The former Miss Pakistan USA, Sarish Khan, talks to Instep about participating in the recently concluded edition of New York Fashion Week.
One of the four major fashion weeks in the world, the prestigious New York Fashion Week (NYFW) opens to the buyers, press and the public in February and September of each year. The first installment of 2018 that took place from the 8th to the 16th of February was truly one of the most memorable editions in recent times. With dinner-table setups and concerts to a Marc Jacobs’ closure, paying tribute to the ’80s – it brought innovation to the fore; marking many firsts, most significantly, the first time a Pakistani model walked the NYFW runway.
Granddaughter of veterans, Sabiha Khanum and Santosh Kumar and former Miss Pakistan USA, Sarish Khan made the cut after 58 castings over the period of one week. Hopping onto one subway with her heels, bags and makeup intact, Sarish would transit all over Manhattan and the grueling exercise ultimately paid off, bagging her seven shows for Vaishali S, Rocky Gathercole, Tisharth by Shivani, Carmen Steffens, Randa Yousrey, Temraza and Divamp Couture.
Perhaps the only fashion week that is spread all over in a city, taking place at multiple venues, which are in line with the designers’ dispositions. Having walked both, midtown and downtown, one would imagine how backstage would be nothing short of a boisterous world in its own right. Much to our surprise, there’s an assembled tumult instead we’re told.
“Backstage is pure madness. It was my first experience being backstage with such big shows. But I’d say it was an organized chaos. Most of the models were experienced, but I didn’t feel any sort of cattiness, towards me at least,” she ecstatically recounted as Instep caught hold of her. “For my second show, I didn’t have the right heels, so another model lent me hers because she wasn’t up till a couple of shows later. It’s all about your attitude; I went in there wanting to make the best of it.”
Though incredibly fierce, Sarish was far from being victimized; for which she credits her forthcoming behavior. “There wasn’t any South Asian at all in the shows I walked, so a lot of people were definitely inquisitive. There were a lot of questions. People were curious if what I was wearing would be accepted by Pakistanis,” she narrated her experience. “It came from a perspective of not knowing; a lot of times Pakistan is making negative headlines in the West and not because they’re false, but that’s all that’s being highlighted. It was kind of a nice opportunity for me to provide exposure from both aspects – of a Pakistani and an American.”
NYFW isn’t just about showcases, but the spectacle that comes with it. Designers work on their collections for months to derive meaningful creations of art that embody anecdotes or ingeniousness instead of mere decorative and somewhat superficial stitched clothes. Having been associated with fashion weeks in Pakistan as well, namely the Fashion Pakistan Week 2016, Sarish stays true to the requisite of being a fashion model, reaching greater heights on more fervent platforms.
“I think it’s at least important for you to know what message your designer is conveying. At the end of the day, I feel fashion is all about your perception, it’s about how you carry yourself and want to be represented on the ramp,” she noted. “I didn’t do extensive research, but I was very happy with the designers I walked for. I could imagine myself wearing the outfits I was given. I loved Rocky Gathercole since it was all about being the winning card or the Queen of Clubs. I also loved Carmen Steffens since it was in line with my personal style, which is very calm and casual.”
That very responsibility that comes with signing onto a show made Khan opt out of two exhibits, well-aware of her flair. “There were two shows I didn’t do actually simply beside I wasn’t comfortable with my outfits, not that they were inappropriate, but I felt I didn’t have the right kind of experience to bring them to life,” she said. “In a way, you’re acting when you’re walking the ramp, you’re a character and if you don’t feel you can fulfill it, you shouldn’t take them on.”
The week-long series of events hosts dignitaries of fashion from worldwide, however; Sarish kept her calm and with much dismay, didn’t end up rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. “My days would start at 8am. It was my call-time and I’d be there getting my hair and makeup done. I was doing around two to three shows a day, so by the time I would be done, I would go home, get my makeup off, detox and go to sleep,” she shared her routine.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do anything exciting of such sort,” Sarish continued on a lighter note, bursting out into laughter. “It was my first time and I didn’t want to stress myself or risk looking tired and not get enough sleep. I didn’t have the luxury to sit back and socialize much. I do plan on going through the whole process again in September, so that’ll hopefully be more exciting.”
On our side of the Atlantic, Sarish made her foray onto the local silver screens last year with the (un)forgettable Syed Noor directorial, Chain Aye Na opposite Shahroz Sabzwari. The film met with a poor fate at the box office, while critics slammed the film as well. Naturally, a failed debut can adversely affect one’s zeal, but Sarish was in high spirits as one steered the conversation to her other endeavors, beginning with her very first movie.
“So much has happened beyond Chain Aye Na that it’s just become a project that I did in the past. That said, I did have reservations about the film when I saw it; aesthetically or how the storyline played out, which I had envisioned differently,” she affirmed. “At the end of the day, I’m a new actor and I’m not as apt in figuring out the end product. I feel the film had its pros and cons, and what makes me feel proud of the project is that the critique wasn’t aimed at my performance or potential as an actor.”
Though the seasoned director-writer came under fire for a regressive plot, Sarish still considers him a mentor. “I was very new and raw, and I needed a director who would’ve guided me throughout. I feel, a director plays a huge role in your delivery and I do want to credit Syed Noor sahab for teaching me how to act,” she pronounced. “I’m not speaking of the subject matter or the character, but his ability of really pulling out emotion out of an actor, especially someone like me who doesn’t relate to what was being projected.”
Busy with the second season of Zee TV’s initiative of fusing South Indian and Western dance-styles, Dance USA Dance for the next few months, Sarish will be hosting the auditions across the USA as well as the tasks that the contestants will encounter once selected. Whilst, in Pakistan, she was expected to be seen alongside Ahsan Khan and Ayesha Omar in the romance-musical, Rehbra; however, the final leg of its shoot has been postponed further. Has the disappointing introduction made Sarish bolt to explore overseas and by the looks of it, better avenues?
“No matter where I am in the world, I can never leave Pakistan and Pakistan will never leave me. I came to Pakistan with no game-plan whatsoever. I had just graduated from law school and I wanted to pursue acting and modeling, which was a childhood passion of mine that I had set aside and my original plan was to move to Los Angeles,” she explained. “The reason I came, in first place was only because my grandparents had such a strong connection and that’s just how I wanted to take my start.”
“I just went with the flow, for the better or worse. I was there for over a year when Chain Aye Na released and I wanted to be back in the US, that’s where I’m raised and it’s an environment I’m comfortable with. I was living alone in Karachi and I missed my family and friends here. I was also so disconnected from being a lawyer, which has been the foundation of what I stand by in life,” Sarish revealed on a parting note. “I always wanted to balance being a lawyer, fighting for human rights in a legal capacity and also pursuing my dreams in the performing arts. I wasn’t able to do that in Pakistan.”