Behbud – of the women, by the women, for the women

Last year, on a random August morning, I was idly scrolling through my Facebook when a kurta full of elephants slid by. I stared at it for the longest time but didn’t buy it right away. That was Day 1. Day 2, the kurta went on sale; that for me was a divine sign that the universe wanted it to be part of my closet. That is the very short and very accurate story of how Behbud entered my life.

The breeziest fabric ever!

I met my mother a couple of days later and she commented on how I had managed to unearth another elephant kurta. As I was about to launch into a detailed version of my discovery, she guessed where it was from. Have you ever told someone a joke only to have your punchline stolen by them? That’s how I felt.

She then proceeded to inform me how she’s been buying shadow-work suits from there for quite some time. You see, she’s frequently in Isloo for work and has been going to Behbud’s outlet and treating herself to pretty clothes for god knows how long. These mothers! Always a step ahead! I also felt a two-fold betrayal – she never told me about this wonderful place she kept going back to and she never bought anything for me!

I absolutely adore Behbud for the range of personalities the clothes have. If you’re looking for something formal and old-school, they have it. If you’re looking for something trendy and off-beat, they have it. Skirts and ghararas, yes. Fusion tops and waist coats,  look no further!

On 31st March (yes, in a week) Behbud is hosting a fashion show in Islamabad to honour the hands that hold the needle and the thread. These are the generations of women that have not only learnt the craft under the banner of Behbud, but also have been able to stand on their own two feet and run their households with dignity. Tickets for the show can be purchased at the brand’s outlet.

The more I learn about Behbud, the more I fall in love with it. Till last year I just knew that the clothes are crafted and stitched by women who have been provided training opportunities by Behbud the NGO. I recently learnt (this morning to be precise) that Behbud has been around for 51 years! They might be half a century old, but their aim has been constant.



Established in 1967, the NGO took its first steps with the rehabilitation of the 1965 war victims and refugees. You can tell somebody is wholeheartedly invested in the socio-economic empowerment of the underprivileged when they don’t let things like lack of infrastructure hold you back; workers and volunteers of Behbud toiled hard out of hired rooms and garages. Times might have been hard and workspace might have been limited, but the dance of the needle and the thread kept on going.

This photograph encapsulates the core of Behbud!

And that’s not where it stops. Behbud has established home schools where boys and girls of slums, who would have been picking garbage otherwise, attend classes and receive and education free of charge. Other than vocational training for women, there are adult literacy classes as well for them where the emphasis is more on activity based learning rather than the futile rote-learning. And wouldn’t you agree, that is the best approach when you have people looking to learn and not to mimic. If you have ten minutes to spare, you should really watch this documentary.

It’s almost surprising to learn that in this day and age, there are people among us working altruistically towards poverty alleviation and socio-economic empowerment of the underprivileged and the marginalized; where someone else’s growth and nurturing comes first, and lining your own pocket is hardly part of the picture.

In other news, there’s a summer internship program for aspiring designers lined up for June. It’s an excellent opportunity for the students of Fashion Designing to intern at the Behbud Boutique and Production Unit. More details here:

PS: All pictures used (save for the first one) are by Behbud.


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