This photo shoot on a Los Angeles beach is an epic tribute to pheran
When Sumaya Teli, a Boston based blogger, was asked to source pherans for Kashmiri fashion show in Los Angeles, she approached a designer Iqra Ahmad of Tul Palav fame. In return, Iqra asked Sumaya to do a photo shoot of pheran clad ladies.
Sumaya and her Kashmiri origin friends got together to do a photo shoot to promote the pheran on Long Beach of the city. The ladies hail from different professional backgrounds including a Data Scientist, an Aerospace Engineer, a management consultant, a Dental Student.
Sumaya published the photographs from the shoot in a blog post on her website mamanushka.com
Look at this show stopper of a red velvet pheran with gold tilla embroidery.
Despite all of us being on a super-tight schedule, taking a few photos turned into a full on outdoor photoshoot in Long Beach Los Angeles!
Having thrown the kids at hubby earlier, with a promise to be back in time to get ready for that evening’s black tie dinner, we quickly donned pherans on top of what we were already wearing.
This is actually one of the best things about a pheran – the fact that they are supposed to go over your comfy outfit and are a one size fits all.
I styled each pheran with traditional Kashmiri jewelry ( with a couple of bohemian add ons), here I wrapped this shawl on Faiqa’s head in what is nowadays considered a very old fashioned style – mostly seen on more ‘mature’ women in Kashmir and even then mostly in villages. I actually think it’s such a lovely and unique way of tying the hijab.
This amazing pure silver headpiece is actually a necklace! It was sourced by a jeweler from Sopore from amongst the Gujjar craftspeople. This nomadic tribe of Kashmir are the only ones who mostly make these now. The necklace is part of a set with the the bunches of hooped earrings worn here by Zairah (in green) underneath her skull-cap type hat ( also designed by Tul Palav -after a traditional topi worn by women in Kashmir called kasaabe’ ).
The earrings are so heavy that they are suspended on some string and not actually in the ear lobes, although I’ve seen many a low hanging ear lobe on elderly women in my childhood!
Here’s a better view of that kasaabe’ and suspended earrings.
I can’t get enough of how cool this looked. On top of the cap, I draped a Kashmir shawl fully embroidered with Sozni stitch work. It’s actually my wedding shawl!
My vision was Pherans and the Sea. Kashmir has no beaches of it’s own, since it is a Valley surrounded by the Himalayan mountains so I was looking forward to the incongruity of the ‘look’. Don’t you think the photos ended up coming through as wonderfuly freeing in spirit?
Sabra, Faiqa, Zairah and Maysa looked so stunning, confident and regal that, not surprisingly, they turned a few heads. We were spotted by someone who introduced himself as a photographer working with models and makeup artists (probably in Hollywood – who knows? After all this was LA) he went on to give the pheran clad ladies a few tips and direction in striking just that right pose! Thanks Angel Ramirez – your tips were on point!
It felt like an episode of America’s Next Top Model! Amongst smiles and waves and many well meaning compliments we were described as ‘Persian Princesses’.
Kashmiri actually, replied Sabra assertive yet polite as ever.
‘Ah Kashmerian’ (came one reply)
We all looked at each other – how many times have we heard that? And I just knew. This is it. We want to take Kashmiri back.
Back from the cultural appropriation by Bollywood, back from the Orientalist narrative of the ‘exotic’ back from the Persian Princess trope … I want people to look at this dress and know the word Pheran (pronounced fe-ran). To look at this embroidery and know the word ‘tilla’.
For someone in LA or London or Lahore to look at this ensemble and say ‘Kashmiri’ (not kashmirian or Cashmere? ‘like the wool?’) I want Kashmiris who have dismissed the pheran as old fashioned, to see themselves in this and recognise the precious garment they have folded away in their mother’s and grandmother’s trunks (because grandmothers in Kashmir don’t store clothes in closets and wardrobes – they still using their old school galvanized steel trunks!)
I love the fun twist Iqra Ahmed, the name behind Tul-Palav, has put on the sleeves of this pheran. Traditionally the Quraab daar (or Koraab), features an embroidered slit at the inner elbow, through which the wearer can extend their hand. The rest of the sleeve is then pinned back – so it doesn’t flap around. Normally quite a formal look and ALWAYS pinned back – on this pheran the Quraab sleeve is lighter and the gold tassels add an element of surprise and modernity.
This is my ode to kickass Kashmiris, especially the kool kashur kooris – the women of Kashmir – from the saints and poetesses of past, the multi-faceted- talented creatives of today and to all the women of Kashmir, who on enduring pain and loss still emerge graceful, strong and true torch bearers for their cause. We are a force to be reckoned with.
Here are a couple final pics. Fun times and ‘Maz balai’ x
Thank you also to – Sabra Bhat, Faiqa Anbreen, Zairah Sahaf and Maysa Bhat. Sabra is a fitness enthusiast who also happens to be a Managment consultant & Digital health strategist. Maysa is a third-year Dental student. Faiqa is an Aerospace Engineer (she says, yes, it really is ‘rocket science’) and Zairah is a Data Scientist currently working on cutting-edge AI technology. Of course, you are all so much more than your day jobs, which absolutely rock by the way! I loved working with you!
Sumaya Teli is a British Kashmiri now living in the USA with her husband and three children. She is founder and writer at Mamanushka.com- a popular lifestyle blog rooted in experiences of being a western global Muslim, Woman and Mother.
(The blog post has been published with slight editing after due permission of the author.)