If you’re a Pakistani fashion aficionado, your social media feed is probably telling you to grab your wallet right now and splurge out on some major shopping.
Eid-ul-Fitr, just a few days away, incites shopping frenzy like no other holiday and as a result, there’s an Eid exhibit every day in every major city by every designer in the country. And according to social media, every one of these exhibits feature clothes that are ‘stunning’, ‘must haves’ and just in case you need a little more convincing, the commentator will tell you, ‘we can’t wait to get our hands on these exclusive designs’!
To be fair, festive wear is usually quite beautiful, although far too staid design-wise. With their eye on sales, designers tend to faithfully dismiss away creative urges and go heavy duty on cut-work, lace, floral embroideries and of course, sequins. Business usually flows in with avid shoppers stocking up on multiple clothes and paying ludicrous amounts of money for them.
According to social media, every one of these Eid exhibits feature clothes that are ‘stunning’ and ‘must haves’. However, in the mad rush for clothes, one wonders if the message of Eid actually gets lost.
However, in the mad rush for clothes, one wonders if the message of Eid actually gets lost. In a country burdened with stark economic discrepancies, where poverty reigns the roads and basic human rights are ignored, shouldn’t a festival celebrated nationwide mean more to us than an opportunity to shop?
Wouldn’t it be better to sometimes step back and consciously decide to invest in clothes and accessories that mean something more than merely being the latest ‘it’ designs on the block?
This Eid, we pinpoint a range of sartorial options that make a statement while also giving shoppers a chance to ‘give back’ to society. Here’s our round-up…
The Pink Tree Company presents a rare blend of design that you would find in your grandmother’s closet, twisted and tweaked towards contemporary lines.
The silhouettes are free-flowing and the brand’s penchant for traditional Pakistani handicraft is evident: gota heavily lined on shalwar painchas and sleeves, kamdani splattered onto dupattas, Sindhi zari embroidery on shirts, hand-dyed lehria dupattas and block-printed shirts.
By dismissing more cost-effective and time-effective machine embroideries, the brand chooses a painstaking route. Design is slowly hand-crafted on organic cottons, malmals and hand-woven khaddar; kamdani gets created at an erratic pace in Bahawalpur and gota is applied by two octogenarian experts sitting in Karachi’s Bolton market.
“We want to pay fair wages to the craftsmen that we commission which is why have eliminated middle-men from our manufacturing process. Middle-men tend to derive considerable profits and we’d rather that our artisans earn more, even if this means making umpteen trips to their workplaces,” says Mohsin Sayeed, who has co-founded the brand along with Hadia Khan and Sheena Rizvi.
Simultaneously, the brand has a penchant for giving out social messages. Their latest campaign for their current Eid collection, featured nine ‘real’ women in a fashion shoot ranging from variant backgrounds, with diverse body types and different ages. And yet, they epitomised the Pink Tree Company aesthetic far more effectively than the generic fashion model, signifying the importance of gracefully carrying clothes regardless of age and body type.
In their efforts to support local craft and to work out campaigns that present important social messages, the Pink Tree Company is clearly a brand for the cerebral sartorialist. The efforts involved in the creation of clothes means that the prices are higher than they are in the mass-centric high-street. But these are efforts that need to be applauded and supported. Besides, higher prices may be harder on the pocket but it also ensures unique and exclusive designs. The Pink Tree Company is available at the brand's flagship store in Karachi as well as at Ensemble Karachi and Ensemble Dubai.
Naushaba Brohi, the brains behind Inaaya, is insistent that she isn’t running a charity. Yes, she makes long journeys into interior Sindh and goes the extra mile by zoning in on rural craft and molding it onto modern lines. She keeps an eye on quality control and is even getting some of her fabric especially woven from deep within Sindh. Through her own business and by highlighting the intrinsic beauty of indigenous craft, she is instrumental in creating employment opportunities for local craftswomen.
And yet, she makes sure that she charges a premium price as remuneration via her studio in Karachi and her e-store. “Inaaya believes in giving back but this does not mean that I am running a charity. A lot of effort is involved in creating these designs and we charge accordingly. Thankfully, our customers understand this,” says Naushaba.
The brand’s customers also realize the intrinsic timelessness of a neck-piece or earrings, devised with mirrors and thread in an ingenious reinterpretation of the age-old technique of paranda-construction. There are tunics, lowers, risque halters and glorious dupattas worked with rilli, gota, mirror-work, har mucha, kundi, block-prints and hand-dyes. These are clothes and accessories that celebrate and support the rich craftsmanship inherent to Pakistan. They are also absolute statement-wear.
Noorjehan Bilgrami’s Koel has quietly simmered within the peripheral boundaries of the high street since 1977. Far from the madding crowd of same-looking design and price wars, it’s a label characterised by simplicity and classic silhouettes, with hand block prints taking center stage.
“We only use pure silks and cottons and work with natural dyes,” says Noorjehan. “We have tried to work as closely as possible with the craftspeople in order to bring out designs that are trendy and wearable.” Mixed in with the block prints are slight hand embroideries and while the basic kurtas for women and men are classic Koel, innovations in design are made for special occasions.
Part of Koel’s Eid collection this time are a variety of lowers including gharara pants, Dhaka shalwars and voluminous Pindi shalwars, among others. Paired with these lowers are plain shirts and a range of chunri dupattas that can be mixed and matched with the outfits.
With a flagship store in Karachi’s Dolmen City and retail racks in Lahore’s Fashion Pakistan Lounge and Islamabad’s Ensemble, Koel chooses to pave its own way in a high-street strewn with busy prints. It’s also an ethically relevant, very individualistic path.
At the Sublime by Sara Shahid flagship store in Lahore, there is always a line-up of basic chiffon kurtas, worked with delicate chikankari, shadow-work and sometimes beads. Prices waver about Rs10,000 and the colour palette is dominated by easy breezy white-on-whites, light pinks, blues and citrusy yellows.
“The kurtas are all hand-worked and have been part of Sublime for the past eight years,” says Sara. “The embroideries are created by women in interior Punjab. I provide them with all the raw material and once they have completed the embellishments, we do the stitching and fine-tuning in-house.”
90% of all revenue from the tunic sales go back to the craftswomen, according to Sara. The kurtas are classically beautiful – and also acknowledge the need to give back in a world that is increasingly materialistic.
Also available at the Sublime store as well as online is a small corner dedicated to The Giving Tree foundation, selling T-shirts, toys, totes as well as pendants and beaded bracelets with pure silver mementos would into them. The jewelry is pretty and very basic but what matters more is the spirit behind the brand. All proceeds earned by The Giving Tree are invested into creating chemo comfort bags for cancer patients admitted into the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.
The comfort bags contain items that patients require while undergoing chemotherapy; necessities like almond oil for dry skin, sanitizers, water bottles, lip balms, towels and a cap for hiding the skull when hair falls away, among other things. The bags are also personalized for children, filled with thoughtful items like pencil cases and coloring books.
Available at affordable prices, eye-catching and sincerely devoted to helping out, The Giving Tree foundation is well worth investing into. The accessories are quite perfect for Eid too.
Lahore-based shoe label Chapter 13 started off some five odd years ago without a grand launch or a high-society soiree. Instead, the brand quietly grew on its own merit, gaining mileage via social media and winning over customers with its unique take on design.
At Chapter 13, shoes come hand embroidered, created in Lahore’s age-old Shah Alam market, with a single pair created in a day. The designs vary from pumps to khussas, kohatis, loafers and Peshawari chapals. The labels’ CEO, Qurat Ul Ain Ansari, hails from a family firmly entrenched in the shoe business – her father owns Milli Shoes, one of the oldest footwear brands in the country - and she uses her know-how to keep an eye on quality and comfort.
“I could have simply gone into mass-producing shoes with lower costs or simply imported in shoes from abroad and retailed them in Pakistan,” she says. “Instead, I chose to steer shoe design towards something different. My father’s experience in the field helped and my sister, a PIFD graduate, has also helped out.”
Chapter 13 shoes are available in Milli shoes outlets dotted about Punjab as well as at multi-label L’Atelier in Islamabad. “We keep innovating with embellishments and shapes but we are dedicated to supporting hand embroidery,” says Qurat Ul Ain. That’s reason enough to invest into some savvy footwear – for a good cause and also, for the love of fashion!