Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari
1 / 3
Banarsi saris sold at Banarsi Silk Weavers Colony in Khairpur, Sindh. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari
2 / 3
Zafar Abbas Ansari holds up sari fabric at his shop in Banarsi Silk Weavers Colony in Khairpur, Sindh. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
A boy walks past Banarsi Sari Market in Banarsi Silk Weavers Colony in Khairpur, Sindh. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
3 / 3
Short Url
Updated 15 May 2021

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari
  • Banarsi silk was a luxurious hand-woven fabric once made in the city of Khairpur, in Sindh
  • No official data exists on the history of the industry and the stories are told by the weavers themselves

SINDH: At the Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Colony in the city of Khairpur, in Sindh, 47-year-old merchant Zafar Abbas Ansari was waiting, hoping for a few additional orders of silk Banarsi saris as Eid Al-Fitr approached.
The sari is a garment native to South Asia, where a long piece of cloth is wrapped elaborately around the body — usually in cotton or silk — and worn with a matching blouse.
Although the city does not make Banarsi any longer — it is now made in Karachi, more than 400 km away — customers still come to the city to purchase the fabric.
Inside the deserted 70-year-old market — once a bustling place — Zafar’s shop is among the last three Banarsi shops left. His family is one of the 40 weaver families who brought the industry to Khairpur when they migrated from India in 1952.
“It is almost two decades since Khairpur stopped producing Banarsi saris after the industry’s collapse. However, even today, the brand is popular among customers. They keep demanding Khairpur’s brand,” Zafar told Arab News.
In its heyday, Khairpur’s Banarsi sari was synonymous with luxury, with vendors supplying the fabric not only locally but also exporting to Pakistani families living in the UK and other European countries.
Inside Zafar’s shop, unstitched pieces of colorful saris — the blouse, the petticoat and main sari fabric — are displayed. The shop shows off different varieties of saris, including the traditional katan — a plain woven fabric with pure silk threads — chiffon, as well as synthetic fabrics.
“Banarsi sari has distinction and standing,” Zafar said proudly. “It is worn by royal families because of its grace and elegance. In some families it is an essential part of the bridal trousseau.”


The price of a sari depends upon its type. The most expensive sari fabric available in the Khairpur market currently is worth Rs45,000 ($300) a piece
Khairpur’s Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Colony is named after the city of Banaras in India (now Varanasi) because of the silk weavers who migrated from there.
There are no official records, and the story of the garment comes from the weavers themselves. They say the history of the Banaras sari industry in Khairpur is linked with Ghulam Saddiquah Begum — the wife of Khairpur state’s then ruler, Mir Ali Murad Khan Talpur of the Talpur dynasty.
Saddiquah Begum herself came from Bahawalpur state, and in 1949, the weavers said, during a visit to India’s Hyderabad Deccan, she offered Mohammed Yusuf Ansari — a sari trader from Banaras — the chance to start manufacturing in Khairpur.
She is said to have offered her state’s support for the establishment of the manufacturing units required.
In 1952, about 40 families of the Ansari clan migrated from Banaras to Khairpur and sari manufacturing began on handlooms. Later, the saris were exported to other countries.
Arab News could not independently verify this information.
According to Anjum Sajjad Ansari, grandson of Muhammad Yusuf Ansari and a representative of the Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Association Khairpur, at its peak there were 400 handlooms in Khairpur. Today, not a single handloom remains.
“At Khairpur’s Banarsi Silk Weavers Colony today there are 16 houses of traditional weavers. However only three are involved in this business of selling Karachi-made fabric,” Anjum said.
Like elsewhere, the Banarsi brand was associated with pure silk thread work. Initially, Khairpur used silk imported from China, but later the silk came from Punjab’s Changa Manga as Pakistan developed hatching silkworms and silk fiber producing factories.
The whole family engaged in the manufacturing process, including silk weaving, dyeing, warping, and reeling. It took between two to three days’ work to complete a single sari.
The silk weaving industry was thriving into the 1960s.
“In 1965, Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan visited and gave incentives and subsidies that boosted the industry,” said Anjum.
“However, in the later years successive governments paid little heed to this industry, and manufacturing units were shifted to Karachi by 2000,” he said.
For Anjum, there is still a chance to revive the past glory of Khairpur.
“We have given proposals to the government at different forums. But nothing has been done yet. The Banarsi sari has become a trademark for Khairpur,” he said.
“Khairpur’s distinction was to produce only handmade silk fabric, unlike other areas where machines are involved. If the government is sincere, factories could be re-established and skilled laborers could be recalled once more from Karachi.”


Streetwear label Les Benjamins looks to the road ahead of Dubai store opening

Streetwear label Les Benjamins looks to the road ahead of Dubai store opening
Les Benjamins Fall 2022. Supplied
Updated 18 October 2021

Streetwear label Les Benjamins looks to the road ahead of Dubai store opening

Streetwear label Les Benjamins looks to the road ahead of Dubai store opening

DUBAI: Cars and clothes have a long, intertwined history. While it may seem like the two are radically different, fashion has a longstanding relationship with the automotive industry, with designers continuously looking to the road when creating their collections and runway looks.

Coco Chanel’s 1926 Little Black Dress was inspired by Henry Ford’s Model T; in the 1970s, car customizer Kenny “Von Dutch” Howard helped spawn the trucker hat trend; Thierry Mugler presented a Cadillac-inspired corset in the 1980s, and more recently, Demna Gvasalia turned floor mats and side mirrors into skirts and clutches for Balenciaga’s Fall 2017 ready-to-wear collection. 

Thierry Mugler Fall 1992 Ready-to-Wear. Getty Images

Also in 2017, American designer and avid car collector Ralph Lauren presented his fall offering in his Bedford Hills garage for a spectacle inspired by luxury sports cars. For the same season this year, Casablanca designer Charaf Tajer took inspiration from Formula One for his collection, aptly titled “Grand Prix.”

Then there are the countless car collaborations: Hermes’s Bugatti Chiron, Gucci’s monogram Fiat 500, and a Lamborghini Murcielago customized by Versace. Just last week, Mercedes-Benz tapped multi-hyphenate Virgil Abloh to redesign the Mercedes Maybach.

Les Benjamins Fall 2022. Supplied

Now, the latest label to seek inspiration from the automobile industry is Istanbul-based brand Les Benjamins, helmed by German-born Bunyamin Aydin alongside his Saudi wife Lamia, who is responsible for the womenswear portion of the streetwear brand’s collections.

Titled “Forgotten Pacenotes,” the label’s new offering for fall 2021 celebrates Turkey’s rally icons of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Renç Koçibey, Serdar Bostanci and Ali Sipahi, among others.

The collection, which is split into two chapters “rally style” and “crash & repair,” is punctuated with pieces one would find on the Grand Prix or Daytona 500 stands. There are sleek, leather zip-up jackets, oil spill prints, track jackets and pants, balaclava hoods, vegan leather vests and zip-ups emblazoned with Les Benjamins patches, evoking the bright sponsor logos on heavily-modded race cars. 

Les Benjamins Fall 2022. Supplied

As for the accessories, there are racing gloves, logo-dotted dad caps and sleek handbags with magnetic clasps that open and close with the ease of a push-to-start button.

When it came to the womenswear, Lamia gave a sartorial nod to French pilot Michèle Mouton, who became the first, and only, woman to win a world rally championship event in 1981.

“The heritage of racing and stories that inspired me merging with my creative vision brings together a contemporary take on rally racing,” Aydin told Arab News.

Les Benjamins Fall 2022. Supplied

The designer has always had a fascination with cars. “I love cars,” he said, adding that he’s mostly interested in the design aspect and clothing style. “I’d love to design a car one day and maybe a racing team,” he added.

The new offering is available online and will also be showcased at the upcoming Les Benjamins flagship in Dubai, which will mark the mostly genderless streetwear brand’s first store in the Gulf and wider Middle East — bar Turkey.

Les Benjamins Fall 2022. Supplied

The brand, which has found fans in Kim Kardashian West, Justin Bieber and Saweetie, already has two stores in Istanbul and over 150 stockists.

“The community we have here in Dubai has always welcomed me and Les Benjamins,” shared Aydin. “I feel at home here.”


Malika El-Maslouhi fronts new campaign for Frame

Malika El-Maslouhi fronts new campaign for Frame
Malika El-Maslouhi fronts a new campaign for Frame. Instagram
Updated 18 October 2021

Malika El-Maslouhi fronts new campaign for Frame

Malika El-Maslouhi fronts new campaign for Frame

DUBAI: The fashion campaigns just keep rolling in for Malika El-Maslouhi. The Moroccan-Italian model was selected to star in the new Frame Fall 2022 campaign, which was shot by the Los Angeles-based brand’s art director and photographer Caitlin Taffs.

The half-Arab catwalker appears in a series of images wearing key pieces from American design duo Jens Grede and Erik Torstensson’s latest ready-to-wear offering.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by FRAME (@frame)

For the campaign, the 22-year-old posed against a white backdrop wearing an oversized denim jacket layered with a white button up that was opened to reveal a black shirt underneath. The look was paired with relaxed trousers and white leather shoes. El-Maslouhi also appears in the photographs wearing a leather, cropped sweater with tie-up pants as well as a leather trench coat.

Moroccan-Egyptian-Dutch model Imaan Hammam also partnered with the Los Angeles-based label last year on a signature capsule collection boasting 20 pieces that launched during New York Fashion Week. 

El-Maslouhi, who was born in Milan to an Italian mother and a Moroccan father, is one of the most in-demand models in the fashion industry at the moment.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

The catwalk star, who made her modelling debut when she was 18-years-old, has had a stellar Fall 2022 season, gracing the runways of storied fashion houses in New York, London, Milan and Paris and walking for the likes of Ulla Johnson, Prabal Gurung, David Koma, Boss, Missoni, Messika and more.

In the past, she has walked for Dior, Chanel and Valentino, among others, in addition to appearing in international campaigns for prestigious brands like Lanvin and Dundas.

Meanwhile, she was recently tapped to be the ambassador of luxury womenswear label La Perla’s new beauty line, La Perla Beauty.

The model was selected to be the face of the French brand’s signature scent.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

And when she’s not modelling collections, she’s helping design them.

She recently teamed up with London-based retailer Ishkar on a range of necklaces handcrafted by jewelers in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The collection includes the Malika Choker, a handwoven, gold-plated piece complete with an adjustable M clasp that can be worn in a variety of ways that retails for $101, with 20 percent of the sale going toward the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a non-governmental organization that supports small businesses in Afghanistan and the Middle East.


Arab Fashion Council names Barbie as its 2021 Fashion Icon

The Arab Fashion Council has named Mattel doll Barbie as the Fashion Icon 2021. (Supplied)
The Arab Fashion Council has named Mattel doll Barbie as the Fashion Icon 2021. (Supplied)
Updated 17 October 2021

Arab Fashion Council names Barbie as its 2021 Fashion Icon

The Arab Fashion Council has named Mattel doll Barbie as the Fashion Icon 2021. (Supplied)

DUBAI: The Arab Fashion Council has named Mattel doll Barbie as the Fashion Icon 2021.

In a tribute to the much-loved doll, designer Jeremy Scott will present fashion label Moschino’s archive collection inspired by Barbie and receive the Council’s Medal of Honor at the Fashion Icon Awards on Oct. 24 in Dubai.

Lebanese superstar Maya Diab, who was named the first Fashion Icon last year during a digital celebration streamed Beirut, will present the trophy to Kim Culmone, Mattel’s senior vice president of global Barbie design.

Accepting the award on Barbie’s behalf, Culmone said: “Barbie has always been more than a toy, she is an international icon deeply connected to culture. With fashion being a critical component of our brand DNA, we are inspired by the fashion community, and at times, Barbie has even been a source of inspiration for the very same talented community. For Barbie to receive the prestigious Fashion Icon Award 2021 from the Arab Fashion Council is a true honor and I look forward to the privilege of witnessing the incredible talent showing during Arab Fashion Week.”

“A Fashion Icon is a role model that inspires ideology, change and setting trends,” Mohammed Aqra, chief strategy officer of the Arab Fashion Council, said. “Barbie is this Icon that has been and still inspiring generations of children to embrace the best of over 200 careers. In reference to Fashion, Barbie is always a main figure that ignites the sense of creativity and love of fashion from the early journey of designers’ career. For over 60 years Barbie has been inspiring designers from around the globe including legacy creative directors. It is time for Barbie to be named the Fashion Icon in tribute to its lifetime achievement.”


Actress Salma Hayek shows off Elie Saab suit in Los Angeles

The actress showed off a leopard-print suit by Elie Saab in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)
The actress showed off a leopard-print suit by Elie Saab in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)
Updated 16 October 2021

Actress Salma Hayek shows off Elie Saab suit in Los Angeles

The actress showed off a leopard-print suit by Elie Saab in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US-Mexican actress Salma Hayek made an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in Los Angeles this weekend wearing a feisty leopard-print suit by Lebanese designer Elie Saab.

The actress, who is of Spanish and Lebanese descent, appeared on the TV show alongside fellow actor Kumail Nanjiani to talk about their latest film, Marvel’s “Eternals.”

For the occasion, she looked glamorous in a coordinating set by Saab, hailing from the designer’s pre-Fall 2021 collection.

The wide-legged animal-print pants featured a single black stripe on each leg, while the fitted blazer boasted black lapels and was worn over a sheer black top with a high collar.

(Getty Images)

The film’s star-studded cast includes Hayek, Nanjiani, Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden and teen Syrian refugee-turned-actor Zain Al-Rafeea, among others.

Directed by Oscar-winner Chloe Zhao, the plot centers on an immortal alien race with superhuman powers who have secretly lived on Earth for thousands of years. The film is set to be released in theaters in November.

While chatting with show host Jimmy Kimmel on Thursday, Hayek revealed why her co-star Jolie smashed her face into a birthday cake in a video that went viral online in September.

When the show host asked about her 55th birthday celebration last month, Hayek said: “There was no birthday party. All of those people were crashers. I said, ‘I don’t want a birthday party this year.’ I had to work all day. Twenty-five people, that I told them there is no birthday party, showed up anyway,” she said, referring to the party documented in her September Instagram post. 

The actress then explained that it’s a Mexican birthday tradition to push a person’s face into their cake — and Jolie was tasked with the job.

In the video, a group of friends are gathered around the actress chanting, “Mordida!” as Jolie pushes Hayek’s face into her birthday cake.

“After you blow the candles, you have to mordida,” Hayek explained to Kimmel. “It means a bite. You have to bite the cake with your mouth, without your hands holding or anything. Then, there’s always one that comes and hits you and sticks your face inside the cake.

“We were starting, ‘Mordida!’ She’s like, ‘What’s happening?’” Hayek said of Jolie’s apparent confusion over the tradition, before she got in on the fun and smashed Hayek's face into the coconut cake.


Stars shine on the ‘Casablanca Beats’ red carpet at El Gouna Film Festival

Tunisian actress Dorra Zarrouk arrives for the screening of ‘Casablanca Beats’ at the Festival Plaza, on 2nd day at 5th edition of El Gouna Film Festival, in El Gouna, Egypt, on October 15, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2021

Stars shine on the ‘Casablanca Beats’ red carpet at El Gouna Film Festival

Tunisian actress Dorra Zarrouk arrives for the screening of ‘Casablanca Beats’ at the Festival Plaza, on 2nd day at 5th edition of El Gouna Film Festival, in El Gouna, Egypt, on October 15, 2021. (AFP)

EL GOUNA: Egypt’s El-Gouna Film Festival screened its first movie on Friday — the Moroccan film “Casablanca Beats.” 

Stars, including Tunisian actress Dorra Zarrouk and Egyptian actress Amina Khalil, arrived on the red carpet in glamorous gowns. 

Zarrouk opted for a voluminous grey gown by Dubai-based fashion house Maison Yeya. She accessorized her look with jewelry from Yessayan Jewelry, founded in Lebanon. 

Meanwhile, Khalil chose an asymmetric golden dress designed by Egyptian couturier Sara Onsi. She completed her red carpet attire with a clutch from the Egyptian brand, previously championed by Kylie Jenner, Okhtein. 

Amina Khalil. (AFP)

Egyptian actress Youssra wore a hot red satin gown from Egyptian fashion house Nazazy Couture. Her chunky gold earrings and bracelet were custom made by Egyptian label Dima Jewelry. 

Youssra. (AFP)

Lebanese influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen was among the guests who attended the event. This is Wazen’s first time attending the festival. 

In an interview with Arab News after the event, she said: “I was so impressed, from the moment I walked in everything was extremely organized. It was such a beautiful venue. We’ve been to a lot of film festivals, a lot of red carpet events, and I don’t think we’ve seen something on this level.

“So, I am super proud to see something like this coming out of the Arab region. I can’t wait to be there again hopefully next year,” she added. 

The eyewear designer wore a one-shouldered golden gown by Lebanese couturier Nicolas Jebran.  

Egyptian actors Jamila Awad, Rogena, Ola Roshdy, Ahmed Dawood and veteran actress Laila Eloui were among other celebrities who posed for pictures before the screening.

“Casablanca Beats,” which was in competition for the prized Palme d’Or, had its world premiere in the official competition of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

Directed by renowned French-Moroccan filmmaker Nabil Ayouch, the film tells the story of a former rapper, Anas, who takes a job at a cultural center in a working-class neighborhood in Casablanca.

Encouraged by their new teacher, his students try to free themselves from the weight of restrictive traditions in order to live out their passions and express themselves through hip-hop. 

The director and actors were not able to attend the screening of the film in El Gouna, said the executive producer who attended the red carpet.   

It is competing for the feature narrative award at El Gouna Film Festival.