When Om, a Lotus flower, a Khanda and a combination of crescent and stars walked the ramp in Karachi, Pakistan, on March 28, fashion designer Mohsin Sayeed made a statement that shocked many.
Titled ‘Colour Me Secular’, the 50-year-old’s latest collection aimed at showcasing the six main religions that exist in Pakistan — Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism, apart from Islam. “Secularism is profanity in Pakistan, it’s being shunned all over the world. I want to showcase inclusion, social cohesion and give a strong message of tolerance and inclusion,” said Sayeed. He runs his label, The Pink Tree Company, with Hadia Khan and Sheena Rizvi, which turns six this year.
Part of the annual Hum TV fashion showcase, the collection put on the runway a saffron sari with Om block-printed on it to represent Hinduism, a leafy green farshi-garara to represent Islam, a Muslin priest’s robe over a shift dress with two Crosses, and Khanda- the military symbol of Sikhs — on a blouse with a sari with Urdu text on it, among others. The jewellery too comprises religious symbols such as an Om pendant and ring, and the Faravahar icon of the Parsis.
“There’s no time to be subtle anymore, which is why the symbols have been used. It’s quite a bold move and we are receiving flak for it too,” said Sayeed.
He began the show with Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s first Presidential address at the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, where he emphasised on the need to be secular. “Fashion is highly political, it can be used as sociopolitical expression, and I hope it has an impact on people,” said Sayeed.
Since the photos of the collection made their way to the Facebook and Instagram accounts, Sayeed said he’s been inundated with a lot of hatred. “We’ve been careful to not offend anyone. None of the block prints of symbols touch the ground… we consulted followers of all the six religions. But people are saying why we are promoting Hindu culture,” said Sayeed.