Kersi Dubash Brings Sari Exhibition to Islamabad

Indian trader, Kersi Dubash is in town once again with an exquisite collection of apparel dominated by timeless ‘saris’ that are sure to arrest the attention of Islamabad’s middle and elite classes. The exhibition also features gold-plated silver chromium jewelry from Jaipur, heavily embellished velvet clutches by designer Sarod Jalan, and trendy metallic ‘batwas’ ideally suited for bridal wear.

Article by Shahina Maqbool | The News Pakistan


From’Parsi gara,’ embroidered net, jute silk, ‘chikankari’ and ‘kaanji varam’ saris to vibrant Rajasthani ‘lehengas’ with ‘peta’ work and ‘gota leheria’ ‘dupattas’ from Jaipur, Dubash has unveiled the very best of Mumbai’s Nazakat Collection for clients to pick and choose from.

“I have virtually brought India to your doorstep,” stated Dubash, who candidly admitted not being a designer per se, but “someone who has an eye for beautiful things.” He has been bringing the best of Indian ‘saris’ and clothes from across various Indian cities to Pakistan for the last 17 years, with the collection getting bigger, varied, and certainly more striking with every passing year.

While most of the apparel can be categorised as traditional and classical, the collection also offers contemporary items. Noteworthy among these are the modern half-net, half-silk ‘saris’ with exquisite laces that appear more like an extension of the fabric, and silk ‘saris’ with sequins that are actually part of the weave itself. Most of these ‘saris’ are heavily embroidered, with the subtle colours enhancing the beauty of the silken net.

The traditional ones include the ‘Banarsis,’ the ‘kanji varam’s’ (which Indian actress Rekha is known for wearing), and the ‘bandanis,’ to name just a few. Cotton silk ‘saris’ from Bhagalpur, pure cotton and ‘kantha’ silk ‘saris’ from Calcutta, original Dhaka ‘saris,’ and exclusive jute silk ‘saris’ which are currently being made by only one weaver in Banaras, also form part of the collection.

The Parsi ‘gara’ saris with predominantly floral embroidery are just as magnificent as the ‘chikankaari’ suits, ‘saris,’ and ‘lehengas’ known for their timeless splendor. And the best aspect is that not a single ‘sari’ or dress is available in duplicate, thus promising exclusivity. The dress collection is complemented by an exotic assortment of gold-plated Kundan jewelry from Jaipur and an enticing range of evening bags.

“What is it that brings you here so frequently? Do you take your stocks to other countries too,” Dubash was asked during an exclusive interaction here on Tuesday. “I have travelled to 25 countries, but the warmth and hospitality that I receive here is incomparable. Coming to Pakistan is like coming home,” he maintained. Only once did Dubash exhibit his collection in the United Kingdom and the United States, but was unable to elicit the desired response, largely because “clients in these countries do not have very many occasions to don such elaborately worked clothes.”

Pakistan is a thriving market for formal, party, and bridal wear. “We have elaborate weddings here, and most women are not inclined to repeating clothes that they may have worn to an earlier occasion. However, I personally believe that there is a need to resist the temptation of excessive spending on clothes. Extravagance should be avoided, and we should prefer doing something for the needy and poor,” Dubash emphasized.

When asked to draw a comparison of the Indian and Pakistani fashion industries, Dubash maintained that Indian fashion has reached a wider audience globally because in India, fashion gets promoted through the film industry. “People tend to get obsessed with the ‘saris,’ ‘shalwar kameez’ and jewellery that Kareena or Depika, for that matter, may have worn in a particular Hindi film,” he added. Since Bollywood is a far bigger industry with greater outreach, Indian fashion has a relatively bigger market.

“This does not, however, mean that Pakistan is lagging behind,” Dubash added, sharing recollections from several bridal shows that he has attended in Pakistan. He made a special mention of luxury fashion brands like those being run of HSY, Elan, and Khadija. “Since our women wear ‘saris’ most of the time, the Indian market offers thousands of variations in ‘sari’. However, the manner in which ‘saris’ are worn by Pakistani models is akin to wearing a ‘dhoti!’ A ‘sari’ does not drape without proper fall; this aspect is often neglected. You need to understand that a ‘sari’ is a lot more than merely a long piece of cloth wrapped around the body,” he added on a lighter note.

“Why don’t you consider having a permanent collection in some of the multi-brand clothing outlets across major cities of Pakistan,” Dubash was asked. “I will not do that; they will copy my designs,” he retorted. Interestingly, he never holds similar exhibitions even in his own country. “Since I have many friends in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad, coming to Pakistan is more like a holiday trip for me. These exhibitions are purely a one-man show; I am my own boss and my own secretary, and even though I am not a designer per se, I do design the Parsi ‘garas’ myself, taking ideas from magazines, creating my own designs, and passing them on to the ‘kaarigars,’ he shared.

Before arriving in Islamabad, Dubash had a two-day exhibition in Karachi; he also exhibited in Lahore, which was dull because of Eid holidays and the fact that most of his regular clients were out of country. Hard-pressed for time, he may have to remove Peshawar from his itinerary this time, so clients in Peshawar need to plan a quick trip to Islamabad before stocks deplete.

“What brings you to this exhibition at a time when India is making news for all the wrong reasons vis-à-vis Pakistan,” a regular client of Dubash was asked outside the venue. “No matter how tense India-Pakistan relations may be at a given point in time, it is people-to-people exchanges like these that inspire hope for peaceful coexistence between the two countries,” she answered.

Dubash himself was quite vocal in criticising Shiv Sena’s forced cancellation of Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali’s concerts in various cities of India. “They did not do the right thing. Nobody stopped Mahesh Bhatt and Nasiruddin Shah from coming to Pakistan. It is not fair to blame just Pakistan for everything. Our two countries should live like US and Canada,” he remarked.

On the contrary, Pakistani rock star Mustafa Zahid, the vocalist, songwriter, and producer of Roxen The Band, received a rousing welcome by a 6,000 plus fan following in Ghaziabad earlier last week. “I too face no problems during my frequent visits to Pakistan, regardless of how strained our diplomatic ties may be. Artists do play a vital role in chasing away the clouds of uncertainty and fear,” Dubash concluded.

The exhibition will continue till October 31 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those interested can tie an appointment with Dubash on 051-285 6331/285 6333 or 0300-3729 556, and 0300-3378 748.