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“We should learn to put our egos in a box and respect others.”

Abbas Jafri, Pakistan's most prominent male model, speaks to Instep from the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Amsterdam

“We should learn to put our egos in  a box and respect others.”
Walking tall, dark and handsome for Bareeze Man at MBFWA, AJ says he’s all too happy breaking the Pakistani-bearded man stereotype in the international media. Left: With his stylist in Amsterdam.

He is one of Pakistan’s most recognizable faces as far as fashion models go but now Abbas Jafri has set sail for foreign shores. Recently catwalking at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Amsterdam (where he accompanied Bareeze as the official face of Bareeze Man), he signed up with IMM while securing contracts for Milan, London and New York. The ambitious and aspiring young model spoke to Instep from Amsterdam, where he was more than overwhelmed by the response he got…

Instep: How were you selected to model at the MBFWA?

Abbas Jafri: Even though I am the brand ambassador for Bareeze Man I still had to send my portfolio and go through a proper casting procedure to qualify for the show. I am very honoured that not only was I the only male model from Pakistan but all of Asia.

Instep: Is this the first time that you modeled at an international show of this significance?

AJ: I have modeled for international brands like H&M and Alcott and also for Toni&Guy. I have also traveled for shoots with Pakistan’s top menswear designers like Ahmed Bham. But this is the first time that I got the opportunity to do ramp on foreign grounds.

Instep: You’ve been part of Pakistan’s fashion scene for a long time. What, do you think, was the biggest learning at MBFWA?

AJ: I think the biggest learning was the realization that people in fashion can be warm and hospitable. As a Pakistani, I did not expect such a loving and unbiased welcome. There’s a lesson in tolerance in all of this. We need to learn how to be tolerant. Not for a second did I feel threatened and nor did my being a Pakistani make any difference to anyone. They gave me as much opportunity and respect as they did to their own models. So yes…one very big learning is that we should learn how to put our egos in a box and respect others.AJ-with-his-stylist-in-Amst

Instep: Did you find any similarities in the fashion weeks here and there?

AJ: Fashion Weeks all over the world are pretty much the same at the basic level. What’s different and unique is the atmosphere and the turnout; there is such a fantastic pulse at an international show. I wasn’t expecting such a huge crowd to turn up for our brand and was completely blown away and overwhelmed by the applause we got. That certainly isn’t something I was expecting.

Instep: How do you think this experience will help your career progress?

AJ: This was my first international venture by far and the fact that I’ve made an impact or left an impression on the international media is not only an ego boost but it helps in building my portfolio and career too. It was pretty helpful in PR building too because I met with several agencies there, did some networking and now not only Pakistan, but even Europe knows the power of the beard! (laughs) Now they know that bearded Pakistani men are not only the kind seen on the daily news. Pakistan has an amazing talent pool.

Crossing the language barrier: Abbas Jafri does some serious networking at MBFWA and picks up lucrative international assignments

Crossing the language barrier: Abbas Jafri does some serious networking at MBFWA and picks up lucrative international assignments

Instep: You have signed up with International Model Management; what does that hold for you in the future?

AJ: Now that I’ve signed with IMM, I’m sure it’ll help me expand my outreach to the foreign market. I’ve already been confirmed for Milan Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week and London Fashion Week. So things are looking good!

Instep: Last of all, you’re sure to be nominated in Best Model (male) category at the Lux Style Awards this year. Do you think you’ll win?

AJ: Winning and losing is all part of life. I was given a lot of hope last year and thought I would win but things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would. This year however I’m even less confident because I’ve had a few tussles in the industry over some serious issues. Male models are not paid in our industry, at least not much, and if you demand your right they shrug you off and tell you that you’re nothing in this business. Issues like this are demoralizing because I’ve seen how male models at MBFWA were paid, fairly and very lucratively. So was I, even though I wasn’t even fully a part of it. Anyhow, back to your question, I’m not sure what the procedure is for the awards, but if the jury recognizes all my work then God willing, I will be awarded.

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