How do we expand our shopping horizons with so many brands not having an outlet in Pakistan?
How do we expand our shopping horizons with so many brands not having an outlet in Pakistan?

They say the heart wants what it can't have. Well, that's particularly true if you live in Pakistan! In addition to electricity and petrol, there is another shortage: there are a plethora of brands that we don't have the luxury of having in our beloved homeland. Granted, we've come a long way from just shopping at Mantra for Western wear. In recent years, we've gotten Debenhams, Next, Mango, among others but so many big names are still missing from the roster.

Keeping in mind how much most are willing to spend, the brands on our lust list include:

1. H&M

The butterfly printed summer dress on the left was a total steal on sale at $5!
The butterfly printed summer dress on the left was a total steal on sale at $5!


When asked about what brand they'd love to have here, most women said "H&M" instantly, like it was a reflex. In the trendy world of fashion, styles are fleeting. The leading Swedish retail clothing company is known for its fast fashion for men and women. Although convenient that H&M is constantly turning over their merchandise, it must be said: H&M is a tad bit of amiss when it comes to quality. However, its perfect for when you want to experiment with new trends but not fully commit, since the pricing is affordable and they have lots of great sales happening all the time. You won't feel so bad throwing away those $15 (or roughly Rs 1500) culottes that you only wore once.

Best for: Certain wear and tear items such as tank tops and basic blouses, as well as dresses.


2. Zara


Described by Louis Vuitton's Fashion Director Daniel Piette as "possibly the most innovative and devastating retailer in the world", Zara has done something that other retail giants couldn't with its finesse - it has gotten away with blurring the line between imitation and inspiration. Why spend your college tuition on a Celine handbag when you can get the same elite fashion look with a much, much cheaper bag from Zara? Although relatively cheaper than some other high fashion brands, it might still leave a small dent in your wallet. However, if you're a firm believer in "You pay for what you get," then Zara is the place to go to buy good quality staples such as the little black dress (LBD) or blazer you can wear to work or a night out. All the chic ladies in the city would happily trade some of the ridiculously overpriced brands we have in Karachi for a Zara store!

Best for: Essential items you need in your wardrobe

You are bound to look fashionably clad in Zara.
You are bound to look fashionably clad in Zara.


3. Forever 21


Although not a personal favourite because most of their clothes seem to cater to a younger age bracket, Forever 21 does have something or the other for everyone whether your style is girly or boho chic. It's a fast fashion American retail brand that is constantly changing its inventory and still maintaining low prices. Much like Zara, Forever 21 has also been under the crossfire for copying designs from big labels such as Anna Sui but let's be honest - who minds a bargain? Take it from experience: it is definitely hard to walk out of a Forever 21 store empty-handed.

Best for: Funky graphic tees

Pair these with a pair of leather tights and a denim button down shirt on top for an edgy yet swanky look.
Pair these with a pair of leather tights and a denim button down shirt on top for an edgy yet swanky look.


4. Sephora


Sephora is every make-up junky's dream come true...or shall we say nightmare? Stocking their own cosmetics line as well as other high-end brands, you are bound to feel overwhelmed stepping into a Sephora. Although in recent years, make-up brands such as MAC have become readily available (at Farid's and Scentsation, though whether the stocks are fresh or not is a completely different story!), it would be great to have a one stop shop for all our make-up needs. Makeup is one thing you definitely need to test before buying and at Sephora, you can try everything. What also makes Sephora unique is the emphasis they place on customer service and making you feel like a valued customer by constantly giving out free sample sized goodies.

Best for: All your makeup needs! Lip stains from Sephora's own cosmetics line are affordable, long lasting but not drying and come in some gorgeous colours.

From L-R: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Colour, Sephora Lip Stain in Pink Soufflé and Too Faced Chocolate Bar Eyeshadow Palette.
From L-R: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Colour, Sephora Lip Stain in Pink Soufflé and Too Faced Chocolate Bar Eyeshadow Palette.


5. Topshop


This mammoth British retailer is high fashion at its best and has created immense consumer devotion. Kendall Jenner, Taylor Swift and Jessica Alba have all been spotted donning designs from this fashion house. And since it is such a celebrity favourite, the brand also features many capsule collections designed by stars whose style is worthy of coveting such as Kate Moss and Beyonce. Like other brands on the list, Topshop, too, stays on the cutting edge of fashion, where trends emerge weekly, perhaps daily, not seasonally. Showcasing a confusing pricing system - they will have everything from $30 tees to $600 dresses - it caters to a diverse range of customers. Their line for fashion savvy men, Topman, would also be a hit amongst the Pakistani lot.

Best for: Skirts, blazers and coats

Expect to find cutting edge items at Topshop.
Expect to find cutting edge items at Topshop.


6. Victoria's Secret


Each Victoria's Secret store looks different. - Photo courtesy: brookediane.com
Each Victoria's Secret store looks different. - Photo courtesy: brookediane.com

Let's be honest - we are in dire need for a good store for lingerie! Other than Debanhams and Mark's and Victoria's, there are no good stores here that sell quality innerwear. Plus Victoria's Secret is so much more than lingerie: their perfumes smell captivating (you can find a limited range at Scentsation!) and their apparel is also comfortable. A cheap bra will wear out fast and instead of buying 3 cheap ones, why not just invest in one that's not going to lose shape in the washing machine?

Best for: Lingerie and perfumes


7. Toms


This brand is proof that you don't always have to compromise on comfort to look fashionable. These hybrid shoes (think sneakers meet pumps!) are so comfortable that you may want your feet to hibernate in them all winter and that's not even the best part about the company! The founders strive to give back and for each pair you purchase, one pair is given to a needy child in a developing country. How amazing would it be to have one in Pakistan?

Best for: They have expanded the brand name and sell sunglasses and other kinds of shoes too but their unique selling point lies in their original slip-ons.

Fashion meets comfort with Toms.
Fashion meets comfort with Toms.


8. Primark

With items as cheap as £5, Primark makes affordable yet contemporary clothing. - Photo courtesy: primark.com
With items as cheap as £5, Primark makes affordable yet contemporary clothing. - Photo courtesy: primark.com


Primark is every bargain hunter's Godsend and the best part is, you don't even have to hunt! At dirt cheap prices, this Irish retailer aims to make customers fashionable without having to break the bank. The store offers a diverse range of products, stocking everything from apparel for children, men and women, as well as accessories and beauty products. Keeping in mind how Karachiites hate repeating outfits (guilty!), Primark could be a great addition for every day casual clothing in Pakistan.

Best for: Casual staples


9. Aldo


Let' be honest: we're kind of sick of being ripped off by some of the foreign brands with stores in Pakistan. I don't mind paying Rs11,000 for a bag but not if the bag becomes deformed after a month of light use. Aldo is a Canadian company selling accessories and shoes. Not only are their bags reasonably priced and well made with neat stitching but their jewellery collection is also to die for. Steer clear from getting their shoes; they aren't the best investment but everything else at Aldo gets a big thumbs up

Best for: Jewellery and handbags

Their collection showcasing everything from evening clutches to cross-body bags.
Their collection showcasing everything from evening clutches to cross-body bags.


10. Urban Outfitters


Urban Outfitters is the brand that made being hipster cool. Stocking products that derive inspiration from bohemian, retro, and vintage styles, apparel from this American retailer gives you a look that you can personalize and mix and match with accessories. A bit on the pricey side for a store that tries so hard to not be mainstream, you will develop an attachment to the items you purchase from here as they are quirky but adaptable, as well as cozy to wear.

Best for: Shrugs and summer dresses you can layer

For a store that's hipster, they really do keep up with trends!
For a store that's hipster, they really do keep up with trends!

There is an ever-growing demand in the country for Western apparel and accessories. A list of 10 names doesn't even begin to cover the brands people are pining for in the country. Granted, online shopping has been our saviour but it deprives us from a shopping experience, that we all enjoy. It's about time that investors with deep pockets look into cashing into this demand and work on bringing these big retailers over to us. After all, there's no therapy like retail therapy.

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