, take the Craft Stories initiative by Huma Adnan. Working with the UNHCR, she designed and created beautiful jewellery designs in collaboration with refugee communities in Pakistan. The finished designs are absolutely stunning, and help you stand out in any kind of gathering. You can shop for the pieces here

8, Purchase From Environmentally Conscious Brands  

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I try to be mindful of the environmental and human cost of what I’m purchasing. Often, I cannot prioritise both; but that is the end-goal. In this vein, however, I feel that it’s important to distinguish between sustainable and ethical fashion. Sustainable fashion looks solely at the environmental footprint of a garment. While ethical fashion also encompasses the human component. That is, economic empowerment, workplace quality, and the overall well-being of communities. 

Sahroo’s Collection 

Okay, so this brand caters predominantly to a North American clientele. Thus, I realise that it might not be suited to a Pakistani wedding season. But, it was the Pakistani aesthetic that she grew up with, that inspired founder and creative director Sarah Ali Abbasi.

Apart from working with Pakistani artisans, Sahroo is also really mindful about the environment. As a carbon-neutral business, they plant ten trees for every order placed. If you’re based in North America and want to add some Eastern elegance to your festivities, find their collection here

9, Opt For Natural Dyes Over Synthetic Dyes 

Prints are a staple in Pakistani fashion. Much of this is driven by the Lawn obsession, which is pretty much an annual occurrence. But, we have also inherited a legacy of hand-printing techniques, many of which use natural dyes. I went over the complicated ‘natural vs synthetic dyes’ debate in the following video. 

But, long story short, I think that in conjunction with buying less and buying local, natural dyes can be the more ethical choice. 

Koel 

Koel has almost become synonymous with traditional block printing. Simultaneously, their regal aesthetic, while often imitated has never really been replicated. Their look has become a Pakistani wedding season staple; and for good reason. 

While the online store isn’t operational at the moment, I’d highly recommend reading more about their efforts here

10, Buy Second Hand 

I completely empathise with how complicated it is to manoeuvre Pakistani fashion’s sartorial jungle. Thus, I’ve tried to include as many brands as I could find in this piece. Now, with all that said and done, I realise that my picks might not have what you’re looking for. And so, a final option you could look into is purchasing second hand. 

Secret Stash 

One of the most exciting initiatives that I came across when researching for this list. Secret Stash offers a plethora of second hand, branded items.

Simultaneously, they realise how judgemental societal busybodies can be; they’re called Secret Stash for a reason. Expect a never ending array of fantasy inducing accessories, coveted outfits, and guaranteed discretion. I’d recommend starting with their Wedding Season Must-Haves, and then working your way out. 

Ending On A Bitter-Sweet Note 

Okay, so this is a deliberately exhaustive list. I really wanted to include as much practical advice as I could, and offer options. I hope I’ve done both, and that you find my list helpful. 

With that said, I want to leave you with two tiny reality checks. Firstly, please don’t see this as a perfect solution. I am so glad whenever someone asks me about living in a more mindful way. But, just like you, I’m working on it. A little bit at a time, and a little bit every day. So please, understand that there is so much more that all of us can do. 

Secondly, please do not take this list as an invitation to throw caution to the wind. Given the situation at hand, I think attending weddings is really risky. Of course, I cannot make that decision for you. But, I would still encourage you to be as careful as you possibly can. 

Pakistani Wedding Season And Giving Back

Personally, I’d like to support local businesses and encourage you to do the same. So, if you see a piece by the brands that I’ve mentioned, you could get it. Even if you won’t be attending any weddings anytime soon. Like I said; buy less, buy local, buy quality, and wear it more regularly. Simultaneously, if you have clothes to donate, please look into the Akhuwat Foundation Clothes Bank. Not only do they distribute clothes to those in need, they also offer employment to members of the trans community. If you can, please consider supporting them.

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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