We found an interesting intersection of feminism and art in Seher Tareen’s couture collection launched last weekend in Lahore by Studio S. The theme of the launch was ‘Hear Me Roar’, which Tareen believes is the anthem of the modern woman. The ambience at the launch reminded us of a Jane Austen tea party, but set in an art gallery – where artists wore the art itself. Risham Syed, Aroosa Rana and Saba Khan, three leading artists of our time, featured as live installations, modeling the dresses as they interacted with the audience and spoke about the piece they were wearing and what it represented to them. The view was stunning: not because the dresses were lovely, or because the women wearing them were beautiful, but because together, the women and their dresses had brought to life the very image of the Indestructible Feminine.
A panel discussion followed the live fashion installation. It was moderated by Mina Malik Hussain.
“The inspiration for the aesthetic of these dresses came from the works of Japanese masters from the 18th and 19th century. Paintings by Katsushika Hokusai, Katsukawa Shunsho and Shodo Kawarazaki have been featured in the collection,” Tareen said. However, these clothes are layered and each layer revealed its own secret on closer examination. Tareen had stitched the lyrics of Helen Reddy’s song “I am Woman (Hear Me Roar)” in various parts of the dresses.
“The song became the lifeblood of the collection,” Tareen said.
The edges of the couture gowns were frayed and the kimonos were decorated with deconstructed patches of embellishment. Text was scattered across the collection; words from the song – Tareen’s own handwriting – was scribbled onto the pieces. “Almost like an affirmation,” Tareen underscores.
“The inspiration for the aesthetic of these dresses came from the works of Japanese masters from the 18th and 19th century. Paintings by Katsushika Hokusai, Katsukawa Shunsho and Shodo Kawarazaki have been featured in the collection,” Tareen said
During the discussion, the participants discussed their works and their struggles as women in the world of art and design.
“They (families) usually allow girls to study art because they think it’s a woman’s field and that making pretty things in a corner of the house would keep them occupied and sequestered at the same time,” Saba Khan said. “What they don’t realise is that by having such an attitude, they unwittingly create barriers for women in this field,” she said. “It takes me twice as long to make a piece than it does for a man – only because getting access to various markets is so much harder and our mobility as women is so restricted.”
The artists also discussed the works of the late Saira Shaikh, who Risham Syed said was very brave. “Her solo exhibition Mirror Mirror on the Wall at Rohtas Art Gallery was phenomenal. It included nude sketches of the artist and by setting up that exhibit, she certainly broke barriers in the Pakistani art community,” she noted.