Pakistani Fashion Designer's ‘Be My Slave’ Shoot Called ‘Racist’

A magazine photo shoot for an emerging fashion designer's collection has touched off anger throughout Pakistan for its depiction of a dark-skinned child serving as a slave to a fair-skinned model.

The clothing collection on display in the “Be my Slave” spread published in Diva magazine issue 106 is by Aamna Aqeel, who made her debut at Fashion Pakistan Week in Karachi in April 2013. Aqeel has maintained that she wanted the shoot to spark debate on child labor, and she is supporting and educating the young boy featured in the photos.

But with bonded slavery and racism very real problems facing Pakistan, some have accused Aqeel of engineering the photos with the intent to shock and gain publicity for her brand.

In a post on her Style Inn blog, entertainment journalist Usama Hamayun slammed the slave theme:

Her collection [at Fashion Pakistan Week] recieved [sic] very good reviews and I for one liked her collection as well. But this shoot disgusts me. Playing with such an insensitive theme in a country where racism and bonded labour are critical issues is not acceptable or aesthetically pleasing by any means. You can be fashion forward and push the envelope but above pics are simply tasteless and offensive.

A glimpse on some of the photographs in question. Image courtesy Style on Paper Blog

A glimpse on some of the photographs in question. Image courtesy Style on Paper Blog

Blogger Padash was one of the first to call attention to the photo spread online:

Today a reader just shared this very distasteful and vile ad by a so-called designer in Pakistan. Aamna Aqeel. Never heard of her? Neither have I? However…this chick needs a serious dose of reality, an education and a lesson on how to market test her ads!

Commenting on an article in The Express Tribune about the photo shoot, “ashar” wrote that the fashion industry rewards this kind of behavior:

Whatever nonsense you can put in will be admired and accepted. This is present day fashion industry.

This isn't the first time a fashion spread has provoked outrage in Pakistan. Last year, some were less than pleased at photos by Pakistani fashion brand Sana Safinaz of a model dressed in fine lawn cloth surrounded by coolies, or manual laborers, with one of the men holding her Louis Vuitton handbag.

But as happened with that campaign, some came to the defense of Aqeel's photo shoot.

Zeenia” commenting on The Express Tribune article wrote that the photos were based in reality:

Why the outrage on just this? It’s just a reflection of how our society works.


Image courtesy Style On Paper blog

Image courtesy Style On Paper blog

On Paper Magazine's Style on Paper blog, Zainul Abidin asked those who are so angry over the campaign to take a look in the mirror:

Plz lay off all the children you have hired for household and to take care of your kids and start working with your own hands and do your household yourself and then comment.

Alina commented on the same blog that the outrage was misdirected:

Only if the tag line was different, it could have been a very STRONG social campaign by the designer to create awareness against this dilemma. . Nevertheless its thought provoking. The moral corruption is mindbogglingly high in our society. Its not just slavery i see in these pictures but the contrast too, the tragedy of coldness and apathy of rich towards poor. In a country like ours its a shame to wear big designer brands where poor are having unimaginable wretched lives and rich indulge in top notch luxury without any guilt. Anyhow any revolutionary change is hard to witness any time soon so whats the point. Pour in more comments of how you HATE the designer. *sigh*

But Kamran Hashmi wasn't convinced:

Thought provoking? Have you people gone mad? She’s selling CLOTHES by using a shocking and abhorrent form of “expression.” What’s worse is that she is USING what appears to be a BLACK child as her pawn. How exactly is she commenting on “her” society? This is absolutely defenseless and the stupidest form of advertisement I have ever seen in my life.

On Twitter, psychological linguist Iftikhar Firdous (@IftikharFirdouscalled the photos “disgusting”:

@IftikharFirdous@abbasnasir59 Its disturbing, disturbing because of the fact that if art is polluted with such ‘unconscious’ stereotypes-what next? @rabayl

Iqra Shoukat (@iqrashoukatwasn't a fan either of the photo shoot theme:

@iqrashoukat#aamnaaqeel‘s target market: People that support #racism #slavery and a disgustingly crude sense of humor.


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