You have to drive past the heavily guarded American consulate to get to the Karachi harbor. This is where Frieha Altaf, Pakistan’s biggest event planner, is celebrating her fiftieth birthday tonight. The yacht will sail at midnight. There will be a gorgeous spread — food, drink — and, in the early morning, the yacht will park at a sandy strip of the exclusive French Beach, and the guests will disembark to sunbathe. Sometime in the afternoon, Altaf will have to turn back to the city: Auditions for Pakistan Idol are taking place, and, of course, she’s involved. This is a busy week for Altaf. Million-dollar weddings await; so do fashion weeks. There are more than one.
Pakistani culture is a complicated animal. The pretty people are like a window into that culture. They remind us of the universal forces that beat and rumble in concert with all the other pulses and impulses and rhythms. There are many. You’d have to get through the tight security cordons of fashion week marquees to feel that rumble: the whiff of Chanel No. 5, click of Louboutins and funky Kirkwoods. The models here, like models everywhere, battle eating disorders, and the average socialite’s lips are mostly inorganic. But fashion isn’t just elitist. The country’s top couturier, Rizwan Beyg, gets a standing ovation for bringing truck art from W11 public buses to the runway. Women walking to work have traded their voluminous shalwars for straight cotton trousers. Multi-retail stores stocking Pakistani labels are popping up like windows on Macbook screens. University girls go mall-trawling in foreign brands like Mango, Next and Nine West.