SRINAGAR: Pheran, Kashmir’s traditional, unisex wear for the biting, teeth-chattering cold of the Valley’s winters, has these days become a signature fashion trend, though it was not an outfit worn for any style statement until a few years ago.
The handy long dress, which has maintained its basic function of covering the body from shoulder to knees, has survived the challenges of time. Nowadays, it is used in different designs, hues and cuts that have become a signature style of fashion.
According to oral historian Zareef Ahmad Zareef, the Pheran existed in Kashmir long before it was opened to Central Asian influence in the 14th century. According to Zareef, the early Pheran was called Loach, which used to be two pieces of cloth held together with a unique stitching and worn all year in different fabrics. Then, as he told Kashmir Reader, it was mixed with the Paerahan, the Persian upper clothing, which gave it the present shape of Pheran. It also survived various trends of modern western style over the last three decades, but today it is signature wear in both casual and formal settings, a significant change that has not taken place once in all its existance, he added.
“Pheran is used as outer clothing,” says Uzma Mushtaq, a successful entrepreneur, dealing with selling and designing of dresses. “Its design is made as per the taste of the person who wants to wear it.”
Uzma told Kashmir Reader that the Pheran’s design depends upon the fabric, its stitching style and the nature of the pattern on it. If it is meant to be worn for offices, she says, the cloth is played with stitching only, and if for weddings or parties, different designs are played on it, besides tailoring styles.
“I use Tila on velvet for wedding, Zari work for causal and different print designs for casual on the same cloth. Sometimes consumers decide fabric and design themselves. We only offer our services to them,” she added.
According to Mufti Sadia, another successful young entrepreneur dealing with the designing of different dresses, young Kashmiris, living here and outside, have shown interest and pride in wearing the Pheran after a blend of stitching and design was incorporated into it. This year, Sadia, who has been selling designer wear-styled pherans from her small shop in the city for the last three years, has used tweed and wool to present her designs.
“I am using Kashmir handwork on them with mixed colours,” she says. “Last year, it was mostly Tilla. It sells. I sell more than 20 designer Pherans a day now. The trend is picking up.”
Politicians, both from the resistance as well as the pro-India camp, also have Pherans in their styles. The Abdullahas are usually seen in them, and from last year, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq too joined the style in public appearances. Yaseen too used to wear them in winters.
Uzma said that the Pheran’s function of giving warmth and keeping its user comfortable has given it the edge to draw customers to pick it up.