East meets West

Da­nia As­lam in­cor­po­rat­ing el­e­ments of tra­di­tional Pak­istani style with more western looks

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - SH­ERYL NADLER

WHEN DA­NIA AS­LAM moved to Hamil­ton five years ago from Karachi, Pak­istan, to at­tend McMaster Univer­sity, she took a look around, packed up her cus­tom-tai­lored shal­war kameez (tra­di­tional Pak­istani out­fit con­sist­ing of baggy pants and a long tu­nic) and bought her­self a pile of jeans and Tshirts.

“I went into the Health Sciences pro­gram and it was very close knit,” ex­plains As­lam, now 22. “I think I felt the need to con­form right away. So I threw away my cul­tural things that were so beau­ti­ful and just kind of tried to fit into the norm.”

But it just wasn’t her, says As­lam. “I didn’t feel like I was re­ally true to who I was.”

Back in Karachi, As­lam was so into fash­ion, she was de­sign­ing her own cloth­ing. She loved head­ing to the mar­kets, se­lect­ing her fab­rics and trim, and sketch­ing lit­tle de­signs to show her tai­lor who would bring her cre­ations to life, adding a bit of flare here, a pleat there for a per­fect, cus­tom fit.

So in her sec­ond year, As­lam be­gan in­cor­po­rat­ing el­e­ments of tra­di­tional Pak­istani style with more western looks. Tu­nics or khus­sas shoes, like the pink ones she wears here, were worn with jeans. A tra­di­tional Pak­istani scarf bright­ened up an other­wise all-black out­fit.

“Peo­ple loved it,” she says of the re­ac­tion she got from her friends and fam­ily to her new, east-meets-west look. “Peo­ple loved the colour, that it’s some­thing new, that it was out­side of the box.”

Pumped by the en­cour­age­ment she re­ceived, As­lam started blog­ging (da­ni­aaslamshaikh.com) and In­sta­gram­ming (da­ni­aaslamshaikh) about her tran­si­tion back to her true style self. She pho­tographed and wrote about her out­fits and lo­cal finds. And upon com­plet­ing her un­der­grad at Mac, she stud­ied makeup ap­pli­ca­tion at the In­ter­na­tional Beauty In­sti­tute in Mis­sis­sauga. In Septem­ber she’ll be­gin her MBA, shoot­ing for a ca­reer that com­bines fash­ion, beauty, sci­ence and busi­ness.

“I think I do in­cor­po­rate a lot more (tra­di­tional Pak­istani dress) now, and with more con­fi­dence,” says As­lam. “If I were to step out in this — and this is tra­di­tional em­broi­dery, hand­work — I’d want to flaunt it as op­posed to hide it. And not only wear it be­cause I like it but be­cause I want peo­ple to see this is my cul­ture.”

Here she tucks an ivory pe­plum top from Ex­press into a pair of black pants with ivory hand-stitched em­broi­dery from Pak­istan. She wears them un­der a long, sheer, white over­shirt with pleat de­tail and pearl but­tons that she de­signed.

A state­ment neck­lace from Aldo, choker from Top­shop and ban­gles are from Ac­ces­sorize and a bit of sparkle and her hot pink khus­sas add a pop of colour.

Most eye catch­ing piece: It’s kind of (a long jacket) like this (one I’m wear­ing). It’s not jew­elled, but it’s em­broi­dered all over and it’s pink and black (mixed with) a lot of colours. It looks very royal … very nice thread­work meets bead­work.

Quirki­est wardrobe item: I love sun­glasses and I also love glasses even though I don’t wear glasses … so they’re kind of like lab gog­gles, but they’re not. And they’re clear plas­tic, there’s a lit­tle bit of gold on the rim. And when I wear them peo­ple prob­a­bly think I’m wear­ing lab gog­gles, like a notch up. They’re very retro and very squar­ish.

Wardrobe must have: I’m all about com­fort, so I love a good, com­fort­able black pant. I think I have more black pants than jeans. And the ones that I like best are re­ally baggy and they’re al­most py­ja­mas but they’re not be­cause you can wear them out­side … those are the ones I wear all the time. My wardrobe sta­ple.

Best pur­chase: A pair of Prada sun­glasses — the first ever that I bought and the last. I didn’t feel the need to get a more ex­pen­sive pair of sun­glasses. They’re kind of cat eye, plain black. They el­e­vate any out­fit … they add that fierce­ness that I like and they go with every­thing.

Re­grets buy­ing: When I was go­ing through the whole change of style, be­fore that there was a phase when … I thought I had to wear blaz­ers all the time. And I got a lot of those (but­ton down) Portofino shirts from Ex­press. I bought them in ev­ery sin­gle colour … I think I have 25 and I have not worn one in the past two years.

Loves to shop at: Zara, Aritzia and For­ever 21.

Rid­ding your closet of: Portofino shirts (from Ex­press). I should get rid of them. I just re­ally hate part­ing with my clothes. Even if it’s some­thing that I don’t wear any­more, I think it’s just a part of me.

Splurges on: Skin­care. Even though I love makeup and did a makeup artist diploma, I re­ally think that you need a good can­vas to work off … I don’t usu­ally hold back on skin care.

Beauty item you can’t live with­out: Mois­tur­izer. Laneige — it’s a Korean beauty brand. It’s wa­ter-based and for a dry baby like me, it does won­ders be­cause I need that hy­dra­tion.

SH­ERYL NADLER,

Da­nia As­lam wears black pants with hand-stitched em­broi­dery and a long, sheer ivory jacket, both from her na­tive Pak­istan, over an ivory sleeve­less top from Ex­press.

As­lam ac­ces­sorizes with a state­ment neck­lace from Aldo, a choker from Top­shop, ban­gles from Ac­ces­sorize, rings from Pak­istan and pink khus­sas shoes, also from Pak­istan.

SH­ERYL NADLER

Upon com­plet­ing her un­der­grad at Mac, As­lam stud­ied makeup ap­pli­ca­tion at the In­ter­na­tional Beauty In­sti­tute in Mis­sis­sauga.

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