Tiny gold sequins and intricate embroidery gleam in the light as a model wearing creations by the designer Nadya Mistry fixes her dress.
She is preparing to take to the catwalk during the final day of Karachi's Bridal Couture Week, where Reuters photographer Insiya Syed documented the hustle and bustle of participants getting ready backstage.
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"While I am shooting, I keep imagining the models as girls getting their kids ready for school or preparing tea for their ailing grandmother."
A few days after I photographed my second Fashion Week story in Karachi within a single month, a friend of mine asked me a legitimate question: “Why do these organisers call it "week" when it's never a week? Why not just call it a month then? Or a millennium? Pakistan Fashion Millennium! That sounds so nice.”
Each year, Pakistan has a few of these events: Pakistan Fashion Week, Karachi Fashion Week, Pakistan Fashion Design Council Fashion Week... And then there’s Bridal Couture Week, which I’ve now had the opportunity to shoot pictures of for two years in a row.
Every year, and with every fashion show, I face the same struggle to obtain full backstage access – my primary area of interest – and I find myself making the same promises to remain unobtrusive as a photographer.
But the struggle is worth it because one thing is for sure: backstage is where you really find all the fashion. It’s where all the gossip happens, where the chaos begins and ends, and the source of all the mad rushing and pushing around. This is where it all starts.
Over the course of the three-day Bridal Couture Week, one of the many designers, Zainab Chottani, showed bridal wear ranging from $3000 to $8000, while the most expensive piece of jewellery designed by Nadia Chotani was priced at $2000. These are significant quantities of cash in Pakistan where, according to UNICEF statistics, around 23 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day.
Some of the models on the catwalk during Bridal Couture Week earn their regular livings as dentists, DJs or teachers, while others lead lives as students or housewives. They can make between $50 to $600 a day, although – just as with any profession – salary and money matters are kept strictly confidential.
While I am shooting, I keep imagining the models as girls getting their kids ready for school or preparing tea for their ailing grandmother. But for most people they will just appear as a species found only on the catwalk. While Fashion Week is going on, glamour is everywhere.