What She Wore: Oscars Put Pakistan’s Designers in the Spotlight

By Sonya Rehman

When “Saving Face” was nominated for the 2012 Academy Awards, Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy swore she would choose clothes by Pakistan’s designers for the ceremony. “Our fashion industry features an array of talented and creative designers,” she said. “I am really excited to showcase some of that at the Oscars.”

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, right, in a dress by Sana Safinaz at the Vanity Fair Oscar party on Sunday, Feb. 26. (Photo: Associated Press)

Holding her Oscar high on Sunday, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy became Pakistan’s first Academy Award winner. She also made good on her promise, wearing creations by a range of Karachi-based women designers to events both on and off the red carpet. (Karachi is the city where she lives and works.)

On stage, the filmmaker wore an elegant Bunto Kazmi-designed shalwar kameez – a traditional outfit of loose-fitting trousers and a long tunic worn in South and Central Asia.

According to Ms. Kazmi, who is known for her elaborate bridal wear, the filmmaker wanted the outfit’s silhouette to be kept “contemporary.” In contrast, the glittering embroidery on the long ivory tunic coat, with cut-in sleeves and a structured collar, was inspired by traditional Persian motifs, while the border incorporated beaten silver and gold.

Gold also featured in Ms. Obaid-Chinoy’s accessories, created by jewelry designer Kiran Aman. The filmmaker’s dangling diamond-and-pearl earrings were set in vintage gold, the same material used for a bespoke cuff, which she wore on her right wrist. The piece was attached by a delicate gold rope to a round Pakistani flag encrusted with white diamonds and green sapphires.

Ms. Obaid-Chinoy wore this vintage-gold cuff, by Karachi-based designer Kiran Aman, when accepting the Oscar for ‘Saving Face.’

Ms. Aman said she was “honored” to have the filmmaker wear her creations at the Oscars, adding that she had advised her to “hold the Oscar with the right hand” so that the flag would dangle.

At the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, held after the event, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy wore more bespoke jewelry: a cuff and ring by designer-cum-architect Sherezad Rahimtoola. “I am very grateful to Sherezad and Kiran for making me such beautiful jewellery just for the occasion,” she said, adding that her Sara Taseer earrings were from her personal collection.

The accessories set off her long, flowing silver and gold-work kurta by the label Sana Safinaz, spearheaded by designer duo Sana Hashwani and Safinaz Muneer, who have been active in the Pakistan fashion scene for over two decades.

At a pre-Oscar luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in L.A., Ms. Obaid-Chinoy showed up in an outfit by a less established name: up-and-coming designer Sania Maskatiya, whose label is a year old. Her hand-embroidered silk shalwar kameez featured a tree of life – signifying growth and success – adorned with multicolored birds and butterflies.

Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, right, in a design by Sania Maskatiya at a pre-Oscar event for nominees. Photo by: C.A.M.P.A.S

A relative newcomer to Pakistan’s fashion scene, Ms. Maskatiya transforms “the conventional to [the] contemporary” with her designs, which are stocked in Karachi, Dubai and Singapore. She said she was glad that fashion at the Oscars helped to project the country “in a softer light.”

The Wall Street Journal – Scene Asia

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