A couple curating the pheran market in Kashmir

As sun shies away from Kashmir skies and frost kisses every soul on this land, the little girls and women do not stop trotting the lanes. A pheran is the ultimate of what they wear, have always donned in harsh, dreary Kashmir winters. And the evolution of this national dress of Kashmir has not stopped over the centuries.

A couple in Srinagar who own meRani, a clothing and accessories store located in Wazir Bagh, is out on a mission – to add love and romance to pherans. They call it ‘A fair(y)an tale by meRani’. The pherans that the couple is designing and selling are a confluence of cultures. “It’s like a rainbow of embroideries, stitches and cuts from across the Globe on the canvas of Kashmir’s pherans,” says Dawood Mohammad, owner of meRani. His wife, Marya Shah adds, “We try to give our customers the warmth of pherans, the ease of working while wearing them and the trendiest of styles that they always want to flaunt.”

Dawood has studied management from London where he worked for 7 years before returning to Kashmir and open his multi-brand showroom of women’s clothing. Last year, he started foraying into Pheran designs finding ‘his muse’ in the ‘ambitious, hardworking women of Kashmir’. “I realised that our females are in love with our traditional dressing styles, yet they do not shy away from exploring the world of fashion and have very gracefully fused the modern with the tradition,” he says. He attributes the uniqueness and appeal of his Pheran designs to this thought stream.

His wife, Marya is a literature postgraduate who is responsible for the e-commerce and social media presence of meRani. She loves poetry and tries to infuse the romance of literature in business interactions and outreach. “This lockdown and the one before has been very harsh for every one of us. A little dreaminess and pampering are all we look out for on social media and even in the little outing, we make now.  All our clothes, including our Pherans carry that thought process” she says. To add to the appeal, all of this comes at an affordable price, she smiles.

During the lockdown, Marya said she and her ‘girls band’ – staff of meRani, worked hard to give its customers a feel of the fabrics and dresses at the safety of their homes. A robust home delivery system helped them keep their business afloat.

The most popular Pherans that the business group has given its customers this season have a stamp of Kashmir on the bosom – a Chinar leaf embroidered in Tilla. “Who doesn’t love Tilla? We have customised pherans keeping that in mind and no doubt, Chinar leaf was the motif that had to be there,” says Dawood. The Tilla pattern has also been customised with almond motifs – almost like an “emblem of Kashmir”.

With a wide variety of fabrics, including wool, velvet and blends, meRani aims to “reach and please” every girl, every woman out there. “We have infused a little bit from kaftans, bell sleeves, tunics, kimonos, and gowns into our patterns and accessorised these with tilla, zari, chain stitch, sozni, aari and patchwork,” says Marya. 

A stroll through the display stands of the pherans at the meRani outlet, one realises that every piece is a fairy tale that one finds falling oneself in love with. “Pherans are here to stay. We know that, and Kashmir knows that. Our story is a tribute to this pledge,” says Dawood

Jeya Baba is an art connoisseur studying creative writing. Her work can be seen at juwariababa.instagram.com