Couture: featuring a traditional bride

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“Traditional Colors are still in vogue,” asserts Barkat Ali By Fareeha Qayoom

“Traditional Colors are still in vogue,” asserts Barkat Ali

By Fareeha Qayoom


e have a mature couture industry in Pakistan and specifically Lahore. Tkfr decided to speak to two of the oldest and most trusted names in the business because our featured bride Sophia Jehangir-Qayyum loves their work – Barkat Ali Saree walay and Ruby Jewelers.

Sophie Jehangir; dress by Barkat ali and Jewelry by Ruby Jewlers

Sophia Jehangir, Dress by Barkat Ali, Jewelry by Ruby Jewelers, Hair and Makeup by Ather Shahzad

This couture house was established in 1955 and has been serving generations of families by making beautifully handcrafted pieces – a virtual work of art that has been preserved and handed down from generation to generation as a fitting legacy of by-gone era.

“Traditional silhouettes are still in vogue,” asserts Barkat Ali. “Lehengah, Gharara, Bohpali, though the stitch-work is mixed – sequences, Dabka, stones, Kat Dana.”

“White is the hot new bridal color,” continues Barkat Ali. “Though, traditional colors like red and maroon have not lost their appeal in the wedding trousseau. Rose pink is another new color which is in high demand. We are using a lot of rich fabrics for our couture pieces – pure silk, Jamawar, Zarbakht, and variations of embossed fabrics.”

Discussing the growth and changing customer tastes in the couture industry, Barkat Ali recalls, “in the past, we had only a limited range of patterns and colors to choose from, workmanship was also limited – Nakshi, dabka, salma in gold or silver threads only. Now there is more innovation in terms of embellishment – for example: stones and bead-work – we are also using rainbow of colors in all kinds of embellishment techniques. Tastes have changed. Now even traditional embellishment techniques are being done up in new ways – for example traditional techniques but innovative colors – salma, nakshi, dabka. Traditional patterns are being cut in a new way too.”

“Media is very strong in changing people’s tastes. We are in the business of pleasing our customers. We provide our services, customers bring their design ideas – embellishment is our specialty – especially intricate work – our signature stitch-work is the Dabka. We need minimum of 30 days for workmanship, if heavier embellishment is required, it may take longer. We also do the groom’s wedding clothes,” says Barkat Ali.. Prices start from twenty thousand onwards.

“Jewelry trends are very consistent,” declares Ather-ur-Rehman, partner at Ruby Jewelers, another old and trusted name. “Traditional jewelry in oxidized gold is pretty hot. Brides like to match their bridal dresses and their jewelry.”

Ruby Jewelers has third generation in house designers, old traditional craftspeople that have learnt the art of jewelry making from their fore-fathers. Ruby Jewelers also maintains extensive archives of their work. “We are the Tiffany’s of Lahore,” asserts Ather. “Indian influence on jewelry is pretty heavy now. Our own traditional jewelry motifs are more floral in nature, while their jewelry is full of sculpted religious forms.”

Ruby Jewelers are planning to expand by opening another branch in Y Block, DHA in the near future. “Opening ten new stores is not that important,” says Ather. “It’s more important to have a superior product line and unmatched craftsmanship. We pride ourselves in catering to upscale high end customers.”


Ather-ur-Rehman, Partner Ruby Jewelers

“Gold prices do not impact jewelry sales – it’s a secondary issue. Jewelry making is a specialized craft. People are more interested in the designs,” explains Ather. Ruby Jewelers also export their crafts to USA. “We are mainly selling through exhibitions. We are exporting to United States already and we have shown our work in England. Industry has grown 200 percent. There were only three jewelers back in 1957.”

“There is no special secret of success,” says Ather. “You need to move with the times and stay consistent. Innovate, get new technologies, and explore new avenues of growth. Slow and steady wins the race.” ■


Most of us think we know couture from haute couture. Both are the same except for only one basic difference.

sophie 2

Sophia Jehangir

COUTURE: is the French word for “sewing.” Clothes that are fitted and sewn specifically for a client, often requiring several fittings for an exacting fit are called couture. The clothes may be specifically designed for the client, such as a one-of-a-kind wedding dress or a one-of-a-kind red carpet ensemble, or they may be part of a designer’s couture collection, which are the pieces the designer shows that are available for custom fit. Typically, couture pieces are made of fine fabrics or feature extensive hand work (like beading or embroidery) that drive up the price to thousands or even tens of thousands PER PIECE. Because of the cost, couture clothing, which once had 35,000 regular customers during its heyday after World War II, has an ever-shrinking regular buying base of about 1,200 people worldwide today. Couture is also known as made-to-measure.

HAUTE COUTURE: means “high sewing,” and is the term reserved exclusively by those European fashion houses that offer made-to measure apparel in or around Paris and belong to the Fédération Française de la Couture (which began as the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 1868 by Charles Frederick Worth). Following strict guidelines regarding number of pieces shown per collection and number of collections shown per year, current members include venerable fashion houses like Balenciaga, Chanel, Hermès, and Valentino. ■

This article was originally published in the print edition of “The Knit-Xtyle Fashion Review,” (Tkfr), issue 12, October 2005

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Fareeha Qayoom
Fareeha Qayoom
Publisher and editor-in-chief of and former print editions of The Knit-Xtyle Fashion Review (tkfr), a trade newsletter for the textile and apparel industry of Pakistan. In short, Publisher, editor, and a blogger. In addition, she has served as Managing Editor of MIT Technology Review Pakistan, print and web editions (2015-16). Total of 7 editions were published under her leadership by ITU, Punjab's first public technology university under the license of MIT Technology Review (USA). She has also managed Value Mag in the same capacity, a real estate and lifestyle magazine for Value TV - 2008-9. Published freelancer for The News on Sunday 1994-96. Fareeha has over 21 years of solid management experience – of managing brands (like Harley Davidson, Munsingwear, Chaps, Chaps Ralph Lauren etc.,), Retailers (like Target, Mervyns, Kohl's, Marks and Spencer etc.,), customers (VPs, Product Managers, Unit Managers, and Buyers), and products (apparel - woven, knits, men's, women's, children's, Print and online publishing units), projects, teams, and processes, information, content, and data, staff, vendors, and time. Versatile and adaptable with international exposure, communication and language skills (oral and written), and a consistent track record of achieving company targets and objectives, plus a MA in Political Science from Punjab University, a MSc in Economics from La Salle University, Louisiana, USA, and a BA in Economics from Kinnaird College for Women.

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