Deserted bazaars, empty shops and mediocre merchandise
By Fareeha Qayoom
ast Saturday, my friend and I made a plan to research and explore the summer fabric shopping scene. (I need some summer tunic tops to go with my jeans and she wanted to buy some fabric to start her summer wardrobe). We decided to meet at Raja Center in the afternoon. Yes, it’s hot and there are not many crowds around at this time, so it’s an ideal time to explore and review all the merchandise on offer. (Besides, the government had directed only on Friday April 23rd that all bazaars be closed by 8:00 pm so there was no point waiting for the cooler part of the afternoon!)
Raja center: This shopping plaza stocks hand-loomed cotton fabric (summer weights) in solid colors, yarn dye stripes, machine embroidered yardages and block prints. Some shops even boast of badly constructed Kurtis and scarves in jewel like happy colors. Some shopkeepers insist on selling their fabric per yard instead of in meters. Price ranging from PKR 80-100 per yard, it costs you around PKR 250-300 per top (2.5 meters). Gone are the days when you could buy a 3-piece suit in the same price. Raja Center’s prices have gone up too. The best thing about buying fabric from here – you have the flexibility of buying separates, coordinates and 3 piece suits (shalwar, Kameeze and dupatta); you can also buy yardage to construct tunic tops, skirts, trousers and summer jackets and vests if you want. The only fly in the ointment – you might not find a good tailor who knows how to cut a pattern!
Ideas by Gul-Ahmed: we crossed over to the plaza constructed right across Main Boulevard, leaving our car parked at Raja Center- I think it’s called City Towers or something like that. There were prints galore – floral and geometric in pale, pastel colors. Unfortunately, because of our hot summers, we seem to be missing the pale skinned women who would suit such colors. Our women usually tan quite easily in the hot summer sun. (This year the sun has been relentlessly hot even in March and April. Sigh.) I would definitely like to see darker colors – rich, dark purples, turquoises, sea-greens, olives, shocking pinks, apricots, peaches, oranges, reds, maroons, browns, tans, gold, yellows, creams, whites, blacks, and grays instead of the soft and pale versions of the same colors on offer. Furthermore, even Gul Ahmed seems to be missing the fabric flexibility. Some of the prints on offer come in only 2 piece or 3 piece range. You can’t break up a suit apparently. Loose fabrics unfortunately do not have coordinate options in solids and prints in the same color range. We bought two tops (PKR 500 each) which we could team with white shalawar and white dupatta and a 3 piece suit (PKR 1500) from here. My friend didn’t buy anything. She had liked one print which formed a part of a 2 piece and they refused to break it up. A few of the prints advertised on their catalog only came in their ready-to-wear range. So there was no flexibility.
Yahsir Waheed Designer lawn collection, Empire Center: we also stopped by at Empire Center. Unfortunately, Waheed’s collection also can’t be broken up. You have to buy a suit – which starts from PKR 1300 onwards. The prints and colors were just satisfactory. Not a single print made you pick it up and take it home with you; nothing very compelling here.
Mausummery Designer collection, Mini Market: my sister wanted to stop by here. This place was crowded. In fact, it was difficult to review the merchandise here because it was so crowded. I liked the prints. The colors were also interesting. Deep maroons, navys, greens, purples. You can buy any print, even if it’s part of a suit. A 2.5 meter costs around PKR 425. A 3 piece suit costs around PKR 1275 – 1300. If you buy embroidery panels for bodice and sleeves to go with it, it costs around PKR 1800. All three of us gave it a big thumbs-up.
Warda Designer lawn collection, Mini Market: we didn’t like anything. The quality of the fabric was poor. The prints and colors were not that hot either. The price was a bit steep for the kind of quality on offer. No flexibility for separates or coordinates – you can buy only suits here. The prices start from PKR 1,100 onwards. A three piece suit might cost you around PKR 1700 easily.
Liberty fabric stalls – fake machine embroidered chicken kari, embroidered solid yardages, prints: floral and geometric galore. The prices start from PKR 250 per shirt onwards. This is also a popular haunt.
Kayseria by Bareeze, Liberty: my friend wanted to exchange a suit, a mistake she called it. She had bought a 3 piece suit for PKR 2,300 for her sister. Unfortunately, when she took it home, everyone boohooed her choice so she decided to exchange it for a different print. The staff was pretty helpful. They allowed the exchange. Their fabric quality is fine. The prints are mediocre. The color palette is also quite boring, however, they are pretty flexible – you can buy virtually any print and match it with anything in their shop, their 3 piece suits start from PKR 1350 onwards.
If I was the buyer or a textile designer for one of these designer brands – I would first of all create a color palette for my current season – creating a basic and a fashion one. Some colors never go out of style – for example: white, black, red, and navy, which need to be repeated each season. Some colors come and go so they would form part of my fashion colors range. Second, I would create a solid range of fabrics in my palette to coordinate with my print designs. Third, I would create my print designs that could be sold as a single item as well as teamed with another print or a solid to be sold as part of a two piece or a three piece suit. Yes, it could create wastages, however, since wastages are also sold at discounted rates in most fabric shops – it’s only a win-win situation for me and my customers. Providing them flexibility to construct anything with my fabric would not only make me extremely popular (witness Mausummery’s popularity); it would also give me a chance to fulfill my customers’ hidden needs as well as their budgets.
Normally, my sister and I buy white fabric (wholesale) for white shalwars and dupattas and buy prints and solids as tops to go with them. (I remember last summer I even bought a suit and broke it up by making two shirts with it – wearing the dupatta with both and teaming them with white shalwars!). Many other women I know do the same. Wearing branded designer lawns versus non-branded, I would always pick what I like. It’s not important where you pick the yardage from, what’s important is that the print is color fast, you like it, the fabric quality is at least at a acceptable level, will not fade, tear or shrink for at least 20-30 washes and it’s not so common– my friend also agrees with me. “Sometimes, a shirt bought from a cheap fabric stall for only PKR 250 becomes a hot favorite of the season for me; besides, designer lawns are hardly exclusive anymore. Everyone is wearing them!” she exclaims. ■