Poor fit, boring colors and pricey
By Fareeha Qayoom
lot of my friends and business colleagues are slim and possess hour-glass figures, (British size 6, 8 and 10). No, you can’t call them girls – they are over 21, though, still in their 20s. Most of them are working women. A couple of them are also over 30 and are size 14 and 16 and are married. A few of us go shopping together and invariably swap horror stories and fashion advice over coffee and dessert.
I am actually a conservative dresser and do not follow the latest fashion fads or fashion trends. I hate shopping for me and I hate going to tailors because they invariably mess up your clothes especially if you have a problem figure – I do. I don’t have a standard hour-glass figure anymore. Furthermore, I actually don’t buy clothes from local retailers and designers since they do not cater to my demographic anyway.
I may not be your typical shopper, however, my friends are. They like shopping. They all have personal tailors. They all buy fabrics and Ready-to-wear (RTW) and (even couture and designer clothes for their wedding trousseaus!) and they always drag me to boutiques like Cross Roads, Stone Age, Outfitters, and Yellow (even Levi’s and Next). Since they always take me along for shopping advice, (because of my continued interest in fashion and apparel and grounding in apparel merchandising!), I have noticed a few things about our local fashion retailers and designers…
A. They are too expensive, (RTW is cheaper than bespoke fashion all over the world, it’s the opposite in Pakistan, here you can get customized made-to-measure clothes quite cheaply, all you have to do is buy fabric and take it your tailor with your measurements and design!)
B. They only cater to girls (British size 2 to 10) while most women are between size 8- 20 and they are the ones who can make independent buying decisions, girls have to depend on their mothers for their shopping decisions!
C. They are working under a fallacy that middle class and upper middle class women actually don’t wear western cuts after they get married, au contraire, most of the women I know prefer wearing casual pants to shalwar and usually team their kameeze with Capri pants, wide-leg and flare pants wherever possible
D. The designers are also under the impression that local women do not keep in touch with international fashion scene and therefore, do not know the origins and source of their inspiration for their designer collections
E. The fabric retailers and designers do not believe in the concept of separates and co-ordinates so designer lawns and RTW apparel all come in 3 piece or 2 piece suits – most women buy loose print fabric in the summers and team it with white shalwar and white dupatta, or buy jeans and get kurtis made
F. Most designers and fashion retailers only design evening or formal clothes – there is no business casual or daywear collections ever, or if they do, its way out of most women’s budgets – the only successful fashion label I know is Generation who actually specializes in daywear, Nee Punhal was another one…but not anymore
G. Most designers actually do not work in seasons – their color palette for summer 2009 would be identical to summer 2010 and probably summer 2011 as well…
H. Clothing importers stocking original foreign brands (Levi’s, Mexx, Next, Nike or cK) or small importers stocking counterfeit brands (like The Gap, Zara or even Levi’s) at Pace or Panorama also do not conduct regular research into local size charts and buy stock lots that might cater to really short and thin women (oriental women belonging to Thailand, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore) or Tall and thin women (European or American) – Pakistani women are invariably taller than oriental women but shorter than European women – however, they are closer to European petite sizes than oriental regular sizes since oriental women invariably also have shorter legs and a longer upper torso
I. Most of the local western wear brands have the sizes wrong – they are basing their designs on women over 5 feet 4 so their waistline always looks awkward when any of my friends try on a particular garment off the peg from Outfitters, Cross Roads, or even Stone Age or Levi’s (size 12, 14, and size 16 usually is missing… the only local brand I know which caters to my size is Yellow but even they are catering to taller women so the same problem remains) – their clothes don’t hang well on any of our figures…as far as design department is concerned, Rupin Ryvoli located on Al-Hafeez Towers is the only boutique that stocks nice prints and pretty designs, however, their fit also needs more work…however, they are the top of the crop. Their prices are reasonable too. Their summer tops fall under PKR 799, 899, 999. (They closed shop – July 2010.)
J. Foreign brands – Next is better than Levi’s – they at least cater to all sizes (size 6-16) and their prices are reasonable and a bargain when they hold sales, the only downside is that they invariably buy regular sizes too, while most women fall under the petite category. However, they have introduced a feedback system in their stores so I did see the first petite jean in store this winter. Unfortunately, my size had already been sold! Levi’s is so out of touch with reality that it’s amazing…they are only catering to girls and girls unfortunately can’t afford their prices. Their discount store probably sells more stock than their flagship store…
K. Fabrics – Pakistan makes a lot of import quality fabrics like twill, denim, canvas, poplin, sheeting, drill, plain weave at Rupafab, Azgard 9, Artistic, Crescent Bahuman, US Apparel, Nishat, Chenab, Al-Karam, Liberty and Gul-Ahmed and many more such type of fabric mills – unfortunately, most of these fashion retailers specializing in western wear are not designing their collections on the latest fabrics in-vogue on offer… the colors and prints leave a lot to be desired too.
Bottom line, the local fashion apparel and retail industry has a long way to go… the first thing they need to do is listen to their customers! Get the fit and cuts right and work on their price points too! Only then will they attract the middle class and upper middle class customers to their stores. The upper class doesn’t need to go their stores – they shop abroad and will continue to do so since shopping is also linked to status too.
Update: Next Stores: Sales- August 12, 2010
For the past six months, I have noticed a very erratic buying strategy at Next Stores. They have not stocked up on their “essential” line – their basic tees collection. The only tees I see are fashion tees. However, they are not in stock in all sizes either. Size 6, 14 and 16 seem to be missing entirely from their new stock. In other words, they are catering for the small and mediums only. Xs and Large need not apply.
Even in the Petite sizes, women under 5 ft. 3” height, don’t have size 16 in stock. Funnily enough, their size 16 stock disappears pretty quickly when it is in stock, (I always have to buy my favorites quickly otherwise they are never on the shelf when I visit next time çoz they are sold out) . They seem to have a few duds on their hands too… boyfriend jeans didn’t take off in Pakistan – they still have some in stock after two years. Another item – cropped jeans – seem to be stuck on the hangers since forever too…
I liked their multi-color summer jacket – on sale its for 3.5 k. I was urging my friend to buy it for her business casual wardrobe. However, noticed a funny thing while we were exploring the Xinhua Mall outlet – their price tags record a higher price than their DHA outlet…my friend decided to go there before buying this particular jacket. Their organic cotton business casual woven tops have all virtually disappeared. May be sold out? Or not offered on sales. I can’t tell anymore.
There didn’t seem to be a lot in stock. I only bought couple of belts this time for example. There was nothing for me there…Also saw a lot of staff turn-over too at both outlets – there were all new faces at both places. Hmmm. I wonder what’s going on with them?