by Saima Bhat
SRINAGAR: After winning accolades for showcasing Pheran on the beaches of California City last summer, the Kashmir Pheran has now reached to the New York City with a new theme of Kashmiri State of mind.
The latest shoot conceptualised by a Kashmiri-British blogger Sumaya Teli in New York was second in the row. This time she posted around 34 pictures on her blog where she writes, “It’s the city of a million snapshots and a thousand fashion editorials but where Haute Couture has been photographed on the lakes of the Dal in Srinagar Kashmiri Embroidery has never been captured in a photo-shoot on the streets of New York.”
Teli also writes about her secret desire when she lived in the City in 2010. She wished if she could meet Brandon from the fame of Humans of New York. Then she imagines the meeting as if she’ll be wearing one of her gorgeously embroidered pherans and he would ask her, “What are you wearing? Or the ever favourite of everybody I meet ‘Where are you from?’ and I would say something super poetic about being from the UK but my soul belonging to …… Kashmir (yeah, I know, so unique) I’d tell him the story about the first time I proudly wore ‘me’…like I said, I had it all figured out.”
She goes on writing: “Well, I never did bump into Brandon but that desire to exhibit these gorgeous pieces of traditional embroidery worn within a modern framework-put the Pheran on the map of New York City so to speak was a deep one.”
Sumaya says the idea of photographing Kashmiri clothes with NYC as a backdrop was instinctive, exciting, and with iconic potential. After California beach, this time, she says she wanted to tell the story of the real urban Kashmiri woman, an affirmation to her teenage self when she wanted to ‘assimilate’ and shop the high streets of London.
“I always knew I had something too precious and valuable to let go of in the worn tilla threads that scratched my face every time my grandmother lovingly took my head to her chest in one of her epic hugs,” she writes.
For the current shoot, Sumaya had three models wearing Pherans with Tilla Embroidery including Suemyra Shah, a media and entertainment lawyer, Mehrunnisa Wani, a professor at the City University of New York and writer at Forbes and Faiqa Anbreen, an aerospace engineer.
The clothes were sourced from the Hamzaara label by Kashmiri New Yorker Nousheen Afzal who has started this business as a way of making Kashmiri clothes available to Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri clientele in the USA.
Nousheen and her sister, Shazia Gojwari, employ a team of fifteen Kashmiri based artisans and take their time to carefully select materials and choose the designs and combinations of colour and embroidery for each shawl and pheran. “They typically design a total of six pherans or shawls per month but the time that it takes to execute those designs varies depending on whether the embroidery is done by hand or by machine. Afzal happily curates and designs for both,” Sumaya writes.
While quoting the Hamzaara owners, Sumaya writes they order plain pure pashmina shawls from their trustworthy vendors and then they employ artisans from remote villages in Kashmir who make a living through this work. The sisters personally visit them when placing an order and they work together on the colour schemes and the type of threads to be used.
She further quotes them saying that the sisters always wanted to bring Kashmiri fashion to their now native New York and took a bold step in leaving her career in the medical field to pursue this growing sense of entrepreneurship! “Within less than a year of starting, my work got noticed and my clients appreciated me for my sensitivity in blending modern colours and trends with traditional designs. Hamzaara has clients in UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia and of course all over the USA,” Sumaya quotes one of the sisters say.