Couple of days ago BBC World Services reported on a fascinating phenomenon in Dushanbe, “Putin by The Metre”, which I thought was true only in Samarkand, a beautiful city in the heart of Uzbekistan. Indeed, it is the most interesting fabric culture/business which has been flourishing since collapse of the Soviet Union, or in other words, since independence of Uzbekistan, acquired in fall 1991, like many other post-soviet states on that year.
There are two fashion trends in the city, which influence the life or at least appearance of the majority of Samarkandi ladies. European fashion – usually European styled dresses, jeans, t-shirts imported from Turkey, Dubai, Russia and now even South Korea, and National fashion – fabric imported again from abroad, Dubai, Turkey, Korea, China, etc. The difference between trends is: the first trend is ready-made pieces of clothing, while the second is pure fabric.
National fashion has a hilarious naming culture. This fashion has a very dynamic nature. Only the strongest hits can survive couple of months. Fabrics usually carry names of soup opera heroes, political leaders, or historical characters. For example, Usama Bin Laden, Marianna, and newer ones, Putin, the eyebrows of Emomali (the president of Tajikistan), the tears of Shahruh (a Bolywood star) are some of the names of fabrics; it is interesting the way it is used in daily routine, like Nargiza is wearing Putin, and Madina bought Usama Bin Laden… etc. So Usama Bin Laden does not only mean a terrorist number one, but also a very beautiful fabric, which many women in Samarkand and in neighbouring Tajikistan ware on the weddings and other festivities.
Interestingly there is no proper system of naming, (I mean the fabric doesn’t get its name printed on in the factory) but as soon as the name is given by a random person, it spreads all over Samarkand, Bukhara, and cities of Tajikistan, and obviously beyond that. Amazingly no fabric has double names.
The argument goes, Tajik cities (sorry for those who will be mad now, saying that these cities are Uzbek, I do not deny it they are situated within Uzbekistan’s territory, but the population of the cities, (I lived and worked in both of them) identify the cities with Tajik, in cultural terms) such as Samarkand and Bukhara have the strongest national-dress-of-national-fabric culture in Uzbekistan. Please, ignore the word ‘national’, it doesn’t have to do with the nation, because the fabric is produced abroad, and dresses made, are not worn nation-wide and differ from region to region. National is meant as an opposite for Russian or European, this term has been developed as a result of Russian cultural presence, to distinguish between Russian/European and indigenous; the term national is used almost for everything. But back to the issue: a young Samarkandi lady receives a dowry of 40 dresses, mainly of the above mentioned national style, with the last hit fabric. Moreover, if any of the relatives appear to have a birthday, or marry, or any festivities of the sort, the ladies buy some fabric and make a dress especially for this event. Of course, this isn’t true for each and every woman in Samarkand, but the majority of the female population does so.
Well, back to the argument, I think I need your help here. People who live in or around Uzbekistan, Central Asia, do you know if this clothing culture is existent in other regions? I might be biased, because I lived only in three towns in Uzbekistan, and only in two of them, namely Samarkand and Bukhara, I experienced immensely this fabric culture.