Breaking Away From Tradition

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Samil Ali grabbed a seat in a top medical college to become a doctor. But his interests lay elsewhere. Three months into his studies, and Ali knew that medicine was not his cup of tea. Having ventured into the field of fashion designing by organizing the first ramp-walk in Srinagar, there is no looking back, Ruwa Shah reports.

Samil Ali, 24, who graduated in the field of fashion technology, gave up a lucrative job in Delhi and returned to Kashmir to start a fashion designing company. Ali wanted to give the traditional dresses of Kashmir a new look by creating modified attires for youngsters which didn’t defy the cultural and traditional boundaries.

“I wanted to start something of my own, and I started from Kashmir,” the passionate designer said. Working in Kashmir and adding color to its rich and diverse culture was Ali’s dream. With an affluent background, he never thought about making money. Creativeness in his work was what he desired.

Ali did his schooling from various institutes like Delhi Public School, Delhi and Burn Hall School, Srinagar. He had grabbed a seat in the common entrance test of medical examinations and got admission in MBBS in Batra ASCOMS, Jammu. But he was not interested to become a doctor, like his father Dr Gazzanfar Ali and left the studies after attending classes for merely three months. He went to Delhi where he took up four-year integrated course of fashion technology at University of Wighan and Leigh (WLC) and completed his Masters from the same university in London.

When he returned to India, Ali was appointed as a data base manager in Information and Communication Technology Association (ICTA). With a lack of creativity in the job, he quit and joined ‘Pantaloons’ in Delhi as a Human Resource manager. Even this did not fit Samil’s persona. Then he got a job with ‘Ritu Wears’ as a senior designer in Noida.

After gaining enough experience in fashion designing, he returned to his homeland in 2012 to create a platform for himself. For the first time, he organized a cultural show SaenMeeras in SKICC, Srinagar, on December 30, 2012 where 40 Kashmiri young boys walked the ramp wearing Pherans designed by Ali.

Ali, whose grandfather Late Haji Abdul Qayoom was a former education minister, showcased 24 different designs of Pheran worn by people in Kashmir during winters among which 12 designs were exclusive and others 12 looked a bit traditional. The designs included high-neck pheran, shawl-attached pheran, open-pheran and belt-pheran. The show was held to show the variations and changes brought by Ali to the traditional pheran.

To bring innovations with creativity to the design of pheran was not the only dream of Ali, he also showcased other modified Kashmiri attires, like Kasab (used as a head veil by women). Ali also showcased pherans with modified handwork embroidery ‘Tila work’ ‘Crewel work’ and ‘Sozni work’. The newly designed outfits had all the traditional elements with appealing designs.

Other than the dress material, a modified design of Khraaw, the ancient footwear of Kashmir, was also presented on the ramp along with a Polahorr, another footwear made up of wicker work.

Samil believes that the rich cultural elements of Kashmir can be showcased on the national platform. “We have a lot of resources and a multi-dimensional culture. It just needs a trigger. It can help us in terms of economy,” he says.

Right now, Ali is working with Wilson and Royals, an event management company privately owned by Imran Bashir, Ali and three other Kashmiri boys who are planning to get more youth involved in fashion industry. “It can be one activity for youngsters. There are people in our state who are actually willing to join fashion industry but they lack proper guidance and support,” he believes.

“Fashion is what reflects the personality and attire of a person. There is no concept of fashion here. It needs not to be generalized. We can define fashion in our own way, whatever suits us best, according to the limitation of resources,” he says. Feeling dejected about the lack of internal support in organizing events like SaenMeeras, Ali says the major contribution in organizing the event was provided by a Delhi-based real estate firm called AMR. “We require help from governmental and non-governmental organizations as well.”

Samil believes it takes efforts and confidence to make a style statement. Joining hands with some other boys, Samil created his group called “Deja–vu, where they have included photography, event management, designing, graphic designing, sound and video engineering and documentaries.

He had recently been assigned to design costumes for a musical concert to be held in Srinagar organized by a collaboration of ‘Deja-vu’ and ‘Fifth Dimension’- another privately owned organization in Kashmir.

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