From traditional wear to keep oneself warm during winters to a fashion statement, Pheran has come a long way. Rahiba R Parveen, reports the trend that has brought Pheran back into the limelight
Its half past nine in the morning and snow has not stopped yet. Guarded by big maple trees the main access road to the city centre is buried under one feet snow. In the whiteness, a woman in her early twenties walks, hurriedly tip-toes her long hunter boots on the soft snow. To protect herself from the cold, she is wearing a long grey cloak. The cloak stands out in the whiteness as it has purple and red Presley designs on its neck and arms. It is a Pheran. And the girl is on her way to the office in Srinagar’s upmarket Regal Street.
Over the years, Kashmir’s Pheran, a traditional long cloak or gown worn by both women and men during winters, which had been pushed to oblivion for some time, is back on the streets of Srinagar. Once hailed as the Venice of the East, where haute-couture was a household name, Srinagar city lost its touch with fashion once guns started to roar on the streets.
But in the last few years, designer wear and trendy apparels are slowly making a comeback on the streets of Srinagar.
Now Pakistani designers wear, which include Anarkali suits and Pallazzos ruled the summer fashion, traditional Pheran is adding colour to winter fashion. Kashmiris are once again comfortable in wearing a Pheran at the office or on special occasions like marriages and parties. “Earlier we used to make cheap Ari work Pherans solely for tourists as local demand was negligible. But now Pherans is back in fashion among locals,” said Shafiq Ahmed, who owns a leading Apparel showroom in Srinagar. “We sell Pherans between rupees 1500 and 9000. The upper range is for bridal Pherans.”
A few decades back, for outdoor use women preferred Pherans with heavy embroidery and tilla work. But now Pheran is classy and cheaper.
Andleeb Saqi, a local apparel designer who has worked with reputed Indian fashion designers like Rohit Bal and Raja Muzaffar Ali, has a huge clientele for designers Pherans in Kashmir.
After working on details of a bridal Pheran, which makes an essential part of the Kashmiri bride’s trousseau, Saqi took up designing Pherans for casual wear.
“Four years ago, I got an order to design a bridal Pheran. Only then I noticed the interest of people in traditional wear. While I worked on many such orders, I designed a few for casual wear and it clicked,” says Saqi. In last winter Saqi has designed around 150 Pherans for her clients.
“This year too demand is good so far,” says Saqi.
Her clients include school going children, working women and also those who want semi-party wear, party wear.
“Pherans for youngsters need to be trendy. They include those with hoods and patchwork, while as for office going crowd, it is more sophisticated and less gaudy. The colours need to be picked wisely for them,” she explains. Saqi believes that a well designed Pheran keeps you both warm and make u look classy.
She added that men too are opting for classy woollen material for Pherans. Blacks, browns, greys are the colours attracting men who wear plain Pherans with collar and narrow sleeves generally.
Sabah Qayoom, a bank employee is one of her clients. She praises her designer for creativity but at the same time credits her roots for giving her a thing to treasure for generations. “I don’t think there is as cool a dress as a Pheran ever. I have got not only the designed ones here but some readymade with Ari works for my office wear,” Qayoom added.
Living in the Muslim majority valley, it generally becomes mandatory to dress up modestly. But people have not compromised with their fashion cravings in Kashmir. Women find Pheran a good alternative to tag along with jeans.
Saqi says young generation today takes pride in their traditions and culture which was not the case a decade back. “There was a sense of total adaptation of alien things where youngsters would shy away from things associated with their roots. However, a new generation carries their identity proudly,” says Saqi. She is planning to have an exhibition in the coming months.
Off late, films shot against the scenic landscapes of Kashmir feature their lead characters in Pherans.
Last year Bollywood heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor wore a Pheran in his movie Rockstar.
In 2012, Samil Ali, a young fashion designer showcased Pheran on the ramp during a show held on the banks of Dal Lake.
Saqi feels such representations are important for re-innovation of this dress.