Borat had nothing to do with it. It was just a coincidence, the timing of the Nov. 9 Central Asian fashion design show, featuring the latest...
WASHINGTON — Borat had nothing to do with it. It was just a coincidence, the timing of the Nov. 9 Central Asian fashion design show, featuring the latest couture from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The embassy-sponsored event was unrelated to the box-office bonanza of that mustachioed faux Kazakh who has been causing a bit of an image problem for the good people of Eurasia with Sacha Baron Cohen’s mockumentary, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”
Borat’s big-screen antics may have drawn a few extra spectators to the Meridian International Center, but if they came looking for woman-driven ox carts rumbling down the catwalk, they’d be bound to leave dissatisfied. This was a fashion show conducted in earnest, featuring the luxe stylings of Saida Azhikhan of Kazakhstan, Baktybek Tulparov of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan’s Lola Babayeva, a show intended to showcase, and to show off.
Still, Borat was by no means ignored. Central Asian Cultural Exchange President David Carlson said at the start of the show, “I’d like to give a little thanks to Borat for giving us some publicity. If you’re expecting any ugly women from Central Asia, you will be disappointed.”
Which is to say, of course, the models — Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Mongols and a sprinkling of Americans — were lovely to the eye, resembling not a whit Borat’s late-and-unlamented behemoth of a wife (or her American replacement). And the clothes …
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This was a night that truly did make benefit the non-Borat-alicious nation of Kazakhstan. And the other ‘Stans. A night to “promote international understanding through fashion.”
To look at the mink-trimmed cocktail shifts, the tall, tubular hats and the chinchilla-trimmed jacket paired with au courant skinny jeans was to take a peek into the sartorial sensibilities of little-known nations halfway ’round the globe.
Designer Azhikhan, her blond hair providing striking contrast to her Central Asian features, seemed eager to present an alternative view of the Kazakh woman.
Did she see the movie?
“Yes,” she said, shaking her head and smiling. “I saw.”
And did she laugh?
“Yes. Very funny. But some situations … I felt a little bit sad. Everything, it’s not true. … The faces are not exactly Asian faces. … We’re beautiful women in Kazakhstan. We like expensive clothes. We have high buildings! We have Bentleys! I have a home that cost $3 million.”
Judging by Azhikhan’s designs, Kazakhstan is a land where the women are rich, modest — this is, after all, a largely Muslim nation — and shivering from the cold. Think Doctor Zhivago transplanted into the cellphone excesses of the 21st century: rich jewel shades, earthy prints and pelts. Fur cropped up in everything, trimming funnel necks on velvet coats, slung around the hips of a maxi-skirt, punctuating jackets shot though with shimmers of Swarovski crystals. (About the fur: It’s a toss-up as to who would be more unwelcome here: Sacha Baron Cohen or the red-paint slingers of PETA.)
Kyrgyzstan’s Tulparov seemed preoccupied with then and now, serving up clothes that skittered between references to Kyrgyz children’s clothing from the 18th and 19th centuries (lots of angelic smock dresses) and 21st-century club gear (lots of metallic thigh-grazing minis).
Designer Babayeva presented a view of the Uzbek woman as one who is rooted in tradition, wearing turbans and tunics with gorgeous metal-plate necklaces. Then again, she seemed, too, to be paying homage to MC Hammer from back in his glory days, what with her preponderance of genie pants tricked out with floor-grazing crotches. Not a good look, in any language.