July 9, 2006
Afghanistan Gets First Fashion Show in Decades
KABUL (Reuters) - Models strode down a catwalk in the Afghan capital Kabul for the first time in decades this weekend as two designers showed off their clothes behind the guarded walls of a luxury hotel.
An audience of expatriates and well-heeled Afghan watched the show in hotel garden, under a clear midsummer night's sky, to the strains of traditional Afghan music.All of the models showing the conservatively cut clothes that included designer burqas were expatriate women, to the disappointment of some in the audience.
The organizers said they did not want to court controversy in what is a deeply conservative Muslim country by having Afghan models.
"We invited a lot of Afghan women to attend the show but not to be models," said Italian designer Gabriella Ghidoni, who organized the show with an Afghan partner.
The Taliban forced women to wear the all-enveloping burqa but nearly five years after the hard-line Islamists were ousted, many women still choose to wear burqas when they are out.
"The models should have been Afghan, but we know that many families still don't allow their daughters to do things like this," said a member of the audience, Nooria Farhad.
"It will be much better and more effective if in future our Afghan models do fashion shows and show the world Afghan clothes. I hope one day we'll have Afghan models," she said.
Another member of the audience said the Saturday night show was a boost for the city which has seen bloody anti-government and anti-foreign riots and several bomb blasts in recent weeks.
"This is really important for the country, it's a great morale booster for the people," said bank chairman Haji Ali Akbar.
"It also shows that Afghanistan is going toward stability and the platform for foreign investment and businesses is opening day by day."
Ghidoni and her partner, Afghan designer Zolaykha Sherzad, started off training women in fashion and jewelry design. They then began selling the output from their Kabul shops.
Sherzad said people used to hold small fashion shows in Kabul before the war begin in the late 1970s.
These days there was a market for fashion in the city, although it may not be obvious, she said.
"There's not much in terms of the fashion we see in the West but there is fashion within a private environment, within the houses," she said.
"People like to be fashionable."