ABC of Fashion with Aamiriat
Aamir Bokhari of the blog Aamiriat speaks to Libas Now about his take on plagiarism in the industry and what fashion means to him.
With Pinterest boards increasingly influencing fashion designers, the fine line between a replica and inspiration has been blurred to a point where it has become almost unrecognisable. Aamir Bokhari, an emerging face with on the Pakistani fashion blogosphere, shares his views on the mater, shedding light on the problem with authenticity in the fashion industry.
Q) What is fashion to you?
Fashion for me is storytelling, fantasy, something which is above normal clothing. It is a step above from our daily routine and thus inspires us to discover and express ourselves.
Q) How did you find yourself investing time in reading & researching on fashion related content?
I am a business graduate and I never thought I would get into it. It started in 2012 when I began noticing how certain local brands here were blatantly copying international brands like Zara. I always wanted to study history and fine arts but somehow ended up in finance and economics. I started googling the subject and was reading up on it extensively. Imparting this acquired knowledge onto other people became a primary interest for me.
Q) What is your take on Plagiarism in the fashion industry?
When I started in 2012, I was very angry about it and totally against it. Over time I feel it has become such a normal practice because previously people did not have access to the internet, and so a lot of people used to get away with a lot of things. Today I see more than 10 accounts doing what I started doing. Currently fashion giants are being copied again; ironically these big wigs started copying western designers first and now they have become a victim of the same cycle. I still fully condemn this but as time has evolved, even if I miss out something, there are other people who are aware of what is happening because of the beauty and freedom of the internet.
Q) What qualifies a design as a replica or a copy?
So according to international intellectual property law one has to have 3 differences from the original design to call it your own. As a layman, since I don’t have a background in the arts, I follow this rule of thumb: if it is unmistakably obvious to your eye, it is what it is. I don’t believe in following the rule of pointing out 3 or 4 differences.
Q) What’s your take on the debate between high street and high end?
Sadly, our consumer is not that evolved. Consumers generally feel that anything that has a tag is a fashion brand and anything that comes from a fancy store is a branded product. Even brands are confused as to which category they belong to. Ultimately our consumer does not distinguish between a high street brand and a luxury lawn brand, sorry to say. This is why I feel that these categories are not applicable to our market because here it is either custom made or ready to wear.
Q) What are your views on cultural appropriation in global fashion today?
There are two debates on this subject. On our side of the world where we are inherently quite racist and ethnocentric, we crack pathan jokes, we crack kala jokes. We must realise that we need to solve our problems and misperceptions first. In terms of design, I think Pakistan has not evolved yet to call other people out on anything and we need to improve and educate ourselves first to get into a larger debate on this. Before criticizing people internationally, we don’t see how we pick up Asian influences and change the features of a model through makeup techniques to replicate those of another region.
Q) When the west takes inspiration from us, and when we take inspiration from the west there’s a difference. How would you explain that difference?
So there have been instances, but far too less with big brands being inspired by South Asian cultural fashion staples like ajrak, kolhapuri chappal, Peshawari chappal. I think what we need to focus on is that they should give credit where its due and mostly they do. On our side of the world the problem is that we start to copy everything exactly as it is just because they copied something from us once. I think that is kind of unfair. They pick up our cultural elements and we pick up their final product. It would be better if we also take inspiration from their culture rather than blatantly copying what they have produced.
Q) Do you think the fashion world is becoming white washed?
I think it’s the opposite. I would say that there are more ethnic influences being introduced and the direction is towards making the industry more inclusive worldwide. International luxury brands have started taking more Asian and African models for their couture collections. Locally, we have always had a complex with fair skinned people and this had been the case since before partition. I don’t see a drastic change in this for another 10 years, as we are increasingly becoming obsessed with the goras, this might even get worse with the passage of time.
Q) Just because something sells well, doesn’t mean it’s interesting. What is your idea of ‘interesting fashion’?
Interesting is something which stimulates the conversation, it’s either so good or so bad that it makes you want to discuss it, makes you want to go again and see it. Like for example, in Pakistan we have this thing that every girl needs to be conventionally beautiful and we just follow the trend, that’s what sells well in Pakistan I think. There are brands like Agha Noor, which I am in complete awe of as they have almost no shoots or influencers or PR but you see women rushing there when they have new articles in stores. They have created this new segment that if it’s selling well, it will keep on selling well time and time again. So Agha Noor is the perfect example of selling well but to me their designs have never been interesting enough. Moreover, everyone is out there to make money. I have talked to designers after their shows or on Instagram, they say that we also have to make profits out of it. The problem lies with the consumer and the image of conformity. Nobody is taking risks because they think that what if it does not sell? Consumers are just following the normative trends and everybody is wearing the same thing, this is the reason why designers are not taking risks and making new interesting things.
Q) Would you agree that designers need a crash course in fashion today?
No I don’t think that they need a crash course, a lot of people are very bright and enterprising. What needs to be done is investment in fresh talent. A lot of times when you go to a PIFD/NCA thesis there are a lot of very talented people coming up with innovative ideas but nobody is willing to invest in them. Students are not taught how to become entrepreneurs. What they need is a course in is how to market their craft.
Q) Why are we as a nation not so experimental when it comes to fashion?
I personally feel that in recent years we have not had a creative industry. If we look for creative brands, there are none. A reason behind this is that our industry has increasingly relied upon Bollywood. Lack of creativity is the main reason. It will take time to see experimentation happening.
Q) What would you say is the role of a blogger or editor in the age of social media influencer?
I feel an editor’s job is different, like initiating a conversation, telling a story and giving the people a point of view to think about. A blogger like myself, we are very low on the fashion chain, but then again everyone has a different USP; I personally feel there’s space for everyone. Also, I think we’re still not creating proper content, even myself. Eventually people will start using different mediums like videos, which is the next big thing.
Q) Do you think fashion shows will become obsolete in the next few years?
No, I don’t they will become obsolete but the way they are done and executed might. I think influencers, photographers and image makers like Nabila would come up with new ideas again. We don’t have real buyers, or multi brand stores anymore and I think that would change.
Q) In a saturated market, what is the one thing aspiring brands should know in order to become successful?
Find your niche, don’t go where there are already 10 people. For fresh graduates I would say do not do pastel bridals because there are already a lot of people doing it. We need to create different things that are not counterproductive. What Faraz Manan did was a very wise decision of taking the brand to international waters. Another way would be to identify a very small percentage of people and cater to their demands.
Q) Is fashion an exclusive medium in your opinion?
Yes, in Pakistan at one end of the spectrum fashion is exclusivity but then again we consider lawn a fashion statement too. Fashion is not supposed to be for everyone, similar to art. Fashion is experimental, self-expressive, storytelling and fantasy and as I mentioned earlier, none of this is implemented in Pakistan sadly. But I think luxury fashion is all about exclusivity in terms of technique and availability. The ultimate example of this would be if you can or cannot get your bridal dress done from Bunto Kazmi.
Q) Does the idea of artistic co-branding/ collaborations interest you?
Yes, I’ve always promoted such ideas, I’ve always looked forward to them. They used to happen much more frequently back then. Right now it has been limited to collaborations between fashion designers and jewelry designers. I would want it to be something like prints being inspired by abstract artists.
Q) The worlds of streetwear and high fashion bridging, a simple t-shirt is elevated and sold at the price of luxury fashion. What do you see that as?
There are all kinds of clothes for all kinds of people. I personally always look for value in terms of what it actually is rather than what it represents. What matters to me is how well the product is made and how long it will last.
Q) Concepts of age, season, gender and identity are increasingly fluid and are being reconsidered as states of mind rather than limited definitions. Your take on this?
For the larger population and masses, I don’t think so. Brands like Generation have featured older women and plus sized women as well but the way people react to those campaigns depict that we are probably not ready for this.
Q) Lately it seems like the fashion industry is taking on more disruptions than creating them. Runway seasons are shifting, fast fashion is going increasingly faster, where are we as an industry headed?
There will come a time when people will want to buy a 3 pc lawn suit under a 1000 rupees. Not much design value can be added to these products as they are not such commodities. The consumers are demanding lower price points and brands have started compromising on their quality as they aim to produce more to achieve higher profit margins. But all this will eventually collapse as it very unsustainable.
Q) Cultural nostalgia will spark energized new mix of old and new, and real and fake. Elaborate.
Nostalgia will always be an element for inspiring fashion especially for a country like ours which has a very rich culture. How and how well you do it is the question. Currently everybody is trying to imitate different brands whereas they should have very distinct images. You cannot look forward if you cannot look back and see what you have done to cross check and have references.
Q) Fashion or Style and Why?
I think style because fashion is an editors or designers vision, what you do with it is style.
Q) Online or Offline?
Offline. It is the new luxury.
Q) Modern or traditional?
Q) Blog or Youtube?
Neither, I’d rather be offline.
Q) Fine line between trendy and tacky?
There is a very broad line – trendy is something pleasing to the eye and tacky is just tacky.