Threading the Divide: Fashion Brings India and Pakistan Together

In 1947, the country of India partitioned into two separate states: India and Pakistan. When a country divides, the people do as well, and that’s exactly what happened here. The Muslims fled to Pakistan while the Hindus remained in India. Nationalism remains in both countries, while a means of unification inside, equals mutual enmity outside. It’s a feud that transcends Team Edward and Team Jacob or the Yankees and the Red Sox. Actually, I don’t even need to explain it with American pop culture allusions. Just look at what happens when Pakistan and India compete in a cricket game.

When a country divides, the people do as well…

But there’s one thing that the Pakistanis and Indians are realizing that they can build a bridge on: the fashion industry.

In India, designer Tarun Tahiliani stocked Pakistani brand Sana Safinaz in his stores, to a remarkably good reception. Other Pakistani labels elsewhere in India were also met with this response. In Pakistan, designs by Rohit + Rahul are available in stores such as Ensemble Pakistan. They all sell very well.

Their film and TV industries, along with the Internet, also help contribute to each country’s fascination with the fashion of the other. The ladies in Pakistan want clothes seen on Bollywood actresses, and those in India look for outfits seen in Pakistani dramas. Both are aware of what the other country is capable of when it comes to clothing — and they want what they’re aware of.

Fashion industry leaders in this region have tested the waters. The annual Shaan-E-Pakistan event (this translates to “Pride of Pakistan” in Urdu) held in the Hotel Grand in Delhi is an example. This event, started by Pakistani designer Huma Nassr, brings Pakistani designers over the border for a three day exhibition and fashion show. Prominent Pakistani designers like Asifa & Nabeel and Sahar Atif were among the participants. Many designers were approached by Indian retailers who wanted to stock their stores, aware of the market potential. Nassr says that she also would love to switch things up and have a Shaan-e-Hindustan, where the Indian designers bring their collections over to Pakistan.



This, coupled with the fact that there is no language barrier, can make business easy. The only problem is actually getting the clothes over the border. Inconvenient custom procedures, trade legislation and all the taxes and duties placed on the garments have the many once ecstatic designers and customers saying that it’s not worth it. For example, the aforementioned selling of Pakistani designer Sana Safinaz’s label is now discontinued due to border regulations. According to the Business of Fashion, changing these hampering conditions can bring in tons of revenue for both sides, ten times as much as it is now, which equals a grand total of $19.8 billion.

It’s an extremely feasible untapped market for both sides for two reasons; the first is obvious, it’s lucrative on both ends. The second reason, involves it being more subtle. It’s a chance to bring a little harmony to the two conflicting countries and maybe even bring them closer. India can meet Pakistan halfway — and by “meet” I don’t mean “clash.” What better to propagate threading the divide than exactly that, threads?

Written by Fatima N.

Feature Image: Shaan-E-Pakistan Facebook Page