By Fareeha Qayoom
his afternoon, my sister dragged me to the fabric store – Saleem Fabrics located in Liberty Market Lahore for a leisurely browse and window shopping. I didn’t mind. It is one of the best fabric stores in town, great variety, all the major fabric brands and wholesalers are represented there not to mention, with a range of price points to suit everyone’s pockets, (however, they are one of the more expensive ones too because they also stock export quality piece goods as well that can be turned into really cool bespoke fashion like women’s tailored button down shirts, tunic tops and summer jackets provided you can find a tailor or designer that can actually stitch something like that). I am still looking for such a tailor. My brother suggested Dandy Designs – they tailor men’s suits. I am getting desperate enough to even consider them now but hey, that’s another story! (Yeah, I know I still owe you the “tale of the summer jackets”- more about that later.)
Today, we had no special plan. We started on the ground floor – Saleem Fabrics has its own resident house brand now. I was impressed; very smart retail strategy! However, what was not so impressive was their price – the house brands should be cheaper and better than designer fabrics if you go by western retailers’ standards like Bloomingdales, JC Penney, Target Stores and Wal-Mart, (USA) or Marks and Spencer, BHS (UK) etc. They stock the designer merchandise to move traffic into their stores but they make real profits by providing cheaper rip offs of their best seller designer items in their house brands – making it irresistible for their customers to carry off the cheap imitations fresh off the runway of brands like Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Paul Smith, Ralph Lauren etc. (I should know, when I worked for AMC, a subsidiary of Target Stores, the departmental store buyers would regularly bring us samples of best seller brands from last year’s line to copy for their house brands or ‘private labels’ for the next season! Don’t forget fads take a couple of seasons to fade away.)
I liked the fact that you can mix or match Saleem Fabrics Lawn – there were matching solid and print options as well as flexibility to buy a shirt piece or the whole three piece yardage in a single print. However, the price is somewhere around PKR 1375 or PKR 500 for a shirt piece. (This is not the cheapest option in the store!) The cheapest option was under PKR 600 range (I think around PKR 545-565) in a three piece suit on first floor.
The first floor and second floor also stock designer lawns like ZQ (starts from PKR 1375), Vaneeza Ahmed (starts from PKR 1690), Sana and Safinaz (starts from PKR 2750 onwards, some suits go for PKR 3490, apparently as they have machine embroidery scattered all over on top of the print), Al-Karam (I can’t remember their price points – I think it was somewhere around PKR 1500 onwards), Gul Ahmed (starts from PKR 1500 for a three piece suit), Firdosi etc among others, as well solid Doria and Cottons as well as hand loom options– my problem – I didn’t like most of them; the colors, the prints, the fabric quality and the price points – in fact, the whole works with only a few exceptions. I liked a couple of Firdosi’s prints…however, my sister in a fit of national solidarity (they got Kareena Kapoor to model their fabrics!) refused to let me find out their prices, let alone buy a single piece!
It also started me thinking…price has hiked as nobody’s business in this category for the year 2010 – how can women afford to clothe themselves in today’s environment? It wouldn’t be excessive if women drop something like 35k-100k just to buy 10-15 suits per season now. Which seems pretty steep to me – don’t forget I am a jean and t-shirt girl. I might buy three pairs of jeans (less than PKR 1.5-2k max) and four to five t-shirts (PKR 350-840) each season to replenish my wardrobe, not even that, most seasons, which at this point seems cheaper to me because my clothes last more than two seasons at least before I have to give them away and this includes stitching cost too – they are ready to wear and I will not buy if they are not a great fit- you know, no hassle getting them designed and stitched by bad tailors! Furthermore, jeans can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion and time of the day! But designer lawn can’t. This might be a total nightmare for women balancing their budgets or maybe my brother is right – Pakistan has a lot of rich folks hidden in the woodwork?! What do you think?:) ■