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18 May

The not-so-simple symphony

(Instep Today, May 18, 2010)

I multitask. And I’m pretty good at it as are the millions of women in Pakistan who are successfully juggling their roles as homemakers, professionals, mothers, wives and daughters at the same time. I multitask and have come to accept that I will be substituting for any void in my family’s life – be it driver, maid, sweeper, cook, tutor, therapist, doctor, nurse – sometimes I feel like Vinod Khanna as the one-man-band in Amer Akbar Anthony. It’s a nerve racking, to multi task, sure, but I usually manage to keep the balance. Usually. Except for when one little additional detail is thrown into this already saturated equation. My tailor is that one person who can throw my entire life out of balance. He’s the one person who can take those cymbals and clash them with my head in between.

At the launch of KFJ: Fareshteh Aslam wearing a printed cotton handkerchief kimono by Sadaf Malaterre.

Clothes. Getting a summer wardrobe together is supposed to be like a symphony but the noise we make, thanks to tailors, is just a whole lot of unpleasant jamming. Buying fabric is daunting enough in the first place but the journey from the purchase to that fabric actually taking shape and making way to your wardrobe is the real challenge. You’ll take the fabric home, shrink it, match it with the appropriate trimmings, get the dupatta either dyed or pekoed and then you’ll set off to meet your tailor, only to find out he’s not singing the same tune as you. When he tells you he can’t stitch your clothes before a month, or worse when he takes your fabric and doesn’t stitch it for two (as in my case), you’ll be left speechless!

And this is when designers step in as knights in shining armour. I salute, honour, worship and shamelessly praise to the skies those designers who have made life simpler by putting out ready to wear lawn, cotton and voile this season. It’s a fairly new phenomenon, by the way, because I’m talking about smart, trendy yet affordable clothing here and neither your average Zainab Market type stuff or your ten thousand plus high end clothing. I’m talking designer labels for an irresistible price.

If you have visited the Ensemble outlets in Karachi and Lahore then you will be aware of the Slate by Faiza Samee line that Samee’s daughter Rabia Ghaznavi has been designing for quite some time. Retailing at a starting point of Rs 4000 you get a beautifully styled cotton shirt with fabulous detailing. Slate this season is all about the pleated, voluminous long shirts structured with masculine collars, pockets and/or cuffs while retaining their womanly appeal in bright colours and juxtaposition of various prints. Definitely an extension of the Faiza Samee aesthetic, I would like to see this label go places and expand fast.

Maheen Karim, who for the longest time has been hanging on to her affair with luxury fabrics ala silk and chiffon, has finally let go by bringing out a range of cottons. Retailing at Labels (exclusively in Karachi at the moment) for (hold your breath) only Rs 3200, these shirts are must have versions of what she has been designing in richer fabrics. You have her signature drop hemline silhouette in yummy summer prints and you have versions of the free size ‘boyfriend shirt’, pin tucks, pleats and all. Karim is sending out around ten pieces every other day and you’ll never find more than two on the rack so imagine what a hit they are!

Just as gorgeous, although not as well-stocked, are Sadaf Malaterre’s cotton pieces. Available at Ensemble for around Rs 6000 are printed cotton versions of the infamous handkerchief kimono kaftans that Malaterre designed in winter. And though they are limited in number, they are being zeroed in and dug out of the racks by fashion savvy women. A little too pricey, I would love to see this talented designer diffuse the price and expand the production a bit more.

Tia by Kamiar Rokni. I could write an entire thesis on the wonderful design philosophy of Kamiar Rokni and the affordable line ‘Tia’ he has released with his business partner Tia Noon. The only one of it’s kind coming out of Lahore, I don’t see why anyone with even half a brain would ever want to do the fabric-tailor ritual when this label is available for much more value for money. Retailing at as low as Rs 4000 for a perfectly designed and stylized shirt, this line is perfect for women who know their fashion and can’t be bothered with the hassle of DIY. Kami and Tia have a huge client base in Lahore, women who come to them for entire summer collections, but even their ready to wear is abundant and fluid. Pieces from their last NEWS collection are still up for grabs at Ensemble and the more recent Tia collection (which by the way has also been approved for Paris so you might want to hurry and get it before it sells out) is coming up at Labels soon. Could summer fashion get any better?

I personally think that any high-end label, available for under Rs 5000, is a steal. If you equate it to the cost of fabric, trimming, tailoring not to mention hassle of the tailor made jora, you’ll understand how. If you’re not into labels and can happily make do with affordable, smart clothing then outlets like Sheep and Daman in Karachi is the answer to your woes. For girls looking for fun, funky and traditional clothing FnkAsia (available in numerous outlets nationwide) will give you separates for every occasion. And for women who prefer slightly more conventional three-piece type ensembles it’s Generation or Cynosure amongst the many other retail outlets in commercial areas. As for those who like to indulge in retail therapy via designer labels, the good news is that designers are finally complying. The ‘I would rather make six outfits for a lac each rather than more for less’ theory is passé. And thank god for that!

As for me, I’m a happy shopper thinking I can delete my tailor’s number from my speed dial without blinking twice. Seriously, life is complicated enough without the additional rigours of clothes management. This is one composition I have got to change!

Photograph by Bilal Khan, courtesy Lotus

The Haute Team

This article is written by one of our competent team members, who probably didn't have enough to say to own up to it.