I’m a fan of advertisements. I like watching them on television and I actively look at billboards. I like a pun and I like a clever tag line. What I don’t like though, is advertisements for clothing that feature Caucasians. It strikes a strange, dissonant note to see clothes sold by local shops being worn by unsmiling Eastern Europeans with dark hair that is supposed to be the link between them and us. I can’t relate to their stick thin legs and their angular faces, and it makes me feel doubtful about how well the clothes they’re wearing are going to fit me. South Asians weren’t meant to wear trousers as a natural cultural practice- there’s a reason why we started out wearing shalwar kameezes and ghararas and saris: they are supremely, universally flattering. Everyone looks good in a shalwar kurta or a sari because they can be adjusted according to your body shape. You can pick the fabric that suits you, the cut that looks best and end up feeling rather good about yourself in the bargain. No feeling embarrassed about fitting into a size fourteen for you.

I suppose advertising like this is a throwback to our post-colonial baggage. We can’t seem to escape the feeling that anything outside of Pakistan must somehow be better. You can’t even buy garlic at the sabzi wallah without being proudly informed that it’s Irani, or Chinese. Where’s the local garlic? How come the Chinese can grow garlic but we can’t? The cotton is Egyptian, the tomatoes are Indian, the appliances are Chinese or German and the people selling us trousers are blonde. Of course, we don’t go local because we feel the quality won’t be as good, which is both untrue and unfair. When we begin to buy local, we are making an active investment in local business that will in turn motivate manufacturers to step up their game. A discerning buyer is any business’ biggest spur, and consumers make markets go. We buy German heaters because we know they are going to last for years- their plug isn’t going to melt after an hour of running and it certainly is not going to give up the ghost minutes before you have guests coming for tea. We just don’t trust local-made.

We’ve had reason to, I’m quite sure. A lot of local-made isn’t up to much. But look at the things that are. A Sohrab bicycle is still a top-notch bicycle to have. The seat springs are durable, the frame is sturdy and you can clock a lot of trips to the nearest bakery for eggs and bread before it needs attention. A Servis chappal, a Piano pen, Samad bond, even Fauji cornflakes! These are products that have gone the distance as far as quality and consumer loyalty is concerned because we have been buying them consistently for decades, and in doing so have motivated their manufacturers to keep making a product that is the best they can produce because they know that their market expects nothing less. Look at how our fashion industry has taken off. It’s on fire, and it is all to do with the skill and talent of local vision, local designers and local craftsmen who make the magic happen. It takes a certain kind of crazy optimism to do business in Pakistan, and the people I know who manufacture goods have a Willy Wonka-esque interest in wanting to keep things interesting, to make something new, something better than before. They have an innate trust in their market, because it hasn’t let them down. There’s a warmth, perhaps, in knowing that people trust your product. It makes you want to keep that trust.

But we waver, as is our wont. We don’t think twice about buying a ballpoint pen or rubber slippers to wear in the bathroom but we do care deeply about what we wear and how we look. So why is it all right for clothes manufacturers to put sweet little blonde babies in clothes being sold to desi children? I don’t give a hoot about a blue eyed baby in a woolly hat. I don’t relate to it the same way I don’t understand rail thin women selling me anything to wear. A lot of advertisement is selling one a fantasy, and I get it. But why does that fantasy have to be something so utterly removed from my own imagination? The majority of the market in Pakistan probably doesn’t read Vogue and is happily unaware of the size battles being waged at the fashion front. So why not take advantage of that, and have models on magazine covers and billboards who look like real desi women? Why aren’t there more pretty, normal-sized women out there? I’d like to see someone modelling shoes who has ankles that aren’t the size of my wrist, or a model frying shami kababs in a kitchen that isn’t an imported Italian one, or kiddie models that look more like my kids. But we can’t, because even in our fantasies we dream of Caucasian thin legs and light eyes, of imported cheese and snowy Christmases. We don’t see anything glamorous in just being ourselves, or in romanticising aspects of our own lives. I don’t think it’s our fault, really. There is a lot of cultural baggage we carry, and our everyday lives can hardly be glamourised much. But we could try. We could start by being a little more proud of ourselves, and who we are, warts and all. Local made needn’t be something you reserve for when you need the cheapest thing possible.

The writer is a feminist based in Lahore. She can be contacted at m.malikhussain@gmail.com